Friday, March 10, 2006

Art Hawkins, conservationist, has died at 92

Art Hawkins, a retired Fish and Wildlife Service employee and former student of Aldo Leopold's, died yesterday afternoon. According to his daughter Amy, he was in perfect health for his age, sharp as a tack, and had been his usual, active, involved, good natured self right up to the end. He had been out for a hike at his farm north of St. Paul, enjoying a warm springlike day and watching ducks and geese on the marsh he loved so well and fought to save. Amy found him near the barn, walking sticks in hand and binoculars around his neck, around 5 pm. He died in much the same way as his mentor Leopold did, suddenly, without prolonged suffering, outdoors. It was how he would have wanted to go.

Many wildlife biologists are more at home outdoors in the field than indoors meeting with people and getting involved in issues related to conservation. Not Art. He was an activist, an advocate for waterfowl and habitat. He helped to form the Wood Duck Society, a group devoted to studying this species and educating people about conservation. He successfully fought developers who wanted to build on his marsh, although he was the subject of lawsuits intended to silence him. It was partly because of his fight that the state of Minnesota passed legislation against such lawsuits. He often had letters to the editor published, intelligent but sharply critical of waterfowl management policy and habitat destruction.

I had the privilege of knowing Art personally, and he was a warm, kind person. We had dinner at his house several times and I was always impressed by his knowledge, passion for life, and sense of humor. He and his wife Betty sent us Christmas cards and gifts when Calvin and Starflower were born. Just a week ago as I was driving on I 35E north of St. Paul, I looked across his marsh, his farm visible from the freeway, and thought of him. I wish we had kept in touch more. He will be missed. I hope those who learned from his example will keep up the fight for the health of the land.

Added 3/13: Here is a link to a more complete story about Art Hawkins, from the St. Paul Pioneer Press:


R.Powers said...

Perfect example of a good legacy and a reminder that individuals can cause good changes that ripple out beyond their lifespan.

Dan Trabue said...

Whoa. That is SO how I want to go. Binoculars and walking stick in hand, leaning against a barn.

May he rest in peace and thanks for sharing, Deb.

Deb said...

FC- yes, the changes he brought about will hopefully be felt forever. He was a great person.

Dan- That is how I want to go too, and that is how my grandpa went. No long hospital stay, no nursing home, very dignified.

It's been a long week. First Kirby Puckett, now Art Hawkins. By the way, his family is not having a funeral, which I think is a great idea. I hate funerals. Instead, they have requested everyone to remember him by reading A Sand County Almanac again, or by donating time or money to conservation causes, or by simply practicing good stewardship.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great man. I hope I go with my boots on too.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like quite a loss for the world. As it happens, my sister sent me a new copy of Sand Country Almanac recently, so I think I'll pick it up and read those wonderful words again.

Dan Trabue said...

Along these lines, have y'all read Wendell Berry's book of short stories titled, Fidelity? It's title story is a wonderful, marvelous, perfect story of an end of a community member's life. One of my favorite books and I highly recommend it.