Laura McIver learned to love the outdoors at an early age.
Her father worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the job often required the family to relocate across the country. Growing up, McIver lived in 10 different states and saw a lot of the outdoors.
“We camped all over the United States,” said McIver, 54, who joked that her mother made sure the family visited every historical marker within 100 miles. “All the places that we went, I developed a love of the outdoors. Not just hunting, but fishing, hiking, camping.”
She took the hunter safety course at age 12 and still has the patch she earned from it. She received a 30-30 lever-action rifle for her birthday that year and shot her first deer with it the same year in Montana.
At an early age, she also learned the importance of helping others. Her father was a member of the Masons and active in community service and charities.
It is no surprise then that the Oklahoma City resident has combined the two things that were impressed upon her the most as a child into her current role.
As president of the Central Oklahoma 89ers Chapter of Quail Forever, McIver has worked hard to try and restore the bobwhite quail population in the state, which is at a historic low.
For her service, McIver has been named one of six national finalists for Field & Stream magazine's 2013 “Hero of Conservation” award. She is the first Oklahoman and only the second woman to be named a finalist in the eight years the awards have existed.
“I was flabbergasted,” McIver said of the nomination. “I was absolutely stunned.”
McIver helped form the Central Oklahoma 89ers Chapter in 2005 and has been president since 2009. She was nominated for the Hero of Conservation award by Pheasants Forever president and chief executive officer Howard Vincent.
“We formed Quail Forever in 2005 because we knew there were passionate folks like Laura McIver all across the quail range eager to put their hearts into recovering America's quail population,” Vincent said. “Putting (her) heart behind quail is exactly what Laura McIver has done.”
McIver and the 89ers chapter — which has grown from just a handful of members in 2005 to now about 400 — are involved in a wide array of quail habitat projects across the state.
The chapter has raised $100,000 for those projects since 2005, most recently giving $8,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to help quail on the Cross Timbers Wildlife Management Area in Love County.
“The work that Laura McIver and the Central Oklahoma 89ers chapter of Quail Forever perform is really valuable,” said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife for the Wildlife Department.
“They are truly making a difference for quail and quail habitat in the state. Their financial support on these projects allows us to stretch the sportsman's dollar and make a difference on the ground.”
The 89ers chapter holds several fundraisers each year, including a banquet (this year's is Saturday night at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City), a golf tournament and raffles at consumer shows. Each year, the chapter holds free sporting clay events for youth and individuals in the military.
As president, she also serves as an ambassador for wildlife conservation at national and state levels. The chapter also is involved in the current Quail Initiative — a partnership between the Wildlife Department, Oklahoma State University and Texas agencies — to research the decline in the quail population.
“The more I got involved, the more I realized how important this issue is for all prairie wildlife,” she said. “You got 79 percent of our prairies that are gone, completely gone. There is no wonder we are seeing a decline across the board of a number of species, not just wildlife but plant life.”
The Central Oklahoma 89ers chapter was the first Quail Forever chapter formed in Oklahoma and one of the first in the country.
The six Heroes of Conservation finalists will be celebrated at a gala event in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19, where each will be presented with a $5,000 grant. The winner also will receive a 2014 Toyota Tundra, as Toyota is a longtime sponsor of the awards program.
All six finalists are featured in the September issue of Field & Stream and in a video series on the magazine's website.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” Vincent said. “Laura is a hero to America's bobwhite quail.”