At once America's most effective and least known wilderness advocate, Dr. Ed Wayburn, who died March 5 at 103, was not even a full-time conservationist. He was a practicing physician. Protecting our country's wild areas was a volunteer job for him.
In 1999, Ed was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, who credited him with having saved more wilderness in the U.S. than any other living American. Always one to seize an opportunity, Ed, right after receiving the medal, turned around and began lobbying the President to save even more wilderness.
In his time, he and his wife Peggy could take on a challenge like Alaska, recruit allies through the force of their personal conviction and leave behind 100 million protected acres as a legacy. He did the same thing with the redwoods and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. He also forged an unlikely alliance with a Congressman who almost never went outdoors--California's Phillip Burton--that saved hundreds of other spots.
The work of environmental protection has become more institutional and less personal. But Wayburn fought his battles hard and never made an enemy if he could avoid it. He proved that you can get bigger things done if you lead with vision, not rancor.
Pope is chairman of the Sierra Club