Brett is one of just two individuals to earn the title
Son Andy Brett, wife Dottie Brett, President Jerry Regan, and Curator Emeritus Jim Brett.
The board of directors at its annual meeting voted to honor former curator Jim Brett with the honorary title, Curator Emeritus. The Emeritus title is approved by the Board and designated only to a former staff member who served 20 or more years and has demonstrated significant contributions to the Hawk Mountain mission.
Brett is only the second individual in the Sanctuary's 80-year history to receive the designation. He joins Maurice Broun, the founding curator and ornithologist, who was the first to hold Emeritus status.
Deborah Edge, the granddaughter of Sanctuary founder Rosalie Edge, presented Jim with a framed Resolution that cites his many contributions to Hawk Mountain that have helped move the organization to new heights. His many accomplishments positioned the Sanctuary to achieve today's global mission.
Accomplishments at Hawk Mountain
Brett served the Sanctuary from 1971 to 1981 as Assistant Curator
and held the title Curator from 1981 to 1995.
In 1973, with illustrations
by Alex Nagy, he published Feathers in the Wind, arguably the first published field guide to migrating birds of prey, later revised and expanded under the title The Mountain and the Migration in 1986 and 1991.
established a formal education program at Hawk Mountain,
working to provide the public with high-quality field trips,
learning materials, workshops and teacher training, and also expanded weekend
and other programs. With the arrival of Phoebe Barnard from Acadia
University in Canada, he then launched an international training program in 1981, which today has evolved into one of
the Sanctuary’s most far-reaching and successful conservation accolades.
He grew a solid corps of volunteers who
took on key supportive roles in education and conservation science, a
strategy that helped to meet growing demands from members
and visitors. His work provided a solid foundation for what would
evolve into a formal volunteer program boasting more than 230 active
Under his leadership, Hawk Mountain
constructed and opened its first Visitor Center, its Native Plant
Garden, the trailside restrooms, and expanded the trail system to add the popular River of Rocks loop. With keen foresight, he set into place all
the necessary infrastructures to support a growing number of visitors
and year-round visitation.
He also to establish local,
regional, national and international contacts. His ability to network
across political and geographic bounderies enabled the
Sanctuary to grow from a local destination into the globally-recognized
contributor to conservation that it is today.
The board resolution states,
"Whereas Jim Brett has dedicated his life’s work to the tireless
promotion of natural resource conservation, raptors in Pennsylvania and
around the world, Appalachian ecology, and promoting the need for
focused and professional training of up and coming conservationists
worldwide, now therefore the board of directors at Hawk Mountain
Sanctuary Association recognize these professional and historical
contributions and is proud to award Jim Brett the honorary title Curator
Emeritus and encourage his continued life’s work toward the betterment
of raptor conservation and inspiring the next generation of young
biologists, educators and naturalists."
About Jim Brett
Jim Brett has worked 50 years in conservation, and is recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection as one of the top environmental leaders of Pennsylvania. A life-long naturalist, he began teaching natural history in the public school system before joining the staff at Hawk Mountain in 1971 where he developed the education, international training and volunteer programs, and established a premier visitor center. His work at the sanctuary increased its stature from a regional wildlife reserve to an organization of international significance and stature.
Jim left Hawk Mountain in 1996 to become the first Executive Director of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and the Arts, a position he held for three years until he was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge as the Commonwealth’s Senior Conservation Advisor. During his tenure with the Governor he formed the Governor’s Youth Council for Sportsmen’s Concerns and Conservation. Jim continued his conservation work with state government into Governor Rendell’s administration where he served as an assistant to the Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
He is founder of the PA Institute for Conservation Education with colleague Michele Richards. The Institute has received recognition from across the Commonwealth for its development of innovative natural history education and stewardship programs offered to a wide and diverse audience. Jim serves as President of the organization and is very active in its leadership, development and educational programs.
He has extensive international experience and continues to lead natural history safaris across the globe which in turn support conservation initiatives. He also serves on the Board of the African Nature Conservation Trust and has life memberships in the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, and is a Fellow in the Explorer’s Club. His most recent project in Africa is involved with establishing migratory corridors for elephants between Tanzania and Mozambique. On one of his recent travels to Africa, he discovered the oldest homo sapiens footprints in Africa. What is most poignant about the discovery is that it resulted in the protection of a habitat that supported over a million Lesser Flamingos, a threatened species.
Jim has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kutztown University for his conservation education accomplishments through the International Global Wildlife Educational Internship Program as well as his work on wildlife heritage in the Commonwealth, and was honored in 2012 by the Pennsylvania Lands Trust as a 'conservation hero.'
Jim Brett exemplifies conservation leadership and serves as an extraordinary role model for Pennsylvanians through his great work in environmental education and conservation and through his cultural understanding, in Pennsylvania, nationally and around the world.