Wyoming loses steadfast conservationist and visionary

Mark Fowden retired ater 39 years with Wyoming Game and Fish in early January. He passed away March 31. Photo courtesy Wyoming game and Fish.

By Cory Toye

Wyoming lost a man who dedicated his life to the conservation and management of our great fisheries when Mark Fowden passed away March 31. Mark led a fabled career with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, as this announcement about his retirement on Jan. 3, 2017 pointed out.

People who knew Mark are shocked and saddened by the abrupt loss of a dear friend, family man and visionary after a short battle with cancer. Over the last few days I have shared conversations with people who worked with Mark for decades and I marvel at the positive impression he made on so many people’s outlook towards life and conservation.

Mark was pure positive energy. Nothing was too big to accomplish, nothing too complicated to unravel. I will remember his laugh, his encouragement and his constant reminders to take my family fishing and enjoy this marvelous State.

The Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited last week in Lander. We honored Mark with a moment of silence to contemplate his life and the career he dedicated to the resource that we have the honor of protecting. It was fitting because when Mark became the Chief of the Fisheries for the state, he still made time to attend TU Council meetings.

I was always impressed that his dedication to coldwater fisheries was so fierce that he found time to travel across the state to meet with TU staff and volunteers to motivate, educate and share a few beers and laughs – even on weekends. Mark was also deeply invovled with his local chapter of Trout Unlimited – the Curt Gowdy Chapter out of Cheyenne.

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Mark Fowden was presented the lifetime achievement award from the Wyoming Council of Trout Unlimited at his retirement party from Wyoming Game and Fish on Jan. 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Mike Jensen.

Ten years ago I started my conservation career and had the pleasure to be surrounded by men and women who had already dedicated decades of their lives to Wyoming’s natural resources. I watched Mark develop partnerships and projects through collaboration, trust and successful implementation. I admired his diplomacy, common sense, resiliency and unwavering passion for this work. His energy was contagious and he motivated people to work together to find solutions.

I know part of Mark’s legacy will be the ongoing development of collaborative, partnership-based projects to address natural resource issues with diverse stakeholders and participants. Mark set the stage for the unprecedented pace of work occurring across the state through partnerships with agencies, NGOs, landowners and sportsmen. These projects are occurring at significant scales to improve the health of entire watersheds so places we care about so deeply will remain healthy for generations.

As Mark’s legacy lives on, TU and the people who knew and loved him are developing a project in his honor. Per the family’s request, donations to TU are being accepted to fund a project that will be developed by family, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and dozens of project partners who Mark worked with through the years. This project will be a timeless tribute to Mark and the resource that he cared so much for.

Rest in Peace, Mark. Your legacy will flourish and generations of Wyoming families thank you for the life you led.

Read Mark’s obituary and learn more about how to donate.

Cory Toye is the Wyoming Water and Habitat Program Director for Trout Unlimited. He can be reached at ctoye@tu.org

By Brett Prettyman.