Salt Lake City, Utah: During the recent Mule Deer Foundation board meeting at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, Aaron Oelger, Marketing Director for Hodgdon Powder, was selected as the next Vice Chairman of the board. Oelger replaces Bethany Erb who served two years as vice chair. In addition, two new board members, Jim Lawrence and Ron Ness, were elected to serve on the MDF board. Lawrence, MDF state chairman for Arizona, and Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, will replace long time board members Jim Steadman and Bob Jacobs whose terms expired this year.
“I am very pleased to announce Aaron Oelger as MDF’s next Board Vice-Chair. Aaron’s shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry knowledge coupled with his passion for wildlife conservation make him the perfect person to serve MDF in this capacity. Aaron has continuously distinguished himself during his time on the board and was invaluable in leading our efforts to develop a comprehensive Marketing and Development Strategy,” said MDF Board Chairman, Brian Fienhold. “I will say, however, that Aaron has big shoes to fill as he succeeds Bethany Erb whose 2-year term as Vice-Chair now draws to a close. During her time on the board, Bethany led several key initiatives, including coordinating our annual Washington DC fly-in. Wildlife conservation has a great advocate in Bethany Erb and her contributions to MDF over the past several years have proven invaluable in positioning MDF for continued growth and success.”
“I’m excited to welcome Jim Lawrence and Ron Ness to the board. They bring new perspectives and their backgrounds and professional experiences make MDF an even stronger national conservation organization,” said Erb. “Winner of the Arizona Game & Fish Commission’s Conservationist of the Year Award in 2017, Jim’s grassroots work while serving as Arizona State Chair will help ensure MDF’s continued emphasis on grassroots representation as a top priority. In addition, Ron brings an extensive background in natural resources policy and has been a strong ally for mule deer in some of the West’s most important muley country.”
Under Lawrence’s leadership, Arizona has increased from one chapter to 15 with a very active volunteer base that has averaged 3,500 hours of volunteer service each year since 2014. Jim is the liaison with the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s (AGFD) Adopt-a-Ranch program allowing MDF chapters to coordinate volunteer conservation work on six ranches across the state. He is head of the MDF state project review committee to determine the projects that will be funded using chapter rewards and is a member of the AGFD Habitat Project Committee. Jim’s work was recognized by MDF in 2015 when he received the Maggie Justice Award, the highest award for volunteer service to the organization. In addition to being selected as the Arizona Game & Fish Commission 2017 Conservationist of the Year, Jim also played an instrumental role in MDF being selected as the Commission’s 2017 Conservation Group of the Year.
As President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC), Ron Ness has become increasingly involved with MDF starting by attending local banquets and then working with the energy industry to financially support habitat and youth education programs. Three years ago, the NDPC began dedicating proceeds from its Oil Can! Fishing Derby toward MDF projects and has welcomed the relationships that have developed with MDF staff and chapters.
“MDF gets the concept that you have to work with landowners, energy companies, and others to develop mutual respect and work together on win-win projects,” Ness said. “My vision for MDF is to become the premier organization that mule deer hunters want to participate in and support. The organization should be known for their cooperation with landowners and other partners in developing habitat, youth education, and enhancing mule deer population and hunting opportunities.”
Lawrence and Ness will be replacing long time leaders on the board, Jim Steadman and Bob Jacobs.
“Our volunteer board of directors are tireless leaders for the Mule Deer Foundation, and Jim Steadman and Bob Jacobs are no exception. Both Jim and Bob have been critical to the growth of MDF during their tenure on the board. Their leadership in setting our strategic vision has contributed to elevating MDF’s role as one of the leading wildlife organizations in conservation today,” commented Miles Moretti, MDF President/CEO. “We will miss Jim and Bob, but Jim Lawrence and Ron Ness will fill their shoes very capably and we look forward to adding their new perspective to our efforts.”