James J. “Jim” Brett, 84, of Kempton, died on Friday, December 29, 2023. He was the husband of the late Dorothy R. (Wirtz) Brett who died in September 2020. Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Shillington, Pennsylvania, he was a graduate of Governor Mifflin High School and Kutztown State Teachers’ College where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Education. James completed postgraduate studies at Cornell University and University of Southern California and was presented with an honorary Doctoral Degree from Kutztown University in 2011.

Jim Brett was a prominent figure in conservation and conservation education on a global scale, having served the field in prominent leadership roles with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, DCNR, DEP, and more.

Jim was the former Curator at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary where he initiated the International Global Wildlife Educational Internship Program in 1976, as well as his work on wildlife heritage in the Commonwealth. He was named Curator Emeritus at Hawk Mountain in 2013. After Jim left Hawk Mountain in 1996, he was named the first Executive Director of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, before being appointed by former Gov. Ridge as the Commonwealth’s Senior Conservation Advisor. During his tenure with Ridge, he formed the Governor’s Youth Council for Sportsmen’s Concerns and Conservation. Brett continued his conservation work with the state government into Governor Rendell’s administration where he served as an Assistant to the Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He was recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection as one of the top environmental leaders of Pennsylvania and was the co-founder of the PA Institute for Conservation Education (now called the Wildlife Leadership Academy) which has received recognition from across the state for its development of innovative natural history education and stewardship programs offered to a diverse audience. Brett traveled extensively around the world and led wildlife excursions to Eastern and Southern Africa, Israel and Central America with his company, The Naturecorp Group. James also led the Ngare Sero Foot Print Project working with Tanzania Division of Antiquities under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Jim was a prolific writer having authored and co-authored three books.

A more extensive and detailed listing of career accomplishments in conservation for Jim may be found here (WeConservePA award bio) and here (PA Environment Digest feature, includes WeConservePA and DEP bios).

In 2011, Jim was honored by WeConservePA with its Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in James’ memory to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, 1700 Hawk Mountain Road, Kempton, PA 19529 or Kempton Fire Company, P.O. Box 62, Kempton, PA 19529. To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.

More information can be found at his obituary notice at Legacy.com.