Desert Museum Pioneer Bill Woodin Leaves Lasting Legacy

Source:  Arizona Daily Star – May 5, 2018

When Bill Woodin was 6, he captured a snake that gave birth to 52 offspring in a single day. At age 11, he was photographed in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson holding a gopher snake longer than he was. At age 12, he charmed the Tucson Rotary Club with a snake talk.

Courtesy Anne Warner

These childhood events symbolized a lifelong love affair with the desert and its wildlife that crystallized in Woodin’s tenure as executive director of the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum from 1954 to 1971. The museum’s second director, Woodin still has the longest tenure of any director in its 66-year history. He played a key role in building the museum into one of the top 10 zoological museums in the United States and making it an inte! rnational tourist attraction. ‘He was a living legend for all of those involved in the museum,’ said Craig Ivanyi, the museum’s director since 2010. ‘His passion and fingerprints are still there, found throughout this organization. He’s kind of into the fabric of its DNA.’

Woodin died in March at age 92, at the adobe ranch house on a 40-acre parcel bisected by Sabino Creek where he had lived since the early 1950s. His second wife, Beth, a longtime conservation activist and a former Desert Museum trustee, died in January at 71. A memorial service for both will be held May 27 at the museum.

Woodin as director shaped the museum’s future as much as any individual, after its initial vision was laid down by its co-founder and first director William Carr and co-founder and financial benefactor Arthur Pack. Carr resigned after barely two year! s due to ill health after the museum opened on Labor Day 1952. Woodin’s work catapulted the museum into a site whose visitors during his tenure included Eleanor Roosevelt and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

He inherited a facility with annual visitation of about 160,000. The year before he left, attendance had grown to 302,000. Today, the museum draws about 400,000 annual visitors.

Born William Woodin III, his introduction to the Sonoran Desert came at age 4 in 1930, when his parents moved the family to Tucson from his native New York City. His grandfather, also named William Woodin, was President Franklin Roosevelt’s first treasury secretary, instrumental in shaping Roosevelt’s declaration of a bank holiday in 1933 that helped rescue the then-ailing financial system during the peak of the Great Depression.

William III’s father, William Woodin II, and his mother, Carolyn Hyde, had a house built along a dirt Wilmot Road near Speedway, recalled Peter Woodin, a son of the former museum director. It was one of a handful of houses existing that far east in Tucson at the time. A neighboring home belonged to novelist Harold Bell Wright, for whom the Harold Bell Wright Estates neighborhood is now named.

Woodin’s parents were divorced in the 1930s. His mother married nationally known horse breeder Melville Haskell. They raised Woodin on a horse farm near the Rillito River near Swan Road. Haskell was a founder of the American Quarter Horse Association.

Woodin left and returned to Tucson several times, graduating from high school in California, getting a bachelor’s in zoology at the University of Arizona and a master’s in zoology at the University of ! California, Berkeley.

! In pursuit of his master’s degree, in 1950, he identified a kingsnake species in the Huachuca Mountains, where he and his first wife, the former Ann Snow, were camped out. The species was later named after him: lampropeltis pyromelana woodini .

He started as a volunteer for the Desert Museum before it opened, and later became a staff zoologist and deputy director until taking over as director in December 1954. The museum was in a financial crisis, with benefactor Pack having pulled back his support by then. The staff had been cut to five and the museum budget was $60,000. (Its current staff and annual budget are 140 and about $9.5 million, respectively.) Woodin embarked on a period of expansion, and introduced the museum’s first admission charge: 50 cents for adults and a quarter for kids.

Under him, the m! useum built an underground tunnel where visitors could see bat-roost systems, bats nesting in caves, foxes snoozing in dens and snakes nesting, wrote the Saturday Evening Post in a 1962 profile of Woodin titled, ‘People on the way up.’ A museum exhibit called Water Street made an early pitch for saving water in the desert.

Also came exhibits and enclosures for amphibians, black bears, birds, tortoises, otters, coatimundis and other small animals, an aquarium room, artificial habitats using rocks to look like natural habitats, and a vampire bat cave. The museum’s renowned Desert Ark TV program also began under Woodin.

Woodin was always willing to allow his staff to try new things and ideas, encouraging creative people to design exhibits that were copied around the country and around the world, said Peggy Larson, the museum’s archivist.

