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US agency’s WV center honors pioneering biologist

Journal photo by Jeff McCoy National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown presented Clarence “Ki” Faulkner with the USFWS Museum/Archives Award for Contributions to Preserving our Heritage on Thursday.
Journal photo by Jeff McCoy
National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown presented Clarence “Ki” Faulkner with the USFWS Museum/Archives Award for Contributions to Preserving our Heritage on Thursday.

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — On Wednesday, Clarence “Ki” Faulkner celebrated his 93rd birthday. The next day he received the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ first annual Heritage Award after a lifetime of working in and protecting the environment and the animals that live within it and providing a lifetime collection to the museum.

“Ki worked for us for 40 years, which is half of our history as an agency. He has stuff going back to 1946 that he has donated to us,” said Curator Mark Madison, Ph.D., U.S. FWS Historian at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) Archives/Museum in Jefferson County.

Not only does Faulkner have a long history with the center, he was the first of his kind.

“He was the very first trained wildlife biologist to actually be hired by the fish and wildlife service,” said Faulkner’s son Scot.

NCTC Director Jay Slack presented the award along with Steve Chase, chief of NCTC’s Division of Education Outreach. Faulkner has donated 50 years worth of items to the archives, covering over half of the history of the agency.

In addition to the award, he was made an honorary member of the Heritage Committee.

“Over the last five years his files, his study collections – which includes skulls and pelts – his decoys, his hand tied flies – that are works of art unto themselves – and then, ultimately photos, (were donated) because he loves taking photos. So he took tons of photos of some of the research projects. No one else had ever taken those pictures, so these are the only ones that exist and they’re all now here in the museum,” Scot said.

The collection was extensive and the NCTC was happy to provide a home for his lifetime of work.

“They cleaned me out,” Faulkner said as everyone laughed. It would be hard to place a value on such a donation to the public.

Growing up in Faulkner’s house was not your average cat and dog pet ownership home.

“He had a bunch of animals that he would take around, including TV shows back in the 1950s explaining behavior and all. I’m an only child so I enjoyed growing up with a pet porcupine, a skunk and a fox and a couple of squirrels, in addition to a nice lab retriever dog,” Scot said.

Faulkner made national news leading the response to a tragic airline crash that occurred Oct. 4, 1960, when an Eastern Airlines propeller-driven Lockheed L-188 Electra was hit by birds and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during takeoff from Logan Airport near Boston. Sixty-two people lost their lives making it the worst bird related crash in aviation history. Faulkner’s recommendations for all airports prevented future bird strikes.

Faulkner became the youngest regional supervisor in the USFWS. He was promoted to leading Wildlife Services in the Midwest region in 1964. His teams were the first to implement the Endangered Species Act. These historic efforts brought the American Bald Eagle, the Eastern Timber Wolf and the Kirkland Warbler back from the brink of extinction.

His work was a challenge, but Faulkner never saw it that way.

“No, it was easy. I enjoyed it,” he said. His dedication lead to much more firsts for conservation.

Faulkner and his teams invented the first radio collars used for tracking wolves. They worked with manufacturers to develop new batteries and radio transponders capable of transmitting long distances for a long duration, all while being small and light enough to not burden the animals. In addition, his teams were the first to document the effects of “acid rain” on fish habitat.

Faulkner’s teams also rediscovered the Black Footed Ferret, which was believed to be extinct since the 1920s. He developed the first habitat restoration and captive breeding programs for the ferret. In November 2015, the Smithsonian Conservation Biological Institute commemorated Faulkner’s leadership in saving the Black Footed Ferret by naming one of their breeding males “Ki Ferret.”

Faulkner completed his career as the last Bureau Chief for Animal Damage Control in Washington, D.C. His final assignment was Director of Environmental Contaminants.

“It was a darn good career, and good people around me made it better,” Faulkner said.

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