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Water Inspires Winners of Innovative Conservation Legacy

Recipients of Deborah MacKenzie Award for Innovation Named

Jackson, WY | November 20, 2013

The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming is proud to announce that the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and Katherine Thompson, a Conservancy employee, are the recipients of this year’s Deborah MacKenzie Award for Innovation. The award is given to a Nature Conservancy employee or partner who has exemplified a “big picture,” innovative idea with practical follow-through that advances the chapter’s conservation efforts. This award honors the legacy of the late Deborah “Debby” MacKenzie—an individual who cared deeply about Wyoming’s lands and waters and who inspired involvement and instilled passion for conservation results across the state. 

The Nature Conservancy is honoring the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts for its Pathways to Water Quality project at the Wyoming State Fair Park. The Association brought conservation awareness directly to the public and engaged many diverse partners – energy, agriculture and conservation – as well as dozens of volunteers in this huge undertaking. The project has also improved water quality, decreased erosion and developed a functioning wetland, which helps filter runoff before it enters the North Platte River. Additionally, showcasing the project at the state fair provided educational activities for young people including a stream-trailer demonstration, wildlife track identification games and agriculture production video games. 

"We are truly honored to be selected for this award,” says Bobbie Frank, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts executive director. “The Pathway to Water Quality project is an excellent example of how much on-the-ground conservation and conservation education can happen when a diversity of partners come together. This project enjoyed the support of private, industry, nonprofit, federal, state and local sectors with a tremendous crew of volunteers.” 

Katherine Thompson, the Conservancy’s Northwest Wyoming program director, demonstrated innovation by connecting a community to its water resources through the first-ever Cody Wild West River Fest. As many as 1,000 people of all ages participated in recreational and educational activities along the Shoshone River. From a fish migration obstacle course to collecting water bugs, lessons about the importance of a healthy river were popular. 

“This is a great honor,” says Thompson. “Accolades also go to the community of Cody. The river festival is a highly collaborative project involving numerous public and private partners, as well as Conservancy employees from several teams. We are excited to expand the Cody River Fest in the future to increase community engagement in river recreation and conservation.” 

Thinking big and moving conservation forward is what motivated Deborah MacKenzie. Both recipients did just that. 

“Debby was a dear friend of the chapter and a courageous conservation advocate,” says Andrea Erickson Quiroz, state director for the Conservancy in Wyoming. “She set a tremendous example. We hope this award will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.” 

MacKenzie was a founding member of the Wyoming Chapter of the Conservancy and served for many years on its Board of Trustees. As a ranch owner in the Gros Ventre Wilderness outside of Jackson, Wyoming, MacKenzie developed a keen interest in raising awareness of the threats to the Greater Yellowstone area. In particular, she felt it was important to draw attention to the growing threats that were beginning to infringe on the iconic landscape and its wildlife habitat and migration corridors. Her passion and creativity around this topic resulted in the short film “Out of Yellowstone,” which has been viewed by thousands of people.  

“We’re so proud of Debby’s conservation accomplishments across the state,” says David MacKenzie, husband. “When she put her mind to something, she got it done. This award encourages others to do the same.” 

As recipients of the Deborah MacKenzie Award for Innovation, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts will receive a three-night stay for up to 12 people at the Conservancy’s Tensleep Preserve as well as a framed photograph by Scott Copeland. Katherine Thompson will receive a cash award. 

To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming, visit

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Tracey Stone
(602) 738-1586

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