Jay Kehne honored with National Wildlife Federation Conservation Leadership Award

Jay Kehne honored with National Wildlife Federation Conservation Leadership Award

Conservation Northwest / Jun 11, 2021 / Sagelands, Wildlife Crossings

Omak-based conservationist, hunter and outdoorsman recieves prestigious national conservation award for collaborative work across north-central and eastern Washington state.

RESTON, Va. — The National Wildlife Federation today honored Jay Kehne, the Sagelands Heritage Program lead for Conservation Northwest, for his commitment to conserving Northwestern wildlife habitat and uniting his community in the face of divisive conservation challenges.

Jay Kehne holding a pygmy rabbit during a rabbit release in Central Washington’s sagelands. Photo: Chase Gunnell

“From helping gray wolves and ranchers coexist to rallying partners to create a wildlife underpass and fences when lawmakers declined to fund them, Jay has proven time and time again that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “With endless charisma and grace, he’s exemplified the best of the North American conservation model in balancing the needs of wildlife, communities, ranchers, farmers, and hunters and anglers.”

“I am truly honored to receive this award for doing what I love to do — help people find solutions around wildlife issues, and along the way develop lasting friendships with diverse groups of people,” Kehne said. “When we accomplish projects for wildlife and their habitats that the people in our communities support, it leaves a lasting legacy for others to follow and continue the process into the future.”

A lifelong conservationist, hunter, and outdoor enthusiast, Kehne joined Conservation Northwest in 2010 after retiring from a 31-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

While at Conservation Northwest, Kehne has spearheaded a rancher education program in gray wolf recovery areas to grow rancher-wolf social tolerance and coexistence; collaborated with ranchers, farmers, and landowners to connect wildlife habitat corridors; and built a highway crossing to foster safe passage for people and wildlife and galvanize lawmaker support for similar initiatives. Additionally, Kehne served one term as a Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner.

The National Conservation Leadership Award honors individuals for their sustained conservation commitment and leadership. Kehne was honored during the National Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting and 85th anniversary celebration, which was held for the second time as a virtual event this year.

The National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Awards began in 1966. Since then, the National Wildlife Federation has celebrated individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting wildlife through education, advocacy, communication and on-the-ground conservation. Previous honorees have included former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Michelle Obama, and other national leaders, including US. Sen. John McCain and filmmaker Robert Redford.


The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

“Keeping the Northwest wild” since 1989, Conservation Northwest is a regional non-profit organization that protects, connects and restores wildlands and wildlife from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies.

Jay Kehne hunting mule deer near his home in north-central Washington.