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Much has changed in Johnson’s 24 years

Kenneth Johnson has seen the world of wildlife conservation change dramatically since he walked off the stage with his diploma at Auburn and into the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

That transition was literally continuous.

“I graduated from Auburn on March 18, 1974 and came down here on March 19,” Johnson said of his assignment as manager of Blue Springs Wildlife Management Area near Andalusia. “I put in my application and was interviewed before I graduated. Originally, they wanted me to come to work on the 18th, so I called Bill Holland (Chief of Wildlife) and asked him if I could come on the 19th. But I told him that if it made the difference of me getting or not getting the job, I’d be there on the 18th. I told him I had family coming to watch me graduate, so he told me the 19th was fine.”

A native of Aliceville, Johnson is now firmly entrenched in the Andalusia area. During those 34-plus years in south Alabama, he has witnessed quite a transformation in attitudes concerning wildlife, especially when it comes to deer hunting.

“When I came to work, shooting does was taboo,” Johnson said. “Now, that attitude has changed. Now it’s open season for both sexes, and we still can’t shoot enough in some areas.”

Johnson served as District Supervisor for District VI, which encompasses a good bit of southeast Alabama, for 24 years. In 2004, he was chosen to head the Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Unit, which was developed to provide technical assistance to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for implementation of certain aspects of the Farm Bill.

Johnson’s work has not gone unnoticed. He was named the 2008 Wildlife Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The Wildlife Biologist of the Year award is the organization’s most prestigious wildlife award.

“Kenneth has led by example, and our wildlife resources have benefited greatly from his efforts,” said Corky Pugh, Director of the ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

On Jan. 1, 2009, Johnson will transition into the world of retirement, which will give him more time to contribute to the community.

“I also have some hunting land I lease at Loango. I plan to spend a lot more time up there. I love to disk, bushhog and manage that land. I’m going to continue to work with wildlife, but I’m going to it on that land more intensively than I’ve done in the past. Managing that land is going to be my satisfaction.”