He was called ‘the most promising young naturalist in the United States’ by Roy Chapman Andrews, a former American Museum of Natural History director, an Asian explorer and an early Desert Museum trustee, the Saturday Evening Post article reported.

But Woodin gave the job up in 1971 on deciding ’17 years was enough,’ said his son Peter. He wanted to concentrate on another lifelong passion, small arms ammunition used by the U.S. military. He spent most of the rest of his life writing a three-volume history on the subject, publishing the final volume in 2015. He also compiled ‘one of the great collections of ammunition in the world,’ said a second son, Hugh Woodin.

He kept the collection at his Woodin Laboratory, built in 1973 and now a 3,000-square-foot underground vault, built of masonry block and reinforced concrete slabs. The laboratory, tracing the ev! olution of small arms ammunition, contains many thousands of specimens, many of which are the only ones of their kind, says a 2010 article about the laboratory in the publication Small Arms Review. The laboratory is a private, nonprofit foundation and educational institute. The family has kept its location private for security reasons.

In an interview in the Small Arms Review, Woodin credited his stepfather for his interest in guns. He said Haskell introduced him to shooting at an early age and ‘instilled in me a real respect for guns and gun safety.

‘To this day, I get the creeps when someone points anything at me, even a finger,’ Woodin told the interviewer.

He also compulsively collected snakes for most of his life, at one time simultaneously owning a green rock rattlesnake and two large kingsnakes. He often prowled aroun! d the desert at night with a flashlight, stick and burlap bag, searchin! g for specimens, and kept bobcats at his home as a hobby. Woodin used to keep his favorite snakes inside sacks in the living room until his wife Ann domesticated him, the Saturday Evening Post article said.

‘It was a terrible sight when the sacks wandered around at night,’ said Ann Woodin, who also forbade her four sons from bringing snakes to the dinner table. Ann, an author, naturalist and community volunteer and activist, died in 2017 at age 90.

Woodin is survived by four sons: Peter, a lawyer and fulltime mediator in New York City; Hugh, a professor of philosophy and mathematics at Harvard University; John, a contractor in Tucson; and Michael, a painter and photographer in Tucson. He also had eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis! @tucson.com or 806-7746

Governor Ducey Appoints Leland “Bill” Brake to Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source:  Press Release – Arizona Game and Fish Department,  January 24, 2018

Gov. Doug Ducey recently announced the appointment of Leland S. “Bill” Brake of Elgin, Arizona, as a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. An avid wildlife enthusiast, Mr. Brake has promoted activities with various wildlife groups in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to encourage involvement of youth and women in wildlife programs. Mr. Brake has owned and operated ranches in Gila, Navajo, Greenlee and (presently) Santa Cruz counties for 50 years and has served as past president and current board member of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, chairing its Wildlife Committee.

Mr. Brake  has served as an agriculture consultant for DuPont Agriculture, which brings innovative science and solutions to meet the challenges faced by farmers. He has also served as chief operating officer and president for distribution of heavy fuels and asphalt for HollyFrontier, which manufactures and markets a variety of asphalt-related products to private sector customers and government agencies.

Mr. Brake is active in the community. He is a board member and current chair of the Advisory Committee for the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources (Wildlife and Range Management). He is also a board member and current chair of the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) for the Bureau of Land Management for Arizona, and is a board member and advisory committee member for the Audubon Society Ranch in Sonoita, Ariz.

He has served as past chairman and board member for the Arizona Rock Products Association, past board member of Associated General Contractors of Arizona, and is a member of the Natural Resource Conservation District (NRCD). He is also a supporter and past member of Safari Club International and is president of the Phoenix Chapter of the University of Arizona Alumni Association. He is a longtime member of the Society of Range Management, Arizona Chapter, and is a lifetime member and past president of the Maricopa Mounted Sheriff Posse. Mr. Brake earned a Bachelor of Science in Range Management, with a minor in Wildlife Management, from the University of Arizona.

