Bert Raynes has been writing about birds for the last 40 years. But it isn’t just writing he does on behalf of wild critters — the “Far Afield” columnist is a longtime champion of wildlife and habitat conservation.
This year Raynes is the recipient of the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award, which honors people with an exemplary commitment to protecting wildlife and wild places.
“The award was originally created to be given to someone who embodied the spirit of the Muries and their lifelong devotion to conservation work,” said Hannah Orcutt, director of development at Teton Science Schools and the Murie Ranch. “Bert has committed so much of his life to protecting the wildlife in this area. We also look for someone who has a community focus in their work, and he has engaged the community through his writing and books.”
Raynes has written a bevy of books on birds: “Birds of Grand Teton and the Surrounding Area,” “Finding the Birds of Jackson Hole: A Bird Finding Guide,” “Curmudgeon Chronicles,” two pocket guides to birds of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone and, with Tom Mangelsen, “Winter Wings: Birds of the Northern Rockies.” He has written a nature column for the Jackson Hole News and then the News&Guide since the late 1970s, frequently sharing news of bird sightings, common and rare, in the valley.
Raynes’ reaction to the news of the award was complete surprise. Surprise and excitement.
“I would jump up and click my heels if I could,” he said.
The 94-year-old has also been recognized for his environmental advocacy work by the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the town of Jackson.
After a successful career in chemical engineering and a stint as president of the Cleveland Audubon Society, Raynes retired to Jackson in 1972 with his late wife, Meg. The pair founded the Bert and Meg Raynes Wildlife Fund to protect and maintain sustainable animal populations in Jackson Hole and Wyoming. Raynes also founded the Jackson Hole Bird Club.
The Murie Center began the award program in 2011 to honor the legacy of Mardy and Olaus Murie, leaders of the American conservation movement who settled in Jackson in the 1930s.
In addition to the conservation award, the organization also recognizes a “Rising Leader” in the conservation arena. This year the honor goes to activist Tanner Yess, a National Park Service Mountains to Main Street Ambassador and deputy director of Groundwork Cincinnati, an organization that works to connect urban communities to nature.
Raynes and Yess will be recognized at an awards dinner Aug. 14 at the Murie Ranch in Moose. Tickets for the dinner are available at TetonScience.org/murie-center/spirit-of-conservation.