Public service is a high calling and no one knew that better than Don A. Johnson. After growing up on the family farm in Wheaton, Minnesota, Don enrolled at the University of Wyoming. Don's college was interrupted by the United States Army and WWII.
Following his discharge from the Army, Don returned to college where he received both a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in Wildlife Management at Colorado State University. Don's long history of public service actually began while Don was a college student. For two summers while a student, Don was a Fish Research Technician for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Don's public service to his adopted state of Wyoming actually began with Don's Masters Thesis. From June of 1955 through September of 1956, he conducted the first waterfowl habitat study of the Laramie Plains as the subject of his thesis. Although Don's Laramie Plains Waterfowl work is now over 40 years old, it is still highly regarded and has become the benchmark for all subsequent waterfowl studies in the Laramie Plains.
Don was one of the few lucky individuals who was actually able to convert his passion, hunting in general and waterfowl hunting in particular, into a professional career. One month after receiving his Masters at CSU, Don began what would be a 30-year career with the Wyoming Game and Fish by accepting a job as a bird biologist in Powell, Wyoming.
The only way one can recap Don's career and contributions to Wyoming's wildlife and sportsmen is to hypothesize what Wyoming would be like if Don A. Johnson had not existed, or at the very least, worked in another state:
Wyoming would not have the current level of sustainable waterfowl populations in southeast Wyoming. Don's work, along with other dedicated water-fowlers like George Wrakestraw at Springer and Table Mountain, set the stage for the tremendous Canada goose populations we have today. Don envisioned and oversaw the construction of virtually all of the ponds at Table Mountain as well as the familiar goose nesting structures.
The public fishing easements on the Green River, Wind River, Shoshone River and many on the North Platte and Salt Rivers would not exist. Don negotiated and purchased these easements during his stint as a Land Specialist. Don's dedication to public access and his genuinely honest and affable negotiating skills made these acquisitions possible. No one else could have negotiated these to successful completion.
This is why, on his retirement, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the City of Saratoga named an access area in his honor. In addition to these public fishing areas, Don was instrumental in the purchase of many of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Wildlife Habitat Management such as the Wick Brothers Wildlife Habitat Management Unit.
Many of our larger public fishing lakes like Diamond Reservoir and Wheatland No. 3 would still be private. Don negotiated, purchased and developed these lakes (and occasionally was known to fish them with his fly and water bubble combination).
In short, if Don A. Johnson had never existed or worked for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming itself would have been poorer. Don did more to foster public access in this state than anyone who has ever lived. Don A. Johnson gave so much of himself to the State of Wyoming, he was indeed a public servant. Our lives are richer because of it.