Arizona Game and Fish Commission Honors Conservationists at Awards Banquet

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department Press Release – January 19, 2018

Nineteen individuals and organizations were honored at the annual Arizona Game and Fish Commission Awards Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix. The awards recognize Arizonans who have contributed significantly to the conservation of the state’s wildlife, its outdoor heritage, and the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Among those honored were Gov. Doug Ducey for State Advocate of the Year (the award was accepted on behalf of the governor by Natural Resources Policy Advisor Hunter Moore); Sen. Jeff Flake for Federal Advocate of the Year; 3TV Meteorologist Kim Quintero (one of two winners of Media of the Year); and Elizabeth (Beth) Woodin, who 

Members of the Alliance accepting the Award on behalf of Beth Woodin

served on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in the 1990’s and was president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance. Ms. Woodin sadly passed away last week and was awarded posthumously.

 
The complete list of award winners is:

  • Award of Excellence: Lake Havasu Marine Association
  • Award of Excellence: Elizabeth Woodin
  • Youth Environmentalist of the Year: Chase Godbehere
  • Media of the Year: Kim Quintero   
  • Media of the Year: National Veterans Magazine
  • Conservation Organization of the Year: Phoenix Varmint Callers, Inc.
  • Conservationist of the Year: Clyde Weakley
  • Natural Resource Professional of the Year: Erica Stewart
  • Volunteer of the Year: Ron Adams
  • Educator of the Year: Michael Eilertsen
  • Mentor of the Year: Justin Stewart
  • Advocate of the Year – State: Gov. Doug Ducey;
  • Advocate of the Year – Federal: Sen. Jeff Flake
  • Business Partner of the Year: OneAZ Credit Union
  • Buck Appleby Hunter Education Instructor of the Year: John and Linda Vedo
  • Wildlife Habitat Steward of the Year: Double O Ranch 
  • North American Model Commissioners Award: Luke Thompson
  • Chairman’s Award: Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club​​​​​​​

Beth Woodin, Past President of the Alliance and Longtime Arizona Conservation Activist

Source:  Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star – January 17, 2018

When the state bought 1,400 acres near Patagonia 14 years ago, the wetland home of a major endangered fish population was saved from the bulldozer. Beth Woodin was a driving force in creating the Arizona Heritage Fund that supplies money for such purchases.

Woodin died last week at her Sabino Creek home at age 71. She spent at least 40 years fighting to save wildlands like that acreage around Coal Mine Spring, home to the endangered Gila topminnow but until then a likely subdivision site. Woodin, a native New Yorker, lived along Sabino Creek since the 1970s with her husband, William Woodin, an early Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum director.

Beth Woodin, President of the Arizona Heritage Alliance, (c)2010 Tye R. Farrell

Just before her Jan. 10 death from cancer, Woodin left her nine-year position as board president of the Arizona Heritage Alliance advocacy group. On Saturday, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission gave her an award of excellence, at a Phoenix-area ceremony she had hoped to attend.

“She was one of the most dedicated persons around to doing
wonderful things for wildlife,” said Jim DeVos, a state Game and Fish Department assistant director who knew Woodin for 35 years. “She was always looking for that compromise to move conservation forward. She had her fingers in more conservation projects than anyone I know.”

Woodin was a state Game and Fish commissioner from 1990 to 1995, sat on the Arizona Nature Conservancy’s board in the 1980s and ’90s, and was on the Desert Museum’s board of trustees multiple times. In the 1980s, she was instrumental in persuading the Legislature to create a checkoff program allowing residents to set aside some of their state income taxes for programs benefiting nongame wildlife. The checkoff raised nearly $860,000 in the five fiscal years that ended June 30, 2017, state records show.

In 1990, she was a prime mover for a statewide voter initiative creating the Heritage Fund, which then took $20 million annually from state lottery proceeds for parks and nongame wildlife. Game and Fish has used the fund to buy nearly 18,000 acres of habitat.

Woodin and other fund backers fought at least 30 legislative efforts to divert some of that money, succeeding until the 2007-’08 economist bust. After that, the Legislature swept $10 million annually, which had gone for parks, into the general fund. She and her allies unsuccessfully tried to push through legislation to restore the parks fund.

At the end of her life, Woodin was plotting another run at restoring the Heritage Fund for parks, said Janice Miano, the heritage alliance’s board president. “She never gave up. She always had a plan.”

Woodin is survived by her husband; four stepsons; a sister, Jill Burkett, of Northern California; and eight grandchildren. Services will likely be held in the spring.