My father and stepfather were both WWII and Korean War aviators, Navy and Marine. My early years as a military brat in Hawaii afforded me ample time to explore the island’s bays, tide pools, and beaches, meeting the ocean’s many denizens including comic sand crabs, colorful parrotfish, and from a cautious, respectful distance, the more mysterious creatures…great barracuda, and formidable tiger sharks. Curiosity leavened with humility left me to imagine whatever else might lurk in the offshore depths. Later, my grandfather introduced me to the mountains of Utah as I gained similar lessons in sharing the earth.
During my four years as a Navy SEAL, including two deployments to Vietnam, I experienced the brutality of war along with the few opportunities for introspection or acts of compassion. Sensing a need for change, I left the Mekong in March 1971, for a river guide job on the Colorado River in May. It was, in retrospect, an excellent career move. My occupations for the next four decades consisted of river guide, park ranger, and conservationist as I began to fully understand the importance for wildlife and humanity of our national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and other public lands.
While wildlife conservation remains a struggle, I now know the rewards of rescuing the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, and condor from the brink of extinction. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, other imperiled creatures treasured by thoughtful Americans are moving back from that eternal abyss. The Endangered Species Act, that wise, truly American redemptive expression of commitment, compassion, and hope, actually works!