Laurence R. Jahn’s career in conservation is the classic “local boy does well” story for Wisconsin. He is credited with playing a major role in development of conservation provisions of the historic 1985 Farm Bill. He is also credited with protecting and promoting the expansion of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units located at universities across the country, including UW-Madison and UW-Stevens Point.
Fellow natural resources colleagues nicknamed him “Our Man in Washington,” a credit to his tireless work on a wide range of natural resources issues. He advised conservation organizations, Congress and presidents while working in Washington.
From his roots on a dairy farm near Jefferson, Wisconsin, Jahn went on to earn an education in his home state. His first job was waterfowl biologist at Horicon Marsh for the Wisconsin Conservation Department in the 1950s. He authored or co-authored 14 state reports on research relating to management of ducks and geese. The work of Jahn and his colleagues is credited with setting the standard for waterfowl management practices in the Mississippi River Valley.
In 1959, Jahn joined the Wildlife Management Institute as a field representative. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1970 to work at the agency’s headquarters. He became the group’s president in 1987, and served in that capacity until 1991, when he became chairman of the board.
An excellent summary of his accomplishments by the Wisconsin Chapter of The Wildlife Society lists several key areas where Jahn left a lasting imprint on conservation. He is credited with playing a major role in development of conservation provisions of the historic 1985 Farm Bill. This bill produced the Conservation Reserve Program, the largest private-lands conservation program in the history of America. The bill also produced key wetlands maintenance features. Jahn is also credited with protecting and promoting the expansion of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units located at universities across the country, including UW-Madison and UW-Stevens Point.
He served as a member and officer of dozens of conservation groups, authored numerous papers and reports and served as editor for a number of award-winning books on wildlife ecology and management. Jahn’s contributions to advancing integrated management of natural resources have been recognized by professional, education and private organizations, as well as federal, provincial and state natural resource agencies.
A dedicated outdoorsman who enjoyed hiking, fishing, hunting, photographing and “reading the landscape,” as he liked to say, Jahn leaves a rich legacy of engagement, accomplishment and scholarship in the world of conservation.
- World-renowned waterfowl biologist
- Work at Horicon Marsh laid groundwork for migratory waterfowl management in U.S.
- Credited with development of key conservation provisions of historic 1985 Farm Bill.
- Longtime staff member and president of Wildlife Management Institute.
(Publication of this fact sheet made possible with assistance from Krause Publications, Iola, Wisconsin.)