‘Conservationist of year’ honor bestowed
Now 69, he’s been angling since the age of 2, starting with an outing to the Niagara River and later wading into streams in shorts and sneakers as early as possible each year.
Now his passion for fishing and protecting the habitats that spawned the sport have resulted in a high honor from the New York chapter of the American Fisheries Society.
This year, Godfrey was awarded with the chapter’s 2017 Conservationist of the Year Award, which is given yearly to “someone who has shown outstanding service and devotion to the protection and enhancement of New York’s fisheries and aquatic resources.”
Mike Clancy, fisheries manager for the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 9 offices, presented the award to Godfrey on Feb. 2 at the chapter’s annual banquet held in Buffalo.
To the Region 9 employees who nominated him, Godfrey was the obvious choice, having worked on a host of DEC projects through Western New York Trout Unlimited for more than three decades.
“From our fisheries office here, he has been actively volunteering with us longer than the 27 years of my career,” said Scott Cornett, a biologist with the DEC Region 9’s Allegany office. “We kind of all had the same thought: if you’re looking for one person that’s done a heck of a lot for the resource over the years, [Godfrey’s] the person that rises to the top.”
Godfrey said when he learned he had been chosen for the award, he was shocked, arguing that there are many other local volunteers who deserve credit for what they do.
“There’s a lot of people in the area who do a lot of good things,” he said. “I’m probably more active than most, probably involved in more organizations, but I don’t feel like that makes me any better than anybody else doing the same thing.”
Godfrey said he got his passion for wildlife protection from his father George, an ardent conservationist who told him as a child that a person must take care of the world they live and play in.
“You don’t just take from a resource, whatever it might be, you give back,” he said, recalling his father’s wisdom. “He didn’t preach it. It was just, ‘there’s garbage there, pick it up when you leave. And not only don’t leave any, take some out with you.’”
Currently president of WNYTU, Godfrey has spent more than 30 years working on watershed protection, stream rehabilitation and other projects in the region in collaboration with the DEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other organizations.
In addition to serving as its president, Godfrey has been a member of WNYTU’s board of directors, as well chairman of its conservation committee.
He began his conservation work with WNYTU in 1984, joining the group the year before with the mistaken belief that it was a fishing club. He’s been with the organization ever since.
A lifelong resident of Cheektowaga, Godfrey is a retired math teacher who spent 29 years at Williamsville South High School.
Remarking that “there’s no prettier fish than a brook trout,” Godfrey said his favorite places to fish are the small streams of Allegany State Park, where wild brook trout are no larger than five or six inches.