Wildlife biologist’s legacy lives on

by nathan oster

Tom Easterly has been gone for a couple days short of a year, but the legacy of the longtime Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife biologist will live on forever thanks to a memorial fund that was established after his death to benefit young hunter and anglers who grow up in Big Horn County.

Applications are now being accepted for the Tom Easterly Memorial, which in this first year will award a lifetime game bird/small game license and a lifetime conservation stamp to a student living within the boundaries of the district served by Easterly, who worked for G&F between 1992 and 2014.

Applications and information about the scholarship are available at Riverside High School, Cloud Peak Middle School, Greybull Middle School, Greybull High School, Lovell Middle School, Lovell High School, Burlington Middle School, Burlington High School, Rocky Mountain Middle School and Rocky Mountain High School.

To be eligible for the lifetime pass to hunt and fish, a student must be between the ages of 14 and 18 on the date of application and have lived in Wyoming for at least 10 consecutive years. The application period is between Jan. 1 and May 15 of each calendar year.

Applicants will be judged by their application qualifications and on the content of a 500-word essay, in which they are being asked to describe why they hunt and why wildlife is important. Completed applications can be sent to Wyoming Game and Fish Regional Office, ATTN: Tom Easterly Memorial Application, 2820 State Highway 120, Cody, WY 82414.

The committee that will select the winner will be comprised of a Game Warden Association member (Bill Robertson), a Wyoming Biologist Association member (Tim Thomas), a Wildlife Society member (Tony Mong), a family representative (Bill Easterly) and a representative of the community (Tyson Probst).

“Tom would absolutely love this,” said Probst, a longtime friend and one of the organizers of the memorial fund. “In fact, I’m pretty sure he’d be leading the effort. It would be right up his alley.”

Probst said what makes the award so special is that it’s good for the recipient’s lifetime — and is in no way tied to residency. It’s good, whether he or she remains in state or moves away at any point.

The total value of one of these lifetime passes to hunt and fish is around $500.

The fact that enough money has been raised to date, through donations alone, to fund the awarding of a license/stamp combo to one student for the next 23 years is a testament to the impact of Easterly, who died tragically Feb. 20, 2014.

The total available for future lifetime licenses and stamps figures to soar even more after it was announced last week that any money given in memorial of Wayne Johnson, also a friend of Easterly’s and one of the community’s most avid sportsmen, would also be directed to the Easterly Memorial.

“Wayne believed in the mission of hunter recruitment and wildlife conservation,” members of his family wrote. “His close friend, Tom Easterly, shared that mission. We encourage those wishing to remember Wayne to donate to this worthy cause, which is dedicated to encourage young hunters to carry that same mission into the field.”

For anyone wishing to make one, donations may be sent to the Tom Easterly Memorial and Scholarship fund at Big Horn Federal Savings Bank, P.O. Box 471, Greybull, WY 82426.

On top of that, there will be another community event in the coming days to support the cause. The Greybull Elks Lodge is planning a wild game feed for Saturday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Donations will be accepted for the meal and there will be a silent auction, with all proceeds going to the Tom Easterly Memorial.

Probst and Robertson both said that as members of the committee, they would love to be in a position to start giving away two lifetime licenses every year. If enough money is raised, that will happen, they said.

“It’s just a great opportunity for all the kids in this area,” said Robertson.