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AIS Coordinator Beth Bear Awarded Fish Division Employee of Year

LARAMIE Ė Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Beth Bear was named the Fish Divisionís Employee of the Year for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Bear was honored at the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting in Pinedale in July.

Bear has been the backbone of the Departmentís aquatic invasive species (AIS) program since its inception. When AIS was identified as an interim legislative study topic in preparation for the spring 2010 legislative session, Bear was temporarily reassigned from statewide fisheries biologist to AIS duties to assist with preparations for the session. She was tasked with drafting and editing statutory language and developing a state AIS plan. She worked tirelessly editing plans and budget scenarios during the legislative session.

AIS legislation was passed into law in 2010, creating a new department program. Bear was selected to fill the newly created AIS coordinator position and was given only nine weeks to help implement and lead one of the largest programs in the agencyís history. She spent countless hours and long days to launch the AIS plan one week prior to deadline.

Following the first season of the program, Bear was tasked to complete the stateís first AIS plan and began preparations for the second year of the program. The plan was approved by the WGFD Commission and signed by Governor Freudenthal. In its first year, the Wyoming AIS program received praise from the Directors Office, the Commission and the legislature. Following a presentation of the 2010 AIS program results, the Commission recognized the AIS program effort with what may have been their first ever standing ovation for a program.

Bear is the only permanent employee in a program that relies on 50 contract employees scattered throughout the state. While annually hiring, training and supervising 50 employees, she has managed a $2.7 million dollar biennium budget and multiple grants, dealt with future plans, statutes, regulation interpretations, risk assessments, monitoring strategies and changing budget scenarios.

In 2015, the AIS team completed over 47,000 boat inspections in 223 days at more than 65 locations across the state. The team completed 1,300 decontaminations of high risk boats with water or debris that may have carried invasive species. In a recent survey of boaters, 93 percent of respondents indicated they were either very satisfied (75 percent) or satisfied (18 percent) with their overall experience at watercraft check stations. While invasive mussels creep closer to our borders (Utah and South Dakota), Wyoming remains mussel free due to the excellence of the AIS program.

Although Bear would argue that the successes of the AIS program are due to the dedication of the many AIS program contract employees that have regularly worked every holiday without being able to take a day of annual leave, particularly those that have served the Department for multiple years, Bearís efforts have been nothing short of extraordinary. For her superb efforts towards aquatic resource management, development and implementation of the stateís AIS Program and years of diligent and often thankless work, Bear is deserving of recognition as the 2016 Fish Division Employee of the Year.

Beth grew up in Claremont, Calif. She attended California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo for a bachelorís degree in Fisheries and Marine Biology and attended Montana State University at Bozeman where she earned a masterís degree in Fisheries Management. She lives in Laramie with her husband, Steve, and their two sons. She enjoys running, hiking, camping, fishing, and being outside with their sons.