Tennessee Wildlife Federation Honors State’s Top Conservationists

May 20, 2022

Conservation Achievement awards

Tennessee Wildlife Federation celebrated its 57th annual Conservation Achievement Awards. Each year, the Federation honors individuals and companies from across the state who are working to conserve our wildlife and wild places.

“The Conservation Achievement Awards are a way for us to recognize and promote the critical conservation work done across the state,” said Kendall McCarter, chief development officer, Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

“It is important to spotlight these individuals’ and organizations’ work in order to inspire others to support conservation in Tennessee.”

Kendall McCarter, Chief Development Officer, Tennessee Wildlife Federation

“This year we are excited to gather and honor the impact our Conservation Achievement Award winners have made across the state,” said Mike Butler, chief executive officer for the Federation. “Dedicated conservationists and a collaborative approach are critical to safeguarding our great outdoors. We are grateful for our award winners’ commitment to Tennessee’s lakes and streams, forests, wildlife and other natural resources.”

The Conservation Achievement Awards are sponsored by Bridgestone Americas, Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), First Horizon, and BDY.

The honorees of the 57th Annual Conservation Achievement Awards are as follows.

Dr. John “Jack” O. Gayden Leadership Award — Tracy and Bill Frist
Chairman’s Award — Nathan Sparks
Chairman’s Award — University of Tennessee Foundation
Dan and Cherie Hammond Sharing the Harvest Award — Chris Janson
On Target Award — Roy Owens (honored posthumously)
Gedeon D. Petit Memorial Award — Cape Taylor
Conservation Communicator of the Year — Larry Rea
Conservation by Business — Clearloop
Land Conservationist of the Year — Quail Forever Tennessee Chapter
Forest Conservationist of the Year — LP Building Solutions
Water Conservationist of the Year — Shannon O’Quinn
Conservation Organization of the Year — Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society
Wildlife Conservationist of the Year — Mark Gudlin
Conservation Educator of the Year — University of Tennessee Extension
Z. Cartter Patten Award — Greer Tidwell, Jr.
J. Clark Akers, III Champion of Conservation Award — Richard Speer
Conservationist of the Year — Earl and Margit Worsham

Dr. John “Jack” O. Gayden Leadership Award

Tracy and Bill Frist

While the Frist name is often associated with politics and healthcare, both Bill and his wife Tracy are also impassioned conservationists and preservationists, each in their own right. Tracy is a Virginia native and lived on a farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When Bill and Tracy married, they searched for an historic home in Tennessee, settling on an 1840s property. The Frists live out their values daily, dedicating time to restoring and conserving their property, tending to their grass-fed cattle and working here and abroad on conservation issues. Currently, Tracy serves on the boards of The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County while Bill is the vice chairman of the global board of The Nature Conservancy.

Chairman’s Award

Nathan Sparks

Nathan Sparks is the publisher of CityView, a magazine dedicated to covering the topics and trends that impact Tennesseans in the Knoxville area. While covering an array of subjects, Nathan has ensured that the publication sheds light on conservation issues and the outdoor life to inspire Tennesseans to value our wildlife and wild places. He is an important supporter of the Federation and is committed to using his platform and volunteering his time to promote conservation across the state.

Chairman’s Award

University of Tennessee Foundation

An interdependent nonprofit corporation, the UT Foundation’s mission is to raise financial, public and political support for the University of Tennessee. UT Foundation partnered with Ford, the Federation and West Tennessee River Basin Authority on a stream restoration and mitigation project to offset impacts from Ford’s to-be-constructed Blue Oval City, which will manufacture electric vehicles. The UT Foundation is serving as the fiscal agent and sponsor of the mitigation project.

Dan and Cherie Hammond Sharing the Harvest Award

Chris Janson

Chris Janson is a successful country music singer and member of the Grand Ole Opry. He’s an avid outdoorsman and passionate philanthropist. Through his partnership with Bass Pro Shops, Chris created a signature hat and designated a portion of the proceeds to support the Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program. This initiative raised significant awareness and more than $44,000 for the program and helped provide lean protein to thousands of neighbors in need.

On Target Award

Roy Owens (honored posthumously)

Roy Owens was the owner and operator of Moscow Tooling Fabrication, Range Master of Moscow Shooting Range, and shooting coach at Rossville Christian Academy. He was a devoted family man who volunteered countless hours to his community. He built the Moscow Shooting Range from nothing into a place that has fostered hundreds of youth into shooting sports and, ultimately, conservationists. Roy Owens passed away in April, but is a forever friend of Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

Gedeon D. Petit Memorial Award

Cape Taylor

Lt. Col. Cape Taylor was an integral part of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for nearly 40 years. By the time he retired, Cape was supervising all four Regional majors and three investigators within the Agency’s Special Investigations Unit. He became known for his practical approach and ability to distill and manage complex issues. Cape left a lasting impression on TWRA, driving forward initiatives that enabled insightful decision-making and responsible leadership.

