Fossil Rim executive director announces retirement after 37 years at center

Tye Chandler
Special to the E-T

GLEN ROSE – After 37 years at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Kelley Snodgrass will retire at the end of 2021 from his role as executive director.

Snodgrass brought extensive experience to the position and a deep understanding of the conservation center, as he has worked at FRWC since 1984. During this time, he served as Ranch Manager, Animal Care Coordinator, Internship Coordinator, Animal Care Director, Director of Animal Care and Natural Resources, COO, Interim Executive Director, and Executive Director.


“Working with Kelley has been amazing. He has been inspirational both in his knowledge and in his passion. He is also a truly good person. He will be missed, but we are thankful for his stewardship of this organization. He has brought FRWC to a completely better place and words can’t properly explain our gratitude,” said Charles Lipscomb, FRWC Board Chair.

During his time at FRWC, Snodgrass has worked collaboratively with numerous conservation organizations (private and public) and programs, including the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2), Source Population Alliance (SPA), Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Zoological Association of America (ZAA), various Species Survival Plans (SSPs), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He strongly believes in the importance of creating diverse partnerships and alliances to address wildlife sustainability at the scope and scale needed.

Fossil Rim Executive Director Kelley Snodgrass (right) has announced his retirement at the end of 2021 after 37 years of service to the wildlife center. He is shown with original owner Tom Mantzel, who opened Fossil Rim to the public in 1984, and Krystyna Jurzykowski, who became the second owner in 1987.

“Early in what became a wonderful and wonderfully fulfilling career — a passion, I discovered the importance of working for and toward the greater good. It has been an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve this very special and beautiful place for the mission and with so many, past and present, at FRWC and those beyond the fences,” said Snodgrass.

“For the land and conservation programs, the shared opportunities and moments with many — it has been an adventure with purpose. I am proud that there are 1,800 acres of protected green space (hoping more will be added and protected through a land conservation fund), proud of the many lives affected by their time at/with/through FRWC (students, guests, researchers, interns, volunteers, staff, supporters, donors, board members), and proud of the sustained and deepening effort to make sure some of the most threatened and endangered species will continue to exist.”

Jason Ahistus (2008-21), Mary Jo Stearns (1989-2017), and Kelley Snodgrass (1985-2008) are the three primary figures in the history of Fossil Rim’s cheetah program. They are pictured with an award entitled “ZAA Long-Term Commitment and Significant Propagation 2019” for efforts regarding cheetahs.

Snodgrass has worked at FRWC since before it opened to the public, and he has seen FRWC grow and develop into the world-class conservation breeding center it is today. He maintains a strong commitment to the five pillars of the FRWC Mission: conservation of species in peril, conducting scientific research, training of professionals, responsible management/stewardship of natural resources, and public education.

FRWC has received many recognitions and awards for its conservation work and diligently strives to sustain select populations of wildlife. It is FRWC’s objective to sustainably manage wildlife as naturally as possible — demographically, genetically, socially, and environmentally — as a part of, and in support of, a greater metapopulation strategy to serve as a hedge against extinction and in support of biodiversity. FRWC will continue to seek ways to engage and inspire guests and our community to action so we may all serve as better stewards of nature, upon which we all depend.

Snodgrass added, “For my family and me, FRWC will forever be with us. And although thoughts will never be far away from FRWC and what more we can do to conserve nature, I am looking forward to the next adventures, sharing more time with my recently retired wife, family, and of course, the granddaughters.”