Habitat & Conservation  |  02/12/2024

National Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist: Edward Beck


Helping advance meaningful conservation in the eastern U.S. 

This year, for the first time, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will recognize a national “Volunteer of the Year.”

The award celebrates the very best the organization has to offer — the members and volunteers who optimize the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever mission, who seek to protect and grow our wildlife habitat, and who help ensure our heritage continues for generations to come. 

We have chosen eight finalists (Four Pheasants Forever and four Quail Forever) for the award. The winner will be announced at the upcoming National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, which runs March 1-3 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are dynamic conservation organizations, fueled by the dedication of volunteers,” said Tom Fuller, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of chapter and volunteer services. “The Volunteer of the Year award seeks to honor individuals who have made a profound impact on our mission. Our volunteer network is a vibrant community of passion and talent. This annual award is a celebration of the remarkable accomplishments of these volunteers, and is intended to inspire others to join the movement for upland conservation.”

Over the course of the next four weeks we’ll get to know each finalist, and celebrate their accomplishments in the world of habitat conservation. The next volunteer we’ll highlight is Edward Beck, from the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of Quail Forever in Maryland. 

Let’s start by just telling us a little more about yourself. Your history with bird hunting and conservation, how long you’ve been a member of Pheasants Forever, etc. 

I became a Quail Forever member when I attended the chapter’s second banquet in 2020. I hunted as far back as I can remember, following my father rabbit and deer hunting. Dove hunting was a big deal around age 12 or 13. As a young child I recall sitting on the front porch in the evening and my father whistling back to the Bobwhite’s call, that was about 50 years ago. Later in life I bagged my first ruffed grouse in Western Maryland and my first wild Pheasant in North Dakota. I had the wing shooting bug at that point. Duck hunting along the Patuxent River was my main stay for many years. In 2003 the quest for more and better hunting opportunities and land access moved me to becoming a “Traveling Wingshooter.” I retired from almost 40 years of self employment three years ago and I am blessed to have a wife who loves to see new places and allows me to chase birds September 1 though the first week of February. I enjoy meeting others who follow the same lifestyle and occasionally hunt with some of the folks I meet. I find the days I enjoy the most though are those when I’m discovering new places with just me and my two dogs. When thing align just right we come back with a few birds.

What initially spurred you to get involved with your local chapter?

Once I understood the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever model of fund raising and chapter control I was all in. Within the "Mission" of the organization, giving the chapter absolute control of when, and how we spend the money we raise didn't require much more consideration — It’s that simple.

Talk about the work you and your chapter have been doing over the course of the last year. 

We are always discussing and planning for educational and outreach events, and being a very young chapter we’re still building our network. A great milestone was accomplished when the chapter stepped up to help fund two Farm Bill Biologist positions, one each in Maryland and Delaware. Having these biologist on the ground in our area has been a great help with our outreach efforts. Being able to direct private land owners to a resource that can provide technical help with habitat and assist the landowners with various program enrollments is something we had been waiting for. The biggest deal of the past year was the organization of a Public Land & Private Partnerships for Early Succession Habitat Symposium conducted on July 20, 2023 at the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, Maryland. Beginning from an idea I had to bring public and private land managers and owners together for the benefit of Bobwhite Quail and their required habitat. This effort was made possible through a partnership with Dr. Luke Macaulay, from the University of Maryland Wildlife Extension Service. 

There are nearly 140,000 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members, and eight finalists for Volunteer of the Year. What does it mean to be nominated for this award? 
It was quite the surprise. I’m flattered and honored to have my efforts and the success of the the chapter recognized. What means the most to me is the dedication of time, talent and insight the other chapter leaders provide. Vice President John Brader keeps up the chapter facebook page, records meeting minutes and handles all the other behind the scene work. He’s insightful and always looking for a new way to get the message of the mission out to the public. Treasurer Ken Hopkins has a constant eye on our money and keeps up with the reporting duties, always mindful of the resource provided by our fund raising efforts and donor contributions. Activities and outreach chairman Ed McWilliams works diligently with both Maryland and Delaware to develop outreach and educational activities with a focus on youth and women. And finally the chapter founding member and original president Treavor Lewis, who is now our habitat chairman. 

The success of the chapter would not be possible without their ongoing efforts. A leader/president of any effort is only as good as those who he depends on. Without them this nomination would not have occurred. 

One of the most profound aspects of volunteering for Pheasants Forever is you can see and touch the work. It’s not abstract, or done in some far away place. When you accomplish a habitat project, you can stand in the dirt and witness the progress firsthand. Same is true for outreach — you get to see new people discover the world of conservation or watch a bird dog work for the very first time. What’s it feel like to sit back and watch your work come to fruition? 

It gives me that kind of shaky, teared up feeling inside — real pride. I don’t mean a "look what I have done" kind of thing, but a “look what can be done when we step up collectively and push the effort.”

Satisfaction is the best way I can describe it.