GREEN RIVER – Tom Christiansen, sage grouse coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, was one of 10 Masters Week alumni recognized by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Christiansen was honored in late November during the 50th anniversary celebration of UNL’s Alumni Masters Week.
Christiansen returned as a “Master Alumni” to share with students his career wildlife and professional experiences from the past 29 years with the Game and Fish. He is the chair of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Sage and Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse Technical Committee and also serves on the Rangewide Interagency Sage Grouse Conservation Team.
“Tom Christiansen is the epitome of an Alumni Master, exhibiting the success and leadership in his professional career that serves as a role model for those that follow,” said Steven Waller, dean of the UNL College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources. “Tom’s integrity, work ethic, passion for the wildlife profession, commitment to service and respect for those that guided him through his career are all attributes that we want to instill in our current students.”
Alumni Masters Week is sponsored by the Nebraska Alumni Association and the UNL Chancellor’s Office with the goal of linking UNL’s outstanding alumni with students who can benefit from their knowledge and experiences. Christiansen’s daughter, Sarah, a University of Wyoming student, accompanied him at the seminars, presentations and other events which run annually the third week of November. The program was first initiated at UNL in 1964.
“We are as fortunate to have Tom as an alumni, as Wyoming is to have him as a wildlife steward,” said Waller, who selected Christiansen to be his college’s representative at the event.
Christiansen is a native of Kimball, Neb. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UNL, with three majors: general agriculture, natural resources and journalism. He served as treasurer, vice-president and president of the UNL Wildlife Club and was named UNL’s “Outstanding Wildlife Student of the Year” for 1983.
Christiansen began his Game and Fish career as a habitat technician in Torrington. He has also served as an elk feeder in Jackson and information specialist and wildlife statistician in Cheyenne before his promotion to Green River district wildlife biologist in July 1987. He was promoted to be Wyoming’s sage grouse coordinator in September 2003.
Bob Lanka, Game and Fish Statewide Wildlife and Habitat Management supervisor, said Christiansen’s work has been critical to sage grouse conservation not only in Wyoming, but throughout the West.
“Tom really stepped up to the plate. He made it possible to do everything we [Game and Fish] could do for sage grouse conservation,” Lanka said. “He is very good at working with the local sage grouse working groups, developing relationships and helping to guide them in their development of sage grouse conservation plans to address the concerns from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Christiansen is a past president of the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society and was honored as the group’s Professional of the Year in 1997. He was also honored as the Game and Fish’s “Wildlife Division Employee of the Year” for 2002. He has also been active with Ducks Unlimited and other conservation organizations.
“There is a fine line between being a dictator and an advisor with these working groups,” Lanka added. ”If it weren’t for Tom, sage grouse conservation would not be at the level it is now in Wyoming.”
Christiansen and his wife, Karen, reside in Green River, where he also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.