CONCEPTION TO BIRTH
The National Military Fish and Wildlife Association (NMFWA) started its roots in the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. For over 25 years, a subcommittee at the Southeastern annual meeting dealt with military and Indian fish and wildlife managers. This subcommittee was primarily the responsibility of fisheries personnel at the Atlanta office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS used this subcommittee to provide training to these two groups. At that time, most USFWS services were in the form of fisheries assistance and fish to stock. This subcommittee usually met for a day following the Southeastern meeting. Field trips were sometimes included.
In 1977 a group of military fish and wildlife managers attended this subcommittee meeting in San Antonio, TX and discussed expanding the agenda. Ideas informally discussed involved military fish and wildlife managers having input into program format for the meeting. USFWS personnel supported that idea.
Gene Stout, Fort Sill, OK, surveyed military installations with regards to fish and wildlife program status. This survey was sent in 1978 to approximately 100 Army, Navy, and Marine Corps installations. The 44 responses were presented at the subcommittee meeting at the 1978 Southeastern meeting in Hot Springs, VA. This paper clearly identified that all military fish and wildlife managers, nationwide, had similar problems. Many of these were not biological and were unique to military installations. This spurred efforts to increase military managers' input into this subcommittee's future programs.
An offshoot of this survey was a few military managers attendance from outside the Southeast. People felt that this was the best chance for interchange of ideas, and seeds were sown for a greater attendance at the 1979 Southeastern in Hot Springs, AR.
About this time, Stout worked with command levels and put together the first directory of military fish and wildlife managers to facilitate communication. It was incomplete, but it did get people talking to one another. He also put out a couple of "newsletters" as means to get military attendance at the meetings.
At the 1979 meeting it was decided that military fish and wildlife managers would leave the Southeastern subcommittee and put together a national military
training session in conjunction with the 1980 Southeastern in Nashville, TN. The
quad-service committee to put this together was Charles Peterson, Camp Lejeune, NC; Gene Stout; Joe Knowles, Eglin AFB, FL; and William Frazier, Meridian NAS, MS.
The first national training session of the yet unnamed group of military fish and wildlife managers took place in Nashville, TN in November 1980. The best recollection is that about 60 persons attended. Similar training sessions took place at the 1981 Southeastern in Tulsa, OK and the 1982 Southeastern in Jacksonville, FL. During this time, the quad-service program committee had several changes. Jim Clark, Patuxent River NAS, MD, represented the Navy, and CPT Dennis Hargett, HQ Air Force, Tyndall AFB, FL represented the Air Force for one year with Dr. Ludlow Clark, HQ Air Force replacing him the second year. Peterson and Stout stayed on the committee. Informal newsletters were used to disseminate information on these training sessions.
During this period Jim Clark put out the second version of the directory. This was a significant improvement of the earlier version. Programs continued to mature with various techniques used to improve paper quality. Committee chairmen for these 3 national workshops were: 1980 - Stout, 1981 - Jim Clark, and 1982 - Ludlow Clark.
About this time Stout chaired a special committee to find a place for the group within an existing organization. The Southeastern was ruled out as too sectional. The North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference was ruled out on the basis that it sometimes meets outside the country or in places like Hawaii and Alaska (travel difficulties) as well as a strong sectional allegiance to meetings such as the Southeastern.
Serious efforts were made to form a military chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS). Fisheries people were opposed, and TWS had no desire to start a precedent of forming special interest chapters as opposed to their existing geographic chapters.
There were very strong views by western "members" regarding too many meetings in the East. Patricia Worthing, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, CA generally was the spokesperson for western interests. At one point this issue became so serious that western fish and wildlife managers discussed forming their own organization. To stem this movement, the 1983 meeting was held in Jackson, WY in conjunction with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. It was decided to attempt to form an independent organization at that meeting with a constitution and bylaws.
Gene Stout and Tom Warren, Fort Carson, CO drafted a Constitution and Bylaws for the 1983 meeting. This meeting was highly charged with political undertones as compromises to the document were made in numerous meetings. Primary issues were the independent nature of the Association versus being an offshoot of the Department of Defense, voting member criteria, military service branch representation on the Board of Directors, East-West conflicts with regard to meetings and Board seats, command representation on the Board, affiliation
with other meetings, and voting by proxy.