James B. Trefethen, 60, director of publications for the Wildlife Management Institute, died of cancer Thursday at Georgetown University Hospital.

He had joined the institute in 1948 as editor of Outdoor News Bulletin, and was named publications director four years later.

Mr.Trefethen edited Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference through 1974, as well as other institute publications.

He was editor of the proceedings of the National Watershed Congress from the start of that national meeting in 1954 until 1974.

He also was editor of the Executive News Service of the Natural Resources Council of America.

The author or coauthor of numerous articles for such publications as American Heritage, Aubudon Magazine and Sports Illustrated, Mr. Trefethen lectured widely on wildlife. He was the author of four books and coauthor of several others.

In 1975, the Outdoor Writers Associaton of America gave him its highest honor, the Jade of Chiefs Sward, for his contributions to conservation. In 1976, he received the Conservation Education Award from the Wildlife Society for his latest book, "An American Crusade for Wildlife."

Born in Brockton, Mass., Mr. Trefethen was a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and earned a master's degree in wildlife management from the University of Massachusetts.

He is survived by his wife, Julie, of the home in Adelphi; three daughters, Jody Hopkins, of Highland, Md., Ann Kerr, of Joppa, Md., and Holly Snide, of Brownville, Maine; two sons, James Jr., of Boston, and Clinton, of Baltimore, and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society or the Wildlife Management Institute.