The Nature Conservancy in Nevada's Len Warren Honored with Wayne E. Kirch Conservation Award
Leonard “Len” Warren has been awarded the prestigious Wayne E. Kirch Conservation Award, given annually by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to recipients who have demonstrated significant results towards conservation, management, or enhancement of wildlife. The award is named in memory of Wayne E. Kirch, who passed away in 1989 after serving on the Fish and Game Commission for more than 25 years, the longest tenure on the board since its inception in 1877.
Warren, The Nature Conservancy in Nevada’s (TNC) Amargosa River Project Manager, has served the chapter for almost seven years and was nominated by his colleagues for his passion for conservation, dedication to educating Nevada’s youth and his stewardship of the Amargosa River. In his work for TNC, Warren has helped vastly improve and expand habitat along the river for threatened and endangered bird populations, as well as spearheaded the recent planting of 30,000 trees to help birds and wildlife adapt to climate change. Warren was instrumental in TNC’s 2019 acquisition of 7J Ranch, conserving the Amargosa River’s headwaters, one of the most important biological resources in the desert Southwest. Warren has a has educated and mentored hundreds of urban and rural youth in Nevada to help them experience nature and learn about the wildlife around them. He has also brought awareness about the Screwbean Mesquite tree die-off and has hosted a series of workshops with scientists and partners to address the issue.
Conservation is a second career for Warren, and becoming an ornithologist is his lifelong dream. Warren is a Navy veteran who went on to work in the retail auto business for 30 years, and he said he has studied and tried to get closer to birds his whole life. When the economic crisis of 2008 forced him to find a new vocation, Warren followed his passion from Maine to Death Valley for the one birding job he could find, as a summer nest searcher for Point Blue Conservation Sciences. There he began building his knowledge and expertise of the Amargosa River and the life it supports, and he was later hired by TNC.
“Since first coming to the Silver State from Maine, Len has grown from being an individual counting birds in Nevada to an individual that creates a future for birds to still be counted,” said John Zablocki, TNC in Nevada’s Strategy Director for Energy and Land Use, who nominated Warren for the award. “Len is as determined as anyone I’ve ever known to make a positive difference not only for Nevada’s wildlife, but in helping people to understand, appreciate and find meaning in wildlife conservation. Over the past decade, I have watched Len turn his visions into reality. He always finds a way to connect and inspire people from all walks of life.”
“Len has the ability to create a sense of passion for birds and the environment in almost everyone he meets,” said Susan Sorrells, a landowner and businesswoman in Shoshone, California.
“Len’s sacrifices to pursue his dream of becoming a top-rated ornithologist is far beyond what most of us would even consider,” said Fred Bell, a videographer who featured Warren is his documentary Keepers of Bitter Waters. “His determination to collect data and his knowledge of desert wildlife is admirable. Most importantly, I am certain his advocacy for wildlife and conservation has sold many participants on his regular bird walks on the value of preserving our natural world.”
“Over the last two years, Len has worked closely with myself and dozens of students through educational workshops, site visits, and community stakeholder meetings to demonstrate the value and positive impact wildlife conservation has on developing healthy cities,” said Phillip Zawarus, Assistant Professor in the Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “He has made the learning experience for students engaging, immersive, and interactive, and provided a breadth of invaluable knowledge for their projects on wildlife preservation.”
The Commission’s Kirch Award judging panel chooses a winner from a pool of nominations sent in from around the state. The judging panel is made up of two wildlife commissioners, Marlene Kirch, daughter of former Commissioner Wayne E. Kirch, the Department of Wildlife staff assigned to the Kirch Award Committee, and four County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife members or members of outdoor groups.
“My favorite thing about my work is to be able to share my passion about nature with other people,” Warren said. “That’s really the magic of it for me. I feel like I can make a little bit of a difference in the world.”
Warren will receive the award in person at an upcoming commission meeting this fall.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.