Terry Hershey Award Honorees


Janice Bezanson 
Executive Director, Texas Conservation Alliance  

For more than 30 years, Janice Bezanson has been at the forefront of Texas conservation efforts, and her leadership has led to the protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. She has been executive director of the Texas Conservation Alliance since 1998, and her wide-ranging efforts have contributed to the creation of national wildlife refuges, the designation of five wilderness areas in Texas' national forests, and more ecosystem-based management of public lands. She has built support for public parks and refuges that together protect more than 100,000 acres of land. Bezanson is a recognized leader in opposing unnecessary reservoir projects and promoting municipal water recycling and other low-impact water supply options. The hallmark of her career has been organizing coalitions of often non-traditional allies to accomplish a broad spectrum of conservation successes. Her conservation activities span an equally broad range: lobbying Congress, recruiting volunteers, raising funds and mentoring other conservation organizations. She has served on advisory boards for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and on the board of directors of American Lands Alliance, the State Environmental Leadership Program, Texas Land Conservancy, and the Conservation History Association of Texas. Among her many accolades, Bezanson has been a recipient of the prestigious Chevron Conservation Award. 

Deborah Clark
Conservationist & Partner, Birdwell & Clark Ranch
Deborah Clark epitomizes the spirit of conservation through her tireless efforts to use and promote holistic ranch management techniques. While supporting a more profitable cattle ranching operation, holistic management produces protection from drought, improved wildlife habitat, cleaner water and a healthier environment. Over the past decade, Clark and her husband Emry Birdwell have implemented holistic management on their 14,000 acre North Texas ranch in Clay County. They were honored as the inaugural winner of the University of North Texas Quail Keystone Ranch Award in 2014 due to an unprecedented 452 percent increase in bobwhite quail populations. This remarkable increase can be attributed to continued improvement in habitat by rotating cattle grazing around the needs of quail, which was bolstered with timely rainfall. Clark is involved with several organizations that support land and wildlife conservation. She is a director for the Texas Wildlife Association and the Cattle Raisers Association, and she is enrolled in the Holistic Management Certified Educator program. She has been a director of the Texas Wildlife Association's Bobwhite Brigade and has served as chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Upland Game Bird Advisory Council. The holistic high-density grazing management practices implemented by Clark and her husband provide a living example of putting conservation practices to work to benefit the land and the wildlife of Texas. 

Ann Hamilton
Ann Hamilton has dedicated her entire career to conservation, conservation philanthropy and conservation partnerships that have enhanced the parks and wildlife of Texas. She served as senior grant officer for the Houston Endowment for many years and was one of the first significant philanthropic professionals in Texas to engage in the environment. In 1997, she co-founded the Texas Environmental Grant Makers Association to coordinate and maximize efforts among like-minded organizations. She has been involved in leadership positions with numerous conservation organizations including The Park People, the Houston Park Board, and the State Park Advisory Board. Since she retired in 2009, Hamilton has concentrated her non-profit volunteer efforts primarily on land and water conservation. She serves as the president of Cullinan Park Conservancy, an advocacy group formed in 2010, to protect and enhance the natural beauty of a 754-acre park in Fort Bend County, Texas. In 2010, she was elected to the board of directors of the International Crane Foundation, where she serves on the development committee. She is also a board member of The Aransas Project, an alliance of citizens, organizations, businesses and municipalities who are fighting for responsible water management of the Guadalupe River Basin to ensure freshwater inflows to protect and enhance the wintering grounds for endangered whooping cranes.

Marty Leonard
Board Member, Fort Worth Nature Center & Tarrant Regional Water District

Marty Leonard is a philanthropist for many worthwhile causes, especially those related to nature and the environment. She is a major benefactor of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, the Great Plains Restoration Council, The Nature Conservancy, and both the National and Texas Audubon Societies. She was a leading donor in the campaign to construct the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill. The Marty Leonard Nature Explore Playground honors her contribution to the Lena Pope Early Learning Center. Leonard is also an ardent supporter of water conservation. She ran for the Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors in 2006 and was recently re-elected to her third four-year term. During her tenure on the board, she successfully advocated to increase Tarrant Regional Water District's conservation budget from $100,000 to $1.5 million. In 2004, she founded the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge Conservancy and was president until 2011 when the group merged with the Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Inc. After the merger she became the president-elect of the friends group, was elected president in 2013 and is currently serving her second year. During her tenure on both boards, the profile of the Nature Center has risen dramatically within the community and funding for major visitor amenities has been secured. Leonard is also a Cross Timbers Master Naturalist. 


