In 2007, Defenders established four awards to recognize exceptional contributions to wildlife conservation. Tucson-based artist Mark Rossi designed the awards, which are replicas of the dynamic, life-size wolf statues he sculpted in clay and cast in bronze to flank the entrance of Defenders of Wildlife’s national headquarters.

DC Office Headquarters

Past Honorees 

Spirit of Defenders Award, Public Service

Raul Grijalva Award

2021  U.S. Sen. Tom Carper
2019  Joel Clement, Ph.D.
2018  Dinah Bear, Esq.
2017  U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
2016  Donald Barry, Esq.
2015  U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva
2014  U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Jr 
2013  Nick Wiley
2012  U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin
2010  J. Michael Scott, Ph.D.
2009  U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
2008  U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks
2007  U.S. Rep. George Miller

Spirit of Defenders Award, Science

2021  Steven Monfort, Ph.D.
2018  Barry R. Noon, Ph.D.
2017  Thomas D. Sisk, Ph.D.
2015  Clait Braun, Ph.D.
2014  Brian Gratwicke, Ph.D.
2013  David Wilcove, Ph.D.
2012  Carlos Carroll, Ph.D.
2010  Terry L. Root, Ph.D.
2009  William J. Ripple, Ph.D.
2008  Thomas E. Lovejoy, Ph.D.
2007  Douglas Smith, Ph.D.

Spirit of Defenders Award, Conservation Advocacy

2019  Marianna Treviño Wright
2018  Brad Stanback
2017  Nathan Varley, Ph.D. and Linda Thurston
2016  Rose Letwin
2015  The Family of Larry Haverfield
2014  The Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes
2013  Nathaniel P. Reed
2012  Elizabeth Kolbert
2010  Joel Sartore
2009  Terry C. Pelster, Esq.
2008  Diana Hadley
2007  Deborah L. Williams

Spirit of Defenders Award, Conservation Partnerships

2021  American Prairie Reserve
2019  Hilary Anderson

Michael Finley's award

Defenders of Wildlife Legacy Award

2021  Carl Safina, Ph.D. 
2019  U.S. Sen. Tom Udall 
2018  Michael J. Bean, Esq.
2017  Brock Evans, Esq.
2016  Lee M. Talbot, Ph. D.
2015  Mike Finley
2014  Terry Tempest Williams
2013  John Leshy, Esq.
2012  George B. Rabb, Ph.D.
2011  Rodger Schlickeisen, Ph.D.
2010  U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell
2009  Ted Turner
2008  The Honorable Bruce Babbitt
2007  Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.

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