Raised in Great Bend, Kansas, Joe Kramer developed a passion for waterfowl at Cheyenne Bottoms. He began his professional career upon completion of his degree Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University in 1976 and was soon employed as a wildlife area technician with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. In just 11 years, Joe rose to Chief of Wildlife and Fisheries Division where he remains an important leader 27 years later.

Joe recognized early the need for the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures. He also wholeheartedly worked to bring together and sustain the crucial partnerships needed to make Joint Ventures fully functioning conservation implementation vehicles that foster landscape-wide response to habitat needs for birds, especially those that need wetlands. He was a founding board member of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture and was at the first Management Board meeting in 1989, served as chairman from 1991 to 1993, and continues to be active on the board today. He was also a key player in bringing Playa Lakes JV into the non-profit world, which increased funding opportunities.

Joe has been an exemplary leader outside of Kansas throughout his career and is committed to advancing the science and management of wetlands and waterfowl. He has served on the Central Flyway Council since 1991 and was the Council’s representative to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Committee for 10 of those years. Joe currently serves on the Kansas NRCS State Technical Committee and Board of Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams.

Joe has also been a leader in fostering wetland conservation partnerships. One shining example is McPherson Valley Wetlands, which now spans 4,500 acres in central Kansas and provides a critical anchor for waterfowl and other migratory birds. This project was built on partnerships taking almost 20 years to fully accomplish. Joe personally encouraged each of 15 partners to focus on common goals and stay engaged over the long haul, as he knew each brought important resources, expertise, and funding. His resolve can be witnessed at the Jamestown Wildlife Area, where acquisition efforts have grown the area by 25% in eight short years, and at Cheyenne Bottoms where a Visitor Center is completed and a $1.5-million water conservation project will increase supplies from the Arkansas River to the wetland area.

For his 34 years of contributions to the people and places so vital to the wildlife and wetlands we love, we are honored to present the North American Migratory Bird Joint Venture Conservation Champion Award for an Individual to Joe Kramer.