Just like a lot of people, I joined HRT to save the planet. But that’s not why I stayed. In the end, all of my reasons for volunteering are selfish reasons. They are deep-rooted reasons that I can’t shake.
When I was a kid, I always wanted to go camping but I had to wait until I had a family of my own before I could. My wife Betty and I took our kids camping in State Parks every summer. That led to backpacking The Sierras with my older kids. That led to backpacking trips with troubled youth. That led to 15 years of leading Desert Safaries with my lifelong buddy, Lou Gouveia. Lou and I introduced the public to California and Nevada desert wilderness’. For each Safari, Lou and I would scout an area before we brought our people into camp. We practiced “Zero impact camping” hauling EVERYTHING out with us when we left.
Something was missing from those experiences. I couldn’t nurture the land and fix it. The land had gotten to me. I needed to give something back. Those years of care left me wanting to do more for the land than just clean it up. In 1987 Lou asked me if I was interested in joining The Nature Conservancy’s Habitat Restoration Team. I was in.
When I’m working with the HRT, I can see the effects of our efforts. I can see the seeds and cuttings go into the ground. I can see the forests, the savannas, and the wetlands expand as we plant the natives and pull out the invasives along the way. It really doesn’t matter what we are doing. We could be on the river all day pulling Water Hyacinth or Parrot Feather into our canoes and hauling it out to dry land. We could be clearing an old degenerated farmstead or a field full of thistles and pepperweed. It’s all the same. We get a big smile and Mother Nature gets a little boost. This is why I stayed.