UMass Amherst Professor Joseph Larson Named Conservationist of the Year

AMHERST, Mass. - Joseph Larson, professor of wildlife conservation and director of The Environmental Institute at the University of Massachusetts, has been named 1997 Conservationist of the Year by the Massachusetts Wildlife Federation.

Larson was honored at the federation’s annual banquet April 19 in Maynard. Brendan Whittaker, former Secretary for Environmental Affairs for the state of Vermont, was guest speaker at the award ceremony.

Both Larson and Whittaker are graduates of UMass.

Larson was recognized for his research on beaver behavior and wetlands, for his long career in conservation education, and for his public service at the national and international level and in his home state of Massachusetts. He has played a significant role in drafting wetlands legislation and regulations in Massachusetts and in revising protocols under the major agreement on wetlands of international importance signed in 1971. In addition, Larson has served as an advisor to governmental and non-governmental agencies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, India, and China.

Larson was a vocal opponent of a recent Massachusetts ballot question banning the use of leg-hold traps and the hunting of bear with dogs, and changing the membership of the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board. (The referendum was ultimately approved by voters.) Larson characterized his opposition as a belief in the need to base state trapping policies and regulations on sound science. His position on that issue placed him at odds with the president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, an organization on whose board of directors Larson has served for several years.

The Massachusetts Wildlife Federation is an organization of individuals and associations dedicated to conservation education and to the support of sound conservation legislation in the Bay State. The federation publishes the newsletter "Updrafts," and a monthly page in "Northeast Woods and Waters."

Larson received both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees from the University, in 1956 and 1958, respectively, and has been a member of the faculty at UMass since 1969. Whittaker received his bachelor’s degree from UMass in 1957.