Women in Conservation

Audubon Texas Celebrates the Legacy of Female Leadership in Texas Conservation Efforts

2016 Terry Hershey Award winners to be honored in Fort Worth on March 3, 2016.

Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation Program will honor four recipients of the 2016 Terry Hershey Award next month in Fort Worth. The award recognizes outstanding women leaders in Texas conservation. The 2016 group of honorees are: Janice Bezanson, executive director of the Texas Conservation Alliance (Salado), Deborah Clark, Birdwell and Clark Ranch co-owner (Henrietta), Ann Hamilton, conservation philanthropist (Houston) and Marty Leonard, Tarrant Regional Water District board member and philanthropist (Fort Worth).

The Terry Hershey Award is one component of Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation Program, which aims to raise the stature of women’s roles in the conservation movement, to further support girls and young women in the environmental sciences and to engage women in important issues related to conservation in Texas.

“We’re thrilled to honor these outstanding Texas conservationists,” said Brian Trusty, executive director of Audubon Texas. “They exemplify the very best in Texas conservation leadership, and it is our hope that these awards will serve as inspiration to other women and will encourage young girls to get involved and stay involved in conservation.”

Audubon Texas and the Fort Worth Audubon Society will co-host the Terry Hershey Texas Women in Conservation Awards luncheon on March 3, 2015 at the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The award is named for conservation icon Terry Hershey, who has devoted substantial time, energy and resources to significant conservation projects in Houston, throughout Texas and nationally for more than 50 years. Hershey is a former member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founding board member of Bayou Preservation Association, Houston Audubon Society, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The Park People and Urban Harvest. She is a past board member for Audubon Texas, National Audubon Society, National Recreation and Park Association and The Trust for Public Land. Hershey is a native of Fort Worth and has lived most of her adult life in Houston.

“Amazing women like Terry Hershey have always been on the front lines of efforts to protect the waters, natural resources, and special places of Texas,” said Susan Rieff, co-chair of the nomination committee and previous Terry Hershey Award honoree. “This award pays tribute to Terry’s legacy by honoring other Texas women for their long-term commitment to conservation, their tenacity in protecting the state’s unique natural heritage, and the inspiration they provide to others.”

Besides the Terry Hershey Award, Audubon’s Texas Women in Conservation Program creates a framework to nurture tomorrow’s women conservationists and environmental leadership opportunities through three major service components. The Rachel Carson Field Internship provides on-the-ground field experiences, the Young Women’s Conservation Action Program involves participants in an in-depth examination of conservation opportunities and challenges and the Terry Hershey Scholarship and Grant Program offers educational funds to support higher education opportunities for young women.

Fundraising continues to support these efforts. All gifts in support of this award and all proceeds from the annual Terry Hershey award luncheon will support the enhancement of citizen science, conservation, and educational activities in Texas that focus on engaging women and girls in stewardship and conservation of the natural world. For more information visit our website at tx.audubon.org/texaswomeninconservation.


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 creation of national wildlife refuges, 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. Janice 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 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 Texas and Southwestern 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 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’s 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, Ann 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, Ann was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Crane Foundation (ICF), where she serves on the development committee. She is also a board member of The Aransas Project (TAP), 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 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 Texas Nature Conservancy, and both the National Audubon Society and Audubon Texas. She was a leading donor in the campaign to construct 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 (TRWD) 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 TRWD’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.

About Audubon in Texas: For more than 100 years, Audubon has established itself as a leader in protecting and conserving wildlife and habitat and inspiring people to take action on behalf of the environment. Audubon’s success is based on a foundation of science, education, and policy. Established in 2001 as the state program of the National Audubon Society, Audubon Texas’s conservation work includes 70% of the Gulf Coast, 3 million acres of statewide grasslands, and 19 Important Bird Areas. Audubon Texas also engages communities in civic action, outdoor education initiatives, and citizen science at its Audubon Centers in Cedar Hill, Dallas, and San Antonio and its Audubon Sanctuary in Brownsville.


Media Contact: Haily Summerford, Deputy Director, Audubon Texas

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