Protecting the Tongass National Forest since 1967

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Richard “Nels” Nelson (1941-2019)

The inspiration, guidance, wisdom, and “ways of seeing” that you have given us will live on forever.

Long-time Sitka Conservation Society Board Emeritus Richard “Nels” Nelson passed away on November 4th, 2019. Nels served on our board of directors for close to 40 years, and he has enormously influenced our organization.

He brought the unique combination of his Wisconsin upbringing, his learnings from the Koyukon Athabascan, Gwich’in, and Iñupiak peoples, and his intimate and in-depth understanding of the natural world. Nels fused all that together into a strong set of values and an approach to life and showed us how to incorporate those values and perspectives into our conservation work.

He demanded that we respect living things and give perpetual thanks and respect to them. He taught us that to use those resources means to take responsibility for protecting them, to never abuse them, and to speak out against anything that might harm them. In this vein, Nels helped us advocate to keep old-growth forests standing and to give future generations the chance to experience the same joys he found in the natural world. He always reminded us that “The Tongass is the only place in North American where all the pieces that were here before European Colonizers arrived are still present and part of an intact and functioning ecosystem.”

We cannot yet fathom the loss of Richard Nelson. We are humbled by his approach to life. We will continue to carry forward his legacy and do our best to follow the paths he has charted.

We will celebrate the legacy of Richard Nelson through the Living Wilderness Fund. Gifts can be made to SCS in memory of Richard Nelson here. The Sitka Conservation Society will be hosting a boat cruise in memory of Richard Nelson to celebrate his life, legacy, accomplishments, and the natural environment of the Sitka Sound that he so loved and treasured. You can sign up here.