Carol Dinkins
Environmental Practice Group Leader, Vinson & Elkins LLP  
Carol Dinkins is an inaugural recipient of the Terry Hershey Award in Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation program because of the landmarks in her exceptional career and her focus on conserva- tion priorities while serving in positions of public trust. In 1979, Gov- ernor Bill Clements appointed Dinkins chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Coastal Zone Management, and in 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed her assistant attorney general of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She was the first woman to hold that post. President Reagan later appointed her Deputy Attorney General of the United States, which made her the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in law enforcement at that time. In 1997, Governor George W. Bush appointed her to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and in 2000 to chair the Governor’s Task Force on Conservation. She was the first Texas Parks and Wildlife Com- missioner to visit every state park in Texas. She was inducted to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000. She was a member of the American Bar Association board of governors from 2005-2008. She held various officer positions, including chair, on the board of direc- tors of The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization. Previously, she chaired the Texas Chapter’s Board of Trustees for three years, for which she remains trustee emeritus. 

Mary Anne Piacentini 
Executive Director, Katy Prairie Conservancy

Mary Anne Piacentini is an inaugural recipient of the Terry Hershey Award and Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation Program because of her tireless dedication in the trenches to making conservation a priority in the community she calls home. Piacentini became Executive Director of the Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) in 1999. At that time, the Katy Prairie Conservancy had just acquired its first 1,300 acres of preserve, rescued from rapid development plans that seri- ously threatened the integrity of the much larger coastal prairie landscape of the region. Since 1999, Piacentini and KPC’s Board of Directors have grown the Katy Prairie Conservancy from 1,300 acres to over 20,000 acres within the boundaries of one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing metropolitan areas. She has demonstrated unprecedented creativity in community-building around a conservation cause, innovative fundraising and partnership development strategies, and telling the conservation story in terms that are relevant to all. Piacentini has purposefully chosen to not make the Katy Prairie Conservancy just about landscapes and wildlife, but also about people – a strategy that Terry Hershey herself employed throughout her storied career. She is a past president of the Texas Land Trust Council and in 2005, received the Army and Sarah Emmot Con- servation award for environmental excellence from the Citizen’s Environmental Coalition. 

Susan Rieff
Executive Director, Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Susan Rieff was chosen to receive a Terry Hershey award from Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation program this first year because of the leadership highlights in her distinguished career and her advocacy of conservation best practices that is helping to transform how we think about native and sustainable landscaping in Texas and through- out the country. Rieff began the latest phase of her career as executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 2004, but that is only the most recent chapter of her notable conservation career.

She served as the first Director of the Resource Protection Division at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, as Assistant Commissioner under Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower, as Director of Environmental Policy for Texas Governor Ann Richards, and as Policy Director for Land Stewardship at the National Wildlife Federation. From 1995 to 1998, Rieff served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. In her tenure at the Wildflower Center, she has transformed the nation’s thinking and best practices of integrating native flora into public and private landscapes throughout the country. She has tirelessly advanced the reach of the Wildflower Center and it is now a department at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Ellen Temple
Conservationist, Book Publisher, & Education Advocate 

Ellen Clarke Temple is among the group of inaugural recipi- ents of the Terry Hershey Award in Audubon’s Texas Women in Conser- vation program because of her untiring advocacy, personal commitment and leadership of conservation initiatives throughout Texas for decades. She is passionate about conserving the Neches River and its designation as a Wild and Scenic River. Ellen has worked for many years to raise awareness of the value and beauty of the plants of the East Texas forests and the need to conserve them.

Besides her work in conservation, Ellen is a book publisher who has worked on behalf of public education at all levels and for libraries in Texas. She served as a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1991-1997, serving as vice chair from 1995-1997, and is currently a past president and member of the board of trustees of Angelina College. She served as pres- ident of the board of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin from 1997-1999 and is a past member of the board of the Nature Conservancy of Texas. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for South Texas Natives, a program of the Kleberg Wildlife Institute at A&M Kingsville, and on the Stephen F. Austin State University Pineywoods Native Plant Center Advisory Board. She was honored as East Texan of the Year in 2009 by the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. Ellen and her husband Buddy Temple have won numerous awards together for their conservation work in Texas, including the 2011 Aldo Leopold Conservation Award for Temple Ranch; the Lifetime of Conservation Achievement Award given by the Texas Conservation Alliance, 2012; and the R.E. Jackson Conservation Award given by the Big Thicket Association in 2014. 

How you can help, right now