Retired VDWR Executive Director receives highest honor from regional wildlife agencies

Robert W. “Bob” Duncan named 2021 C. W. Watson Award winner
Bob Duncan, Clarence Watson Award
Ryan Brown (left), Executive Director, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources; Bob Duncan (center), Award Recipient; Paul Johansen (right), President, SEAFWA

The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) conferred the C. W. Watson Award upon Bob Duncan during their 75th annual meeting, held Oct. 17-20 in Roanoke, Virginia. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the Association and presented in conjunction with the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society and the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.

Duncan retired in 2019 after 41 years with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the last 11 of which he led the agency as Executive Director. He served as the Chief of Wildlife for 18 years prior to becoming the agency head.

“No individual has been more consistently and broadly engaged in the wildlife profession than Bob Duncan,” SEAFWA President Paul Johansen said. “In addition to his incredible state-level leadership, Bob is one of the most dedicated and collaborative individuals I’ve had the privilege to know and work with across diverse subjects and landscapes. Bob is the consummate wildlife professional, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Duncan’s work has been recognized by a number of conservation organizations with awards from The Wildlife Society, the Virginia Wildlife Federation, and the State Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation in both Tennessee and Virginia. In 2013, he was named Conservationist of the Year by the Virginia Chapter of Ducks Unlimited and was also presented a Conservation and Leadership Partnership Award that same year by The Nature Conservancy.

Few wildlife professionals have been more extensively engaged throughout their career than Duncan. He served for 28 years on the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Steering Committee and was Chairman of that regional group for 15 years. He chaired the Fish & Wildlife Health Committee for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which includes the work of several subcommittees on lead, Chronic Wasting Disease, and the Controlled Substance Act Task Force. Further demonstrating his diverse leadership and interests, Duncan served for two years as Chairman of the Management Board of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, involving the 25 states within the range of the native game bird. Bob also served as one of two AFWA members of the USDA Wildlife Services Feral Hog Damage Control Committee, as part of the APHIS Feral Swine Coordinating Committee from 2014 to 2016, and on the Virginia Lyme Disease Task Force. 

Duncan has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Forestry and Wildlife Management and is a Certified Wildlife Biologist. He has held leadership roles in a number of professional organizations, including serving as President of SEAFWA and as Southeastern Representative to the AFWA Executive Board. Duncan is also past President of the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.

The C.W. Watson award is presented to the career individual who, in the opinion of the Award Committee, has made the greatest contribution to wildlife or fish conservation during the previous year or years.