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

Arizona Game and Fish Department Announce 2018 Heritage Grant Awards

Source:  Arizona Game and Fish Department release – March 19, 2018

On March 7, 2018 at the Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting held in Douglas, Arizona, the 2018 Heritage Fund Grants were announced.  Heritage Fund money comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales and was established by voter initiative in 1990. Heritage funding goes toward conservation efforts such as protecting endangered species, educating students and the general public about wildlife and the outdoors, and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The Heritage Fund Grant Program was established by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in 1992 as part of the overall Heritage Fund program. The grants program initially was developed as a way to promote outreach in order to enhance important partnerships and generate fresh approaches in support of the department’s mission. Since inception, the department has had the opportunity to award more than $16 million through the Heritage Fund grants program and support more than 800 projects throughout the state.

A total of $412,000 was available for the 2018 grant cycle and was awarded through a competitive application process in various categories (Environmental Education, Outdoor Education, Schoolyard Habitat, Urban Wildlife/Habitat, Public Access, and IIAPM).  This year the agency scored 54 Heritage grant proposals. Below are the grant awardees and the grant amount awarded.

Outdoor Education (OE) AZGFD scored seven proposals and the amount available is $16,000. The following five applicants are awarded a 2018 Outdoor Education Heritage Grant:

  • Pendergast Elementary School District, Copper King, for the project titled “Copper King STEAM Goes Overboard.” The award amount is $ 2,500.00.
  • Flagstaff Unified School District, Eva Marshall Magnet Elementary School, for the project titled “Marshall’s 2nd Grade Outdoor Curriculum Experience.” The award amount is $ 2,276.00.
  • Oak Creek Watershed Council, for the project titled “Oak Creek Water Quality Field Days.” The award amount is $ 2,170.00.
  • Gilbert Public Schools, Superstition Springs Elementary School, for the project titled “Second Grade Butterfly Wonderland Field Trip.” The award amount is $ 800.00.
  • Arizona Trail Association, for the project titled “Arizona Trail Wildlife CAM (Conservation and Monitoring).” The award amount is $ 2,500.00.

 Environmental Education (EE) the agency scored a total of nine proposals and the amount available is $16,000. The following four applicants are awarded a 2018 Environmental Education Heritage Grant:

  • Arizona Board of Regents on Behalf of ASU, Tempe and Polytechnic Campuses, for the project titled “Cultivating Life in the Sonoran Desert.” The award amount is $6,825.00.
  • Arizona Wildlife Federation, for the project titled “Audio Guides to the Raymond Wildlife Area and Morman Lake Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience.” The award amount is $7,665.00.
  • Arizona State Parks, Red Rock State Park, for the project titled “Wildlife Tracking with Technology.” The award amount is $2,250.00.
  • Snowflake Unified School District, Snowflake Jr. High, for the project titled “Technology and Wildlife Collision Reduction.” The award amount is $5,000.00.

Schoolyard Habitat (SCHOOLYARD) scored a total of five proposals and the amount available is $30,000. The following four applicants are awarded a 2018 Schoolyard Heritage Grant:

  • Wickenburg Conservation Foundation, for the project titled “Outdoor Environmental Classroom.” The award amount is $1,715.00.
  • Pine Forest School, for the project titled “Cedar Forest’s Children’s Garden: Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat and Learning Wonderland.” The award amount is $10,000.00.
  • Osborn School District, for the project titled “Desert Tortoise Habitat to Facilitate Outdoor Learning at Solano Elementary School.” The award amount is $1,000.00.
  • Maine Consolidated School District, for the project titled “Northern Arizona Bat Habitat and Sanctuary.” The award amount is $1,329.00.

Urban Wildlife (URBAN) We scored a total of twenty proposals and the amount available is $100,000. The following five applicants are awarded a 2018 URBAN Heritage Grant:

  • Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, for the project titled “Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival: Wildlife Focused Festival.” The award amount is $5,000.00.
  • City of Phoenix, Parks and Recreation, for the project titled “Papago Park All-Access Fishing Dock.” The award amount is $33,000.00.
  • Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, for the project titled “Habitat Restoration and Watchable Wildlife Enhancement at Sawmill/Willow Bend AWWE Site.” The award amount is $38,337.00.
  • Friends of Verde River Greenway, for the project titled “Verde Tour-An Addition to the Arizona Watchable Wildlife Experience Program – Phase 1.” The award amount is $14,166.00.
  • Catalina Foothills School District, for the project titled “Critter Cams for Kids.” The award amount is $4,475.00.

Public Access (ACCESS) We scored a total of four proposals and the amount available is $50,000. The following two applicants are awarded a 2018 ACCESS Heritage Grant:

  • Town of Sahuarita, for the project titled “Sahuarita Lake Public Access for Persons with Disabilities Phase 2.” The award amount is $7,705.00.
  • City of Holbrook, for the project titled “Holbrook’s Public Access to Recreation Area.” The award amount is $42,165.00.

Identification, Inventory, Acquisition, Protection and Management (IIAPM) We scored a total of nine proposals and the amount available is $200,000. The following four applicants are awarded a 2018 IIAPM Heritage Grant:

  • Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona, for the project titled “Status, Distribution, Habitat, and Stressors of the Sonoran Talussnail.” The award amount is $40,301.00
  • Phoenix Zoo, for the project titled “Monitoring Fecal Gluticosteroids and Behavior to Assist in Developing a Propagation for Release Program for the Critically Endangered Mt. Graham Red Squirrel.” The award amount is $57,804.00.
  • Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona, for the project titled “Soft-release Translocation Techniques to Maximize Fidelity to Release Site in Red Squirrels.” The award amount is $61,895.00.
  • Idaho Department of Fish and Game, for the project titled “Development of YY Male Technology for Eradicating Undesirable Invasive Fish Populations in Arizona.” The award amount is $40,000.00.

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.

Arizona State Parks and Trails Brings Home the Gold Medal for Best Managed State Park System

Source:  Arizona State Parks and Trails Press Release – September 26, 2017

Arizona State Parks and Trails today won the Gold Medal for best managed state park system in the nation from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The award was announced this morning during the national NRPA conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“This is a tremendous achievement that benefits everyone in our state – from residents to tourists,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Winning the Gold Medal is a testament to the hard work, collaboration and innovation that Arizona State Parks and Trails demonstrated to get us to this point.”

Arizona State Parks and Trails was selected as a Final Four candidate in May, along with Tennessee State Parks; Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission; and Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites, and Trails.  Over the last two years, Arizona State Parks and Trails has established a self-sufficient funding structure, achieved record visitation and revenue and implemented a plan to reinvest in the system and create new parks.

“This Gold Medal win is not just about the staff of Arizona State Parks and Trails,” said Sue Black, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks and Trails. “This is about everyone in Arizona who contributes to our success or gets to enjoy our beautiful parks. It’s a huge honor to be considered the best-managed state park agency in the country, and we hope everyone will get out and see these amazing parks first-hand.”

To celebrate making it to the Final Four and hear the Gold Medal winner announced, agency partners, stakeholders and constituents gathered at the Arizona State Parks and Trails Outdoor Recreation Information Center on Tuesday morning as the event was live-streamed on Facebook from New Orleans. Executive Director Black accepted the award.

The Gold Medal Award honors state park systems throughout the United States that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and innovative approaches to delivering superb park and recreation services with fiscally sound business practices.

For information about all 35 Arizona State Parks and Natural Areas, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and State Historic Preservation Office call 1-877-MY-PARKS or visit AZStateParks.com.

PRESS CONTACT: Michelle Thompson at (602) 542-1996 or (480) 589-8877 – Email: pio@azstateparks.gov