Pennsylvanian Receives 3rd National Conservation Award
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Don Heckman was a member of the NWTF Pennsylvania State Board of the Directors before he was a serious wild turkey hunter.
Attending an organizational meeting with a friend in 1975, Heckman was instantly hooked by the NWTF’s focus on wildlife habitat management and the restoration of the wild turkey.
Heckman went on to become an avid turkey hunter. But his contributions to turkey restoration and habitat management through the legislative process have left a lasting impact in his home state.
For his dedicated and effective volunteer service to the NWTF in numerous activities over the past 37 years, Heckman received the Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon Award Feb. 16 at the NWTF Convention and Sport Show.
It’s the third NWTF major national award for Heckman, who received the Roger Latham Award for wildlife conservation by volunteers not employed in the wildlife conservation business in 1988, and the C.B. McLeod Award for wildlife conservation in 1998. He’s received eight Pennsylvania NWTF awards.
“Once the candle was lit, I really got involved in things,” said Heckman, who lived near Harrisburg (Camp Hill) before retiring to Tucson, Ariz., after a 39-year career in information processing. “It just became a passion, or as my wife would say, an ‘”obsession.”’
Heckman has held various offices for 31 years on the NWTF Pennsylvania State Chapter Board and helped found the Michaux-Yellow Breeches Chapter, of which he remains an active out-of-state board member. He’s worked on numerous habitat management, outreach and education projects, many with his local chapter.
He’s been a prolific writer for outdoor publications and a longtime Eastern Sports and Outdoors Turkey Calling Contest Coordinator.
But Heckman’s been especially active in the political process, serving on the state Sportsman’s Coalition and serving for 25 years as state chapter legislative chairman “informing and educating” legislators on NWTF and wildlife habitat issues. He was a member of former Gov. Tom Ridge’s Sportsmen’s Advisory Council.
Among Heckman’s political successes were the elimination of Pennsylvania Game Commission Turkey Game Farms in favor of a more successful “trap and transfer” program and the repeal of the state’s “Hunter Orange” requirement.
“He’s just a phenomenal volunteer,” said close friend Vern Ross, the current NWTF vice president. “He lives, eats and dies NWTF. He’s a very modest man - he just gets things done.”
A dedicated Christian, patriot and family man, Heckman admits he sometimes can’t control his passion for turkey hunting and NWTF volunteer work.
“It’s like my third arm,” he said.
Heckman makes a similar comparison when describing his passion for his Michaux-Yellow Breeches Chapter.
“I will always be a board member,” he said. “It’s as much a part of me as my eight fingers and two thumbs.”
For his amazing service to wildlife habitat conservation and the NWTF, make it two thumbs up.
The NWTF, a nonprofit organization, is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation. Through dynamic partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore 17.3 million acres of wildlife habitat, investing $412 million.
Since the NWTF’s founding in 1973, the North American wild turkey population has increased from 1.3 million to 6.5 million with wild turkey inhabiting 99 percent of suitable habitat.