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: