Dombeck receives Ansel Adams Award for leadership in protecting National Forests

May 18, 2010

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck will receive the Ansel Adams Award from The Wilderness Society Thursday night for his major role in protecting the national forests.

"Mike was a game-changer,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “He restored balance to the management of our 155 national forests, making clean water, recreation, and fish and wildlife priorities, as the law requires. He was the main architect of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prevented logging and road building across 58.5 million acres of our national forests. It was the capstone of a quarter century of sterling public service with federal land management agencies.”

A native of Wisconsin with a Ph.D. in fisheries biology, Dombeck served three years as acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management before President Clinton appointed him Forest Service chief in 1997. No other person has lead both of this nation’s largest land management agencies.

Since leaving the government in 2001, Dombeck has been a University of Wisconsin System Fellow and a professor of global conservation at the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He also directs the Smith Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Conservation Biology.

“Mike was, in my view, the most independent chief that the Forest Service has had since Gifford Pinchot himself,” said Dr. Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington professor often described as “the father of modern forestry.” Pinchot was the first chief, serving from 1898 to 1910. “Mike broke out of the mold and did really innovative things. He did that by design and force of will,” said Franklin, a long-time member of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council.

“As our country grows, we continue to chip away at our wild places, losing acre by acre, day after day,” said Dombeck. “Protecting the remaining roadless areas of our national forests is perhaps this nation’s last opportunity to keep our few remaining wild places intact.

“They are important habitats and anchor points for native plants and animals in the face of a changing climate. These remote areas provide some of the last best hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities with at least a measure of solitude. In today’s fast-paced society, these are the places where future generations might experience the land as their forefathers did. It has been a privilege for me to have a career working with people who care deeply about the health of the land. They are the ones who have earned this award.”

The award that Dombeck will receive is named for the celebrated photographer who, until his death, was an outspoken advocate for safeguarding the nation’s natural heritage. “It is noteworthy that Mike is the third winner from Wisconsin,” Meadows pointed out. The award was presented to Congressman David Obey (D) in 2000 and to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson in 1990. Nelson served the state as a governor and U.S. Senator and spent the final 24 years of his life as counselor of The Wilderness Society.

Other winners of the Ansel Adams Award include former Congressman Mo Udall (D-NM), former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, President Jimmy Carter, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.

The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.

For a hi-res photo of Dombeck, contact tmiller@uwsp.edu.