A wildlife habitat enthusiast answers questions
What organization are you affiliated with?
What does it do?
WindStar Wildlife Institute is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation organization that works to stem the loss of native plants, wildlife, and wildlife habitat by effectively teaching wildlife-habitat improvement practices through proven methods such as “neighbor helping neighbor” and “education through demonstration.” In short, we help people establish or improve the wildlife habitat on their property through environmental education programs and publications.
What’s your job title?
Founder and President.
What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis?
Envision, research, create, write, and edit our award-winning “WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly” e-magazine; photograph wildlife (including feeder birds at our 23 feeders, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and butterflies) through my office window and on WindStar’s four-acre demonstration wildlife habitat; plan and write the curriculum for our new Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist e-Learning certification program; create new areas in our four-acre demonstration wildlife habitat; plan new publications in our 37-pamphlet series entitled “Tips for Improving Your Wildlife Habitat”; evaluate and fine-tune our Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist e-Learning program; create the next presentation for delivery at an upcoming national conference; and pull my hair out because of computer problems.
How many emails are currently in your inbox?
With whom do you interact regularly as part of your job? What types of people? What other organizations or government agencies?
The wildlife in our demonstration wildlife habitat. People participating in our environmental education programs. Individuals seeking information, wanting help in attracting more wildlife to their properties and solving habitat problems. People inquiring about our environmental education programs. Magazine, newspaper, and cable editors wanting interviews for features or resource information. Wild-bird store owners wanting information on our certification programs — especially wanting to find out how they can become Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalists and tell their customers how they can certify their habitats through WindStar’s American Wildlife Habitat Registry Program.
Who’s the biggest pain in the ass you have to deal with?
The bureaucracy in all government agencies — state, federal, and local.
Who’s nicer than you would expect?
Some individuals in these same government agencies.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Carroll, Iowa, and grew up on a small farm near Coon Rapids. After getting my BA from Drake University, I worked as a photojournalist and editor at The Des Moines Register, wire services, and other Midwestern publications before moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 1972. I now live with my wife, Georgia, in an earth-sheltered, passive solar home near Myersville, Md., which was once featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics.
What do you consider your environmental coming-of-age moment?
Attending the Coverts Program workshop sponsored by Maryland Cooperative Extension and the Ruffed Grouse Society. I learned about forest and wildlife habitat management under the direction of Jonathan Kays, regional natural resource specialist. After participating in this program for a year, I founded WindStar Wildlife Institute.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
While working as a photographer for the Associated Press, one of my eyeglass lenses fell out while I was running through a muddy farm field to reach the scene of an airliner crash in Iowa and the lens was run over by a state police car. It was extremely difficult to take photographs with one eye closed, and after a while, everything became blurry.
What’s on your desk right now?
A pile of volunteer applications that need to be sorted, resource material for the next issue of “WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly” e-magazine, a dozen resource books for planning this spring’s projects in our demonstration wildlife habitat, a copy of Birding Business magazine, and plans for constructing an outdoor workshop shelter.
What environmental offense has pissed you off the most?
The Bush administration’s wholesale rollback of environmental regulations and safeguards that took decades to enact. I spend hours every day scanning and reading magazines, newspapers, wire service reports, websites, email newsletters (such as Daily Grist), and listservs. If people only knew the magnitude of environmental rollbacks and destruction of wildlife habitat being done in the name of “energy” and political payoffs, they would be appalled.
Who is your environmental hero?
My grandmother, Maud J. Cretsinger, who lived in a log cabin near Coon Rapids, Iowa, was a naturalist before the word was coined. She taught me about the wonderful world of Mother Nature, including gathering hickory nuts and black walnuts in the fall, picking mushrooms in the spring, identifying woodland wildflowers and trees, providing for birds and small animals in the winter. She also taught me to be quiet and observe, and she gave me an appreciation for books and poems dealing with nature.
Who is your No. 1 environmental villain/nemesis?
George Bush/Dick Cheney.
What’s your environmental vice?
Not recycling because there is no pickup program in my county.
How do you get around?
Ford Ranger pickup and John Deere Gater 6×4 (usually with Burt and Rosie, our Norfolk Terriers).
What are you reading these days?
Private Lives of Garden Birds by Calvin Simonds, Adventures With a Texas Naturalist by Roy Bedichek, Living on the Wind by Scott Weidensaul, Animal Talk by Tim Friend, The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum, and Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
What’s your favorite meal?
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, mixed green salad, chocolate cake, rolls, milk.
Are you a news junkie? Where do you get your news?
Yes. I read three daily papers — USA Today, Frederick News-Post, and Hagerstown Morning Herald. I scan Environmental News Service, ENN, Daily Grist, Society of Environmental Journalists, and Garden Writers Association daily email newsletters. I receive about a dozen other email newsletters and subscribe to about two dozen magazines. I watch CNN and local Washington network television stations.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I’d rather be with Mother Nature’s critters than people.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
WindStar Wildlife Institute’s four-acre demonstration wildlife habitat.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
I would transform all the “lawns” in this country to beautiful natural gardens with ponds and native plants.
When was the last time you wore tie-dye? How about fleece?
Do you compost?
Which presidential candidate are you backing in 2004?
Anyone who can beat Bush/Cheney. It looks like Kerry has a chance.
Would you label yourself an environmentalist?
Yes, I’m an environmentalist because I care about our natural world and about preserving it. I recently read a definition of environmentalist on an Internet site that appealed to me: “A freethinker and cares about the health of our planet. Usually an intellectual and almost always a nice person. Open-minded and caring about others as well. Often they volunteer to make the world a better place. They believe in protecting our natural beauty for our future generations. Environmentalists are a gift from God!”
What’s one thing the environmental movement is doing badly?
Some groups resorting to violence, radical viewpoints, and destruction of property.
What’s one issue about which you disagree with other environmentalists?
The “all or nothing” approach. There are two sides to every environmental situation.
What could the environmental movement be doing better or differently to attract new people?
One word — communication. More than 66 million Americans feed, watch, and photograph wildlife and they spend about $40 billion annually on these activities. We need to reach more of these people and not with radical viewpoints or we will lose them. But we can educate them. And the more they learn about the natural world, the more convinced they will be that it is worth the effort to save and protect it.
What was your favorite band when you were 18? How about now?
Buddy Holly then, George Strait now.
What’s your favorite TV show?
It was West Wing until recently. Now it’s CSI.
Mac or PC?
Both. I use one monitor and keyboard with computer selector switch. But my first love is the Mac.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Send a donation to WindStar Wildlife Institute so we can create a much wanted and needed national e-learning youth program that would educate kids on the need to protect wildlife and establish/enhance wildlife habitat.