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Annual Ring Yearbook Archive

2019 Hall of Fame

The LSU Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries Alumni Association (FWFAA) honored its distingued Alumnus at its annual meeting at LSU. This year’s inductee to the LSU Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries Alumni Association Hall of Fame is Ray Aycock.

Ray Aycock

Ray Aycock, 2019 Hall of Fame Recipient In 2008, after no less than 40 years with the USFWS and among the most influential and longest serving public servants this school has ever produced, Mr. Ray Aycock retired. And, still, he wasn’t finished building a conservation legacy – more on that in a minute.

A native of DeRidder and the son of a Soil Conservation Service agent, Ray was inspired by the work of his father and entered forestry school at LSU in 1961, along the way being mentored by and duly inspired by the first head of the LA Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Dr. John Newsome. When Ray earned his BSF in Forestry in 1966, he turned right around and earned an MS in Wildlife Management, also at LSU, finishing in 1968. He was quickly hired by the US Fish & Wildlife Service thereafter.

In the Wildlife Services Program, Ray helped to refine and then expand assessment and monitoring techniques critical for the newly created Endangered Species Act and wildlife management on military bases, including initiating the first ever Red Cockaded Woodpecker Surveys in Louisiana, and the first ever bald eagle nesting surveys in Louisiana, which were continued by Tom Hess and the Rockefeller Refuge until the bird’s delisting in 2007.

He also was part of a team that helped to re-locate and move the last known remaining red wolves from SW LA & SE TX, whose descendants are part of a captive breeding program in NC and constitute the last free-roaming animals of this species. He participated in the capture and relocation of thousands of the then-endangered American Alligator, thousands of waterfowl both in Canada and points south, as well as doves and other species – especially migratory birds, and still holds the LSU student record for number of woodcock banded I a single night – 300.

Mr. Aycock later went to work on landscape level conservation for the Service out of its Jackson, MS office where he helped lead the charge in finding and galvanizing support for conserving big, key tracts of high quality forestland on both sides of the River during the dawn of the Wildlife Refuge era, including a crown jewel of the Wildlife Refuge System, the Tensas River NWR, last known host of the Ivory billed woodpecker and now 70,000 acres of beautiful BLH wilderness. An attempt had been made to conserve the big Tensas land earlier in the 20th century by the Audubon Society, but failed, and their later success was in Ray’s admission the most satisfying accomplishment of his career. Ray was the first refuge manager at Tensas before being called back to a Migratory Bird Position to help establish more refuges.

I’m going to read through these refuges that Ray had some hand in helping to locate and establish, because...um, wow: Tensas River, Red River National Wildlife Refuge, Black Bayou, Upper Ouachita, Lake Ophelia, Catahoula Expansion, Handy Brake, Grand Cote, Mandalay Bay, Cameron Prairie, Atchafalaya, Bayou Sauvage, Cat Island.... the list goes on.... Bogue Chitto, Big Branch Marsh, Bayou Cocodrie; in Mississippi Grand Bay, Tallahatchie, Dahomey, ....I’ll stop because there are more and also in Arkansas but you get the point.

Ray worked closely with a number of organizations working out the best methods to accomplish afforestation on many parts of these large tracts of land which had been in Ag production for years, eventually helping to coordinate establish new forests on over 20,000 acres of refuge lands and pioneering the techniques that would be used in the CRP & WRP programs – now together having reforested over 1 million acres in tri-state delta region.

In the latter part of his career, Mr. Aycock helped to start a longleaf pine initiative in south Mississippi which would go on to conserve thousands of acres, and he was among the first to utilize carbon credits as a method of incentivizing utility companies to help pay for restoration of bottomland hardwood forest in the delta. As Field Supervisor for the Ecological Field Services office in Jackson, he helped to initiate a now very successful Program called Partners for Fish & Wildlife, which helps private landowners improve wildlife habitat on both working and recreational lands.

After retiring in 2008, though, Ray’s real conservation work began. He more or less immediately went to work as a wetlands and wildlife consultant for a variety of organizations, including TNC, the Trust for Public Land, and the Walton Family Foundation, for whom he helped to promote eco-tourism and water quality improvement projects across the MS Delta and helped secure big conservation and research grants for the likes of MS State, the LA Dept of Ag & Forestry, and the LSU AgCenter. Ray was a representative for the Dept. of Interior during at the incident command center during the BP Oil Spill in 2010.

Mr. Aycock is a founding member of the Conservation and community outreach organization, the Lower Delta Partnership, a founding member of the Black Bear Conservation Coalition (which has been crucial in the LA Black bear’s recovery), a 2nd generation LSU graduate, season ticket holder and President of the Mississippi Bayou Bengals TAF chapter.

He lives on 6 acres in Flora, MS with his wife of 55 years, Betsy, and is a father of 2 and grandfather of seven.

For more information contact, Dr. Luke Laborde, LSU Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries Alumni Association. phone: (225) 578-4146 | fax: (225) 578-4251 | Email: llabor2@lsu.edu

revised: 24-May-2021 10:56