Chevron Conservation Award letter from Kathy Bricker honoring Dr. John H. Tanton
Bethesda, Maryland 20005
November 29, 1989
To: Chevron Conservation Awards Committee
I understand that you are considering Dr. John Tanton for the well-known Chevron Conservation Award, and I'm happy add my enthusiastic endorsement.
When I moved to Northern Michigan fresh out of college in 1973 to work as Research Biologist for the University of Michigan Biological Station at Douglas Lake, Dr. Tanton was already something of a legend in Michigan. He had filed and secured public attention for three major environmental lawsuits, was willing to address any school or public group about the importance of conservation and had co-founded three major organizations that I joined (The Little Traverse Group of the Sierra Club, the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, and the Little Traverse Conservancy. (Later I became Chair of the first, President of the second, and Executive Director of the third! To say that John affected my life is an understatement.)
Besides working on issues himself and starting organizations for conservation, more importantly, he started people for conservation. Typical of his style was a winter Sierra Club field trip to Sturgeon Bay Dunes at Wilderness State Park. Its purpose went beyond pure enjoyment because every participant had agreed to speak up at a coming public hearing on the future of the park. We were there to "research" our specific topics, and to get enthused and committed by feeling the snow in our faces and experiencing nature firsthand rather than reading about its glories in an armchair.
John brings out the best in people, encouraging and guiding gently, nudging one step at a time. He explained his philosophy to me once as "Learn one, Do one, Teach one." He learns constantly by tackling difficult issues, always making sure he is grounded in fact about endangered species, threatened habitat, etc.
I am modest testimony to his encouragement. Though I was shy and retiring by nature, with his support I volunteered to:
- make presentations at statewide public hearings on topics ranging from a sewer extension around a sensitive lakeshore, to wetlands protection, to the Pictured Rocks National Seashore Master Plan; - become chair of the Northern Michigan Committee for the Bottle Deposit Bill, and help it pass in our area by the largest margin statewide;
- found and chair Recycle North, a project to bring newsprint and other recycling to our region;
- found and raise funds for the Eagle Project to conduct research on birds of prey throughout Michigan;
- serve on the Board of Directors of ProWild, an international land and wildlife conservation project;
- serve on the boards of Pigeon River Country State Forest Citizens Advisory Council, Michigan Audubon Society, as well as local groups.
Eventually he encouraged my decision to leave a rather boring job as government contractor to become the first Executive Director of a fledgling land conservancy. While I have moved from Michigan and am now working outside the conservation field, it still holds my interest as a volunteer--largely due to the influence and fostering of John Tanton.
I can also speak for many of my fellow Conservancy board members, most of whom were non-biologists attracted to activism in the organization by John. The retired chairman of Huffy Corporation (Horace M. Huff man, Jr., who went on to found the Tip of the Mit Watershed Council), the lead partner in a major accounting firm in Petoskey (John Fought), the editor of the daily newspaper (Ken Winter), a national investment counselor (John Fischer), two renowned regional attorneys (Seberon Litzenburger and Joel Moore), chewing gum magnate (Wrigley Offield, Jr.), all have each devoted hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to conservation because John triggered and nurtured their interest.
All this is to say that John has made a difference in conservation, not only by direct action by influencing all of us. And that deserves an award!