Bert Raynes, author, columnist, birder, wildlife advocate and proponent of citizen science, reacts to the audience during the 2015 premiere of a film about his and his late wife Meg's dedication to observations of nature. Bert Raynes won the 2018 Murie Spirit of Conservation Award from the Murie Ranch of the Teton Science Schools. (David Swift)

The Murie Ranch of the Teton Science Schools gave the 2018 Murie Spirit of Conservation Award to a newspaper columnist who writes a lot about birds.

Recipient Bert Raynes, a keen observer of nature who’s in his 9th decade on the planet, has penned “Far Afield” for the weekly Jackson Hole News and Jackson Hole News&Guide for decades and still writes it today. He’s also authored several books, but his witty column about observations of nature is likely responsible for propelling his gentle personality beyond the bird-club circle.

After commenting on things as diverse as hummingbirds and the Hubble telescope, Raynes routinely includes a section reporting observations of others who call him to report wildlife sightings. From this journalistic democracy grew Nature Mapping Jackson Hole, a citizen-scientist accounting and census of wildlife in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Biologist Franz Camenzind called Raynes “the Mr. Rogers of our neighborhood,” adding that “the natural world is his neighborhood.”

Raynes had his late wife Meg as his muse and the couple launched the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund that supports nature mapping and other conservation efforts.

The Murie family, including Olaus and Mardy, Adolph and Louise, established the Murie Ranch in what became Grand Teton National Park. The ranch became an educational center following their deaths. Mardy, a wilderness activist who was by President Lyndon Johnson’s side when he signed the Wilderness Act in 1964, called wilderness “the basis of all our civilization.

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“I wonder,” she said, “if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on? I hope that the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by. Or so poor that she cannot afford to keep them.”

David Swift, a Jackson photographer who worked in the valley for some 40 years before his death in January, photographed Raynes in 2015 at the premiere of a film about his life.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Thank Angus! for a wonderful tribute to Bert Raynes, the Muries, and all of our leaders in Conservation, yourself included, who bring our history into the sunlight! Chuck