Vaughn T. Collins

Vaughn Collins and his hunting dog, Luna. Photo courtesy of Laura Fall.

Title: TRCP Director of Government Affairs

Location: Washington, D.C.

Q: Talk about your work at Ducks Unlimited. Why are partnerships between sportsmen’s groups like Ducks Unlimited and the TRCP important?

I was with Ducks Unlimited for five years as director of public policy, where I lobbied for wetlands conservation in Congress and worked with federal agencies and conservation groups to promote federal programs in fish and wildlife issues. The TRCP was always a valued partner when I was with DU. The sporting partnerships and coalitions that TRCP builds in the hunting and fishing community are critical in promoting a variety of conservation and access issues.

Q: What led you to your career in conservation?

I have always been an outdoorsman, sportsman and conservationist. My education was focused on resource issues and economics, so a career in conservation policy was a natural choice. The turning point of my career was when I moved to Washington, D.C., and took a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and thereby had the opportunity to focus on national rural development and conservation issues.

One of my duties while at USDA was to manage the Truman Internship Program. The Truman Scholarship is memory of President Truman and is awarded to more than 50 of the best and brightest college seniors from across America. USDA was responsible for supervising the internships of eight to 10 Truman scholars each year. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with these future leaders.

One of the highlights of my career in conservation was working as the chief of the Federal Duck Stamp Office at the Department of the Interior. In that role I headed one of the most successful conservation programs in the federal government. Each year the Duck Stamp program raises more than $25 million – 90 percent of which goes directly toward the acquisition of critical habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Anyone who hunts waterfowl needs to purchase a federal duck stamp as it helps maintain the strong conservation tradition of hunters in America.

Q: What do you miss about living in Vermont?

I don’t miss the D.C. traffic for one, but mostly the natural beauty and living in a rural town where most people know each other. My wife and I have a small house on a hill in the Champlain Valley that is surrounded by 1,200 acres of land protected by conservation easements. We overlooking Lake Champlain and have views of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and Vermont’s Green Mountains. The view is beautiful beyond belief.

Q: What do you love about your job?

I love working for a small organization. It gives me the ability to interact with senior-level staff both on Capitol Hill and in the administration. The transition to TRCP was made easy because of my tenure in the D.C. office of Ducks Unlimited. I especially enjoy building and maintaining relationships with members of Congress and other policy makers for the benefit of conservation. This is the type of job where you can really make a difference.

Q: Why did you choose to work for the TRCP?

As an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing, I really wanted to stay within the sporting community. Because of the strong partnership Ducks Unlimited has with the TRCP, this position as director of government affairs seemed like a great fit for both me and TRCP. It has proven to be a great choice, and the transition has been smooth because the work is very similar to what I did while at Ducks Unlimited.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish for the TRCP?

I hope to strengthen TRCP’s ability to work with partners in the sporting community and beyond and leverage these relationships and coalitions to keep conservation policy a priority in Washington, D.C. I want to use my position at TRCP to help ensure that quality fish and wildlife habitat remains for future generations of sportsmen to enjoy.

Q: Tell us about your dog, Luna. How hard was it to train her to be a hunting dog?

My wife and I got Luna from a highly respected kennel in Virginia, and I trained her myself. She is a titled American Kennel Club hunt dog, and is a great family pet as well.  She’s named Luna (Spanish for moon) because she was born on a blue moon in November 2001. Luna is the second chocolate Lab that I have had the pleasure of owning.

Training Luna was a real joy, because she was bred to hunt and is a very smart dog. I trained her using only voice commands and positive reinforcement, and based my training on  “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: A Training Manual for Dog Owners,” written by The Monks of New Skete. I also used “Water Dog,” written by Richard Wolters.