There were few more tireless, more passionate conservationists than Jim Range. In an average week, he accomplished more for America’s fish and wildlife than many do throughout their lifetime. And inevitably, he did it with a wit peppered liberally with salty language.
A true DC insider, Jim cut his teeth on some of the pre-eminent environmental legislation in this country as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, minority counsel on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and later as a lobbyist. Jim helped craft the original Clean Water Act and continued to defend the protection of waterways and wetlands until the day he died. In the last years of his life he helped found and lead the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a group that he envisioned would motivate and activate millions of hunters and anglers on conservation issues. His greatest political skill was in bringing together often fiercely partisan interests to build coalitions and forge compromise.
However, Jim was as comfortable in the halls of Congress as he was on a trout stream or hunting in his beloved Montana. He could move easily from telling an off-color story, then fight tears as he eloquently spoke of the outdoor legacy we must leave for our children.
AFFTA was fortunate to have Jim as our legislative advocate in Washington for over 15 years and we benefited from his political acumen on numerous occasions. It was Jim who conceived the National Casting Call and helped it become one of AFFTA’s foremost outreach events. Jim was a friend, a mentor and a great conservationist.
The Jim Range Memorial Award is designed to recognize an individual, manufacturer, retailer, member of the media, rep, guide, or outfitter who best exemplifies the ideals demonstrated by Jim Range. The winner will be someone who promotes and supports fly fishing, fish habitats, or who unselfishly takes the time to mentor, influence, and inspire the next generation of conservationists. Starting this year, AFFTA will present this award annually at the FFR.
The winner of the inaugural Jim Range Memorial Award is Bill Dawson, someone who would need no introduction to Jim himself. Jim Range and Bill Dawson drank, cussed and accomplished great things together. With Jim as the visionary and Bill Dawson as the implementer, the National Casting Call grew from simple roots to the top-notch event it is today. Bill and Jim were friends, fishing partners and allies and we know that Jim would be proud that Bill Dawson is the first person to win the award named for him.
Bill is no stranger to the fly fishing industry. His more than twenty-five years of experience includes guide, retailer, marketing manager at Sage and now as a manufacturer’s rep in the Mid-Atlantic with his own company, WDawsons. Bill has served in leadership positions on numerous boards, to include AFFTA, and is an active member of AFFTA’s Government Affairs Committee. It has been with what we now call the Jim Range National Casting Call that Bill has made the greatest mark with the fly fishing industry. His leadership has brought together more than thirty-five partners and 175 volunteers to make the Casting Call and the Family and Youth Casting Call two of the best fishing events in Washington, DC. Under Bill’s leadership, in 2009, more than 800 participants joined AFFTA at the Family and Youth Casting Call. The day following the Youth and Family Casting Call, a number of current and former legislators and influential members of federal agencies joined AFFTA board members for some one-on-one time sitting in a row boat fishing for shad and talking about the needs of the fly fishing industry. Much of the success of the Family and Youth and National Casting Calls is directly attributable to the efforts of Bill Dawson. We congratulate Bill on his remarkable accomplishments .