Conservation Communicator of the Year

Larry Rea

Larry Rea is a veteran outdoors reporter and the host of Outdoors with Larry Rea, a radio show featuring outdoor news and interviews with outdoorsmen and women. Previously, Larry led an impressive career in journalism. He served as the editor of Mid-South Hunting & Fishing News magazine and worked at the Memphis paper, The Commercial Appeal, for more than three decades. In 1988, he was appointed outdoor editor–one of only four in the paper’s history. To this day, Larry continues to share conservation news with Tennesseans across the state.

Conservation by Business


Clearloop is disrupting the way clean energy projects are built. The company helps businesses reduce their carbon footprint and invest in clean energy projects by charging a small fee that is used to build solar farms. It focuses these investments in regions of the country with disproportionately carbon-intense electricity to provide deep impact, starting with the areas of greatest need. Clearloop aims to clear the carbon from our electricity grid permanently.

Land Conservationist of the Year

Quail Forever Tennessee Chapter

Quail Forever is a grassroots, volunteer nonprofit organization and leader in quail habitat conservation. In Tennessee, Quail Forever has 10 chapters with more than 775 members who work to improve habitat, raise public awareness and facilitate land management programs. They recently expanded their staff to further advance the restoration of quail habitat across the state so current and future generations are able to enjoy wild quail and other wildlife.

Forest Conservationist of the Year

LP Building Solutions

Since its founding, LP has been Building a Better World™ by engineering solutions that provide a safe place for people to call home while ensuring sustainable business operations for its employees and the planet. LP proudly advocates for preserving and enhancing our planet, designing the LP Policy on Environmental Stewardship. Its forest certification program, annually verified against independent standards from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, highlight LP’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Water Conservationist of the Year

Shannon O’Quinn

Shannon O’Quinn serves as a Senior Water Resource Specialist for Tennessee Valley Authority. He works to improve and protect water quality and aquatic biodiversity in the Tennessee Valley, partnering with community groups and natural resource agencies to assess watershed conditions, develop improvement plans, leverage funding, and implement water quality improvement projects. These efforts support local communities by improving and enhancing drinking water, aquatic habitat, recreational opportunities, human health and economic development.

Conservation Organization of the Year

Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) and American Woodcock society (AGS) is a national nonprofit organization committed to creating diverse forest ecosystems that provide critical habitat for wildlife. The organization, which started in 1961, has secured millions in funding for conservation projects to create much-needed habitat for wildlife species across the nation. In Tennessee, the RGS/AGS partners with other like-minded organizations to improve habitat, including with the Federation, to enhance more than 6,800 acres of wildlife habitat.

Wildlife Conservationist of the Year

Mark Gudlin

Mark Gudlin recently retired from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) after nearly 40 years of service. Throughout his career, Mark has been dedicated to benefiting wildlife on public and private lands. His leadership and expertise greatly impacted wildlife management practices for the better and will continue to influence how wildlife are managed for years to come. Mark set the gold standard for wildlife conservation at the agency and retired with the utmost respect from his peers.

Conservation Educator of the Year

University of Tennessee Extension

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. UT Extension helps Tennesseans improve their quality of life and solve problems through the application of research and evidence-based knowledge about agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development and community development. UT Extension has created a space to foster hands-on learning, ultimately endearing an appreciation for our wildlife and lands amongst thousands of young people across the state.

Z. Cartter Patten Award

Greer Tidwell, Jr.

Greer Tidwell, Jr., is on the board of the National Wildlife Federation, the treasurer for the National River Network and a staunch advocate for the outdoors. Greer has served in various leadership roles including president of Friends of Radnor Lake, chairman of the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board, and president of Tennessee Wildlife Federation among others. Over the decades, Greer has significantly impacted conservation efforts throughout the state and beyond.

J. Clark Akers, III Champion of Conservation Award

Richard Speer

Richard Speer, individually and through his foundation, has been the single largest contributor to Tennessee Wildlife in our 76 year history. He is not only incredibly generous with his resources, but he also dedicates his time to the Federation. Richard served for almost 10 years as chairman of our development committee while concurrently serving on our finance and policy committees. We are grateful to count Richard as one of our friends, as he is a true community leader and supports a litany of organizations. We know that as a man of great faith, he is an incredible steward of creation and an exemplary philanthropist. Richard has challenged the Federation’s leadership to become the leading conservation policy organization and made the investments that enable us to take on policy challenges we could not have previously tackled.

Conservationist of the Year

Earl and Margit Worsham

For Earl and Margit Worsham, fishing is their love story. Both Earl and Margit began fishing as children, and as adults became extremely involved in conservation efforts, serving on the boards of renowned international organizations. Their passion for the outdoors brought them together, at first as friends, in Norway at a salmon fishing lodge. Later, they purchased Norton Creek and a 30-year labor of love ensued as they worked to restore native Eastern Brook Trout. The Worshams’ dedication of their time and resources to conservation has resulted in tremendous impact to fisheries and waterways both here and abroad.

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