Jim Strogen on Tonto Creek

Jim Strogen on Tonto Creek, one of his favorite places to fish.

Payson resident Jim Strogen received the 2020 Outstanding Citizen Wildlife Contributor of the Year Award from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA).

Strogen, a lifelong educator and outdoor recreationist, accepted the honor during WAFWA’s virtual ceremony on Monday, July 13.

“Jim is an engaged community member and staunch advocate for conservation,” said Commissioner James Goughnour of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. “I have seen his work as an educator, introducing children to the outdoors, as well as his efforts to improve Green Valley Park and Rim Country trout streams, firsthand. We are grateful for his contributions to outdoor recreation in our community.”

Strogen spent more than 33 years in education before retiring to Payson. He taught in the classroom for 10 years and was an administrator at the school and district levels for 23 years. He has also worked as an educator outside the traditional classroom as a museum tour guide, a planetarium demonstrator, and a seasonal park ranger and naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park. He earned a master’s degree in fishery biology from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in education from Arizona State University.

Since he moved to Payson with his wife, Martha, Strogen has used his experience as an educator to promote conservation and outdoor recreation in Rim Country.

He has taught after-school fly-tying classes in the Payson Unified School District for several years and works as a fly fishing instructor for Payson Parks and Recreation. Besides teaching his students to fly fish, Strogen instills in them an appreciation for nature and a desire to be responsible stewards of the environment.

Recently, he worked with the town of Payson and AZGFD to secure fish habitat structures for the large lake at Green Valley Park, teaching students the importance of fish habitat and placement. He also arranges an annual field trip to the Tonto Fish Hatchery to expand on classroom learning in a hands-on environment. After the hatchery visit, Strogen and his students go “buggin’” in Tonto Creek, where they look for aquatic bugs and discuss what they have learned about various aquatic insects in streams.

Strogen shares his angling expertise in a regular column on fishing and conservation in the Payson Roundup, “Life on the Fly.” His articles have been featured in several local and industry publications, including Fly-Life Magazine, High Country Magazine and TU Trout Magazine. He has also contributed to three editions of the Rim Country Fishing Book. He is an active member of the Mogollon Sporting Association and the Arizona Trout Unlimited State Council, where he serves on the public policy and conservation committees. He is the youth education coordinator and conservation chair for the Payson Flycasters Club and the Gila Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He also serves as recreational fishing representative for Glen Canyon Dam’s Adaptive Management Working Group.

Besides the recent honor from WAFWA, Strogen has received many awards for his contributions to conservation and the community. The Payson Unified School District, for example, named him a Hero of Public Education, and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission recognized Strogen as the 2019 Educator of the Year.

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