Mike Hayden’s recent retirement ends a 40-plus year career, largely in public service. He doesn’t want to be remembered just for his four years as governor.
“It would be best to call me a conservationist who happened to be governor,” Hayden said. “I never really intended to be governor when I got started. I’ve always been very interested in conservation.”
Frustration with a local legislator, who routinely voted against conservation, got Hayden to run for the Kansas legislature in 1972. Following are some of what he ranks as his career’s best accomplishments.
State Representative (1973-86)
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▪ As a freshman representative, heavily supported raising hunting and fishing license costs so the Kansas Department of Fish and Game could hire biologists, and not just be mostly a law enforcement agency. The same year he helped create the Kansas’ hunter education program.
▪ Helped pass legislation that allowed the state to protect natural and scientific areas.
▪ Merged Fish and Game with the Kansas Park Authority to create the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The move strengthened both agencies, and made for easier communication between the two.
▪ Signed legislation to create the Kansas duck stamp which has raised millions for wetlands conservation.
▪ Worked at obtaining more public lands, including several current wildlife areas.
Assistant secretary, for fish, wildlife and parks, U.S. Department of the Interior (1991-93)
▪ Worked to strengthen protection of many national public areas, like Yellowstone National Park.
▪ Lead the way to re-establish some wildlife populations, like American shad in the Potomac River.
▪ Helped create the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Kansas.
President, American Sport Fishing Association (1993-2002)
▪ Converted an organization once limited to tackle manufacturers to one that also included state fisheries departments, major conservation groups and the outdoors media.
Secretary, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
▪ Worked on adding more public lands to Kansas, including expanding the McPherson Wetlands.
▪ Helped start, and expand, the cabin programs within Kansas State parks and state lakes. The program now has more than 100 cabins across the state.
Director, Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (2011-14)
▪ In the first years helped the group gain federal money and protection for the river, though much was lost because of declining government support the last part of his term.