WASHINGTON, D.C. — Less than five months into his term as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sam Hamilton has died.
Hamilton died Saturday, apparently after suffering a heart attack, according news reports, which were confirmed by conservation leaders close to the director. Hamilton, 54 years old, was on a ski trip in Colorado when he began to experience chest pains.
"We are extremely sad to hear of Sam's passing," said Chris Horton, BASS conservation director. "He was an ally of the angling and hunting community. An avid angler and hunter, he cared as much about the resource as we do."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a statement Sunday stating: "The Interior Department family has suffered a great loss with the passing of Sam Hamilton. Sam was a friend, a visionary, and a professional whose years of service and passionate dedication to his work have left an indelible mark on the lands and wildlife we cherish.
"His forward-thinking approach to conservation — including his view that we must think beyond boundaries at the landscape-scale — will continue to shape our nation's stewardship for years to come. My heart goes out to Sam's family, friends, and colleagues as we remember a remarkable leader and a compassionate, wise, and eternally optimistic man."
Hamilton was appointed to the post Sept. 1, after a career in conservation that began when he was 15 years old working as a Youth Conservation Corps member of the Noxubee National Wildlilfe Refuge in Mississippi.
Prior to his appointment, he was Southeast Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. He is survived by his wife Becky, his sons Sam Jr. and Clay, and one grandchild.