Media contact: Chris Merrill, associate director, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307.349.7288 (mobile), chris@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org

Tom Bell web

Founder of the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the High Country News to receive an honorary doctoral degree in May

LANDER — Tom Bell, award winning writer and renowned conservationist, founder of the Wyoming Outdoor Council and the High Country News, will receive the University of Wyoming’s highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, in May.

“Tom Bell is a decorated American hero, a stalwart proponent of democratic society, a role model to thousands of young people, a scientific and critical thinker, and a humble rancher and writer who has dedicated his life to making Wyoming the best it can be,” wrote Emilene Ostlind, communications coordinator for UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. “His exemplary military and civil accomplishments have won dozens of national recognitions, and he has, without question, made outstanding contributions to the lives of Wyoming citizens.”

Bell is a Wyoming native and World War II veteran who was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in 1944. Later that same year he was severely wounded during a mission over Austria by a burst of flak that nearly killed him and caused him the loss of his right eye, for which he received the Purple Heart.

When he returned home he found solace in Wyoming’s wide-open spaces. Bell attended the University of Wyoming where he earned a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in wildlife conservation and game management. He went on to work for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and taught science in the Lander schools.

Bell grew up on a ranch outside of Lander during the Great Depression, founded the Wyoming Outdoor Council in 1967 and then the High Country News, he said, because he wanted to ensure that conservation had a strong voice in his “beloved homeland.”

He has won many awards for his conservation work, including the Shikar-Safari Club International Award; Wyoming Conservationist of the year in 1970; the U.S. Department of the Interior Conservation Award in 1974; the Daughters of the American Revolution National Conservation Award in 1995; and the National Wildlife Federation’s Award for Conservationist of the Year in 2002. The latter award was established “to honor individuals who have made exceptional lifetime contributions to the cause of conservation.” In 2000 he was selected as one of the 100 distinguished citizens of Wyoming in the 20th Century.

Born out of a lifelong reverence and passion for the natural world, Tom Bell and the organizations he founded have helped shape the history of Wyoming.

“I never hoped for my kids to be millionaires, but I hoped they would breathe clean air, drink clean water, and experience a state wild enough to foster freedom,” Tom Bell said in 2008.

The University of Wyoming will confer its highest award, the honorary doctoral degree, upon Tom and two other recipients during commencement ceremonies in May.



Associate Director