Waterfowl unit dedicated in name of fallen conservation officer
When he wasn't patrolling the marsh as a law enforcement officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), Keith Fullenkamp was helping youth learn how to hunt. And when he wasn't with the kids, Fullenkamp was at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area hunting with his wife or friends.
Chances are that part of the management area would have eventually taken on Fullenkamp's name at some point in the distant future, but it happened much earlier than anybody wanted when the Utah conservation officer died in a car accident last September.
"Keith was passionate about the outdoors. He was also driven to teach kids everything he could about being a good and ethical hunter," said Fullenkamp's friend and hunting buddy, Troy Thompson.
"Keith came and from Day 1 was committed to the youth fair," Thompson said. "He came in and got the DWR involved and then he started the state's youth mentored hunt. He did so much for the kids."
Thompson pointed out that on numerous occasions, Fullenkamp ended up becoming friends with people he had just handed a citation.
"That's just the kind of guy he was," Thompson said. "Sincere and dedicated. His main goal was educating the public and everyone appreciated that. Even people he gave tickets to."
Tanna Fullenkamp says her husband probably would not have liked the attention that has been bestowed on him, but for her and their 22-month-old son, Jake, area dedicated to him at Farmington Bay is a place they will cherish forever.
"It is a comfort and honor to have had this area named after Keith," Tanna Fullenkamp said. "Jake and I will help out with the youth waterfowl fair any way we can in honor of him."
The area named after Fullenkamp had been viewed as low-quality habitat, but mitigation money obtained by the state in 2012 for the Red Butte Creek oil spill helped fund improvements.
"It was wonderful to dedicate the new waterfowl area in the name of Keith," said DWR Director Greg Sheehan. "Thanks to the volunteers who have been planting bulrush and other native plant species in the unit, hundreds of birds can already be seen nesting here, and the unit will only become more productive in the coming years."
Chances are, if he were still around, Fullenkamp would have been leading the volunteer effort to make the unit that now bears his name even better.
Thompson said there are constant reminders of his friend, but that memories of Fullenkamp will always be strongest during waterfowl season and particularly during the youth waterfowl fair.
He also plans on spending a lot of time in the Fullenkamp Unit in the coming years, including one very special trip.
"Someday I want to take little Jake out in that unit so I can sit down and tell him all the neat things about his dad," Thompson said. "I wrote them down because it's important for him to know all the great things his dad did for the sportsmen of our state."
Youth Waterfowl and Outdoor Festival
The Utah Youth Waterfowl and Outdoor Festival is Sept. 13 at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities include vendor and nonprofit booths, demonstrations, airboat and mudmotor rides and lunch. Registration is encouraged. Visit http://www.utahwaterfowlfair.com for more information.
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