NWTF CEO Rob Keck departing

Edgefield, S.C. – Rob Keck, chief executive officer of the
National Wild Turkey Federation and the face of the organization
for nearly 30 years, has resigned from that position.

Two others – Chief Operating Officer Carl Brown and Sales and
Marketing Vice President Dick Rosenlieb – were ousted by the board
of directors last month, a move sources indicated led to Keck’s
resignation.

Keck, the longest-serving leader of a conservation group and as
a result its highest paid at over $380,000 annually in 2006, has
served as chief executive officer of the NWTF for the past 27
years.

His resignation is effective June 1 and NWTF officials said a
nationwide search will be conducted for a replacement.

In a brief news release, the NWTF said Keck “has decided, for
personal and family reasons, to step aside from his duties.”

The NWTF’s national board of directors “reluctantly” accepted
Keck’s resignation, the news release said.

Under Keck’s leadership, the NWTF has grown into one of the
nation’s premier conservation organizations, a grassroots,
nonprofit organization with more than 550,000 members in 50 states,
Canada, Mexico and 14 other foreign countries.

Along the way, Keck – who joined the NWTF in 1978 after serving
as a high school teacher and track coach as well as working for
Penn’s Woods products – became arguably the most identifiable
leader of a conservation organization in the country.

He became CEO just two years later and directed an ambitious
restoration of the wild turkey across North America to where birds
are now found in 49 states as well as Canada and Mexico. Since
1985, more than $258 million NWTF and cooperator dollars have been
spent on upholding hunting traditions and conserving more than 13.1
million acres of wildlife habitat.

In addition to the turkey restoration, the NWTF has worked to
support hunting’s heritage and protect and promote laws that
increase hunting opportunity and safety, particularly among young
hunters.

Keck didn’t comment on whether the firings of Brown and
Rosenlieb were a factor in his resignation.

“I was at a point in my life where I decided it was time to make
a change,” he told the Southern Sporting Journal.

Sources, however, indicated the national board of directors late
last year moved toward dismissing Brown and Rosenlieb, and Keck at
that time threatened to resign.

The board “backed off” at that point, but the issue resurfaced
recently and Brown and Rosenlieb were ousted, the source said.

Keck said earlier this year an audit was being conducted as part
of the organization’s strategic planning process.

Brown, like Keck a Pennsylvania native, had worked with NWTF for
the past 28 years. He told the Southern Sporting Journal he thought
“it is a sad day for the federation” and was “very disappointed”
with what transpired.

Rosenlieb had been with NWTF for the past 19 years.

Keck, 57, said he wouldn’t retire but rather look for a job that
would allow him to have a broader impact in the outdoor
industry.

“I would think the (NWTF) would be just fine,” he told the
Southern Sporting Journal. “The board will find a good, competent
leader in good time. They have a vision that might take the
federation in a new direction, but the people we brought up under
us can do a very good job.”

Still, the departure of Keck and two other top executives
creates an uncertainty that hasn’t existed within the NWTF. And it
does so as the organization heads into the heart of its
fund-raising banquet season.

The news of Keck’s departure came as a shock to employees at the
Edgefield, S.C., headquarters, as well as throughout the country as
regional directors, biologists and volunteers attempted to analyze
the situation.

“I think it was just a question of the board feeling they could
do a better job running the organization,” said one volunteer.

The NWTF was founded in 1973 in Fredericksburg, Va. At that
time, there were an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5
million turkey hunters. Today, there are now more than 7 million
wild turkeys and nearly 3 million turkey hunters.

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