Bass Pro Shops Conservation Director Martin MacDonald to Retire After 25 Years

December 13, 2018


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bass Pro Shops Conservation Director Martin MacDonald will retire at the end of 2018, capping off nearly five decades of service helping to connect new audiences with nature, including a successful 25-year career with Bass Pro Shops.

During his tenure, MacDonald created and managed numerous conservation and community-based initiatives nationally and locally, serving as a public ambassador for the outdoor brand and its noted conservationist and founder Johnny Morris. At a time when Bass Pro was growing in notoriety, MacDonald helped partner with conservation partners and community leaders across North America to raise awareness for the company and the importance of wildlife conservation. Today Bass Pro Shops is nationally recognized as a conservation leader.

“Martin’s tireless enthusiasm and passion for conservation has helped protect thousands of acres of habitat and introduce millions of kids to the outdoors,” said Johnny Morris, who first met MacDonald when he was serving as Director of Development for the National 4H Council in Washington, D.C. Martin’s career path with 4H and University of Missouri Extension spanned local, state and national levels over 24 years. “Beyond Martin’s excitement for conservation is his love for people from all walks of life. He brings a very big heart into everything he does, and we couldn’t be more grateful to him for sharing his passion with so many of us over the years.” 

A Boundless Energy for Conservation

MacDonald found unique and novel ways to draw attention to conservation. In 1994, MacDonald hosted a public funeral for “Ethel the Bass,” a beloved, record-setting bass fish displayed for years at the company’s flagship Outdoor World National Headquarters store in Springfield, Missouri. Long before viral sensations on social media, news coverage of his eulogy for Ethel and catch-and-release practices appeared across the nation and around the world, even appearing on Japanese television stations.

MacDonald also served as Master of Ceremonies for numerous “Evening for Conservation” store opening events, standing before thousands of eager customers and inviting them to “shop…until you drop,” at which point he literally dropped to the floor of the stage.

Behind the scenes, MacDonald forged friendships and partnerships with natural resource organizations and played a key role in developing Bass Pro’s three conservation pillars: protecting wildlife and habitat, introducing new audiences to the outdoors and advocating for sportsmen’s rights. These pillars allowed the company to make a substantial positive impact for conservation.  

National Impact and Recognition

MacDonald received national recognition for his contributions. In 2016, the Association of State Park Directors selected him for its prestigious President’s Award for his leadership in promoting the outdoors and implementing outdoor programs at Bass Pro Shops. In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work establishing America’s first Fish Habitat Initiative. In cooperation with Morris and the Sportfish Boating Partnership Council, the initiative has gone on to create 680 projects in 50 states, leading to the restoration of more than 28,000 acres and 1,600 miles of rivers.

Other signature achievements include founding Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Days, a series of free events that invites people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about and participate in outdoor adventures and wildlife conservation. More than 300,000 children and families participated in the events in 2018 alone, with hands-on activities ranging from camping, canoeing, fishing, archery, rock climbing and more. He also co-founded Wonders of the Outdoor World National Outdoor Recreation School. Now administered at Wonders of Wildlife National Musuem and Aquarium, the program hosts free events across the Midwest every year. His annual “Fishing Dreams” events help disabled veterans and youth enjoy fishing programs.

A lifelong fitness advocate who has participated in more than 250 5K and 10K runs, MacDonald also co-founded the Bass Pro Shops Fitness Series with events throughout the Ozarks including Conservation Marathon Weekend, Dogwood Canyon Trail Run and many others. He also helped found and serves on the board of the James River Basin Partnership and is a board member of Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

An Unforgettable Legacy

MacDonald’s wildly enthusiastic presentations often leave audiences speechless. In 2017, he delivered an unforgettable acceptance speech at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame awards which the Springfield News-Leader described as, “vintage MacDonald.”

Born in Louisiana, Missouri, MacDonald earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Ecology and a Master’s degree in Interpretive Outdoor Recreation at the University of Missouri. A Springfield resident, he plans to spend retirement exploring the beautiful Ozarks nature he worked so tirelessly to protect, as well as enjoy time with his loving family including wife Julie, two sons and two grandchildren.

MacDonald’s numerous programs and conservation footprint will live on at Bass Pro Shops through its other conservation directors Bob Ziehmer and Rob Keck, with support from thousands of associates and outfitters companywide. 

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Martin MacDonald