Tuesday, April 3, 2012

For Mark

It’s a call that no one wants to receive, or wants to make. A friend has passed. Hell, he was more than a friend, he was a hero to me, and thousands of other hunters and anglers in Wyoming and across this nation.

Mark Winland left an indelible mark on my life. Mark was the president of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation for years, and was my employer for a couple of those. He selflessly gave of himself to that group of people fighting to maintain Wyoming’s place in the chronicles of outdoors history. He took on all comers, and his work has benefitted all of us.

Mark had a soft spot for elk, like a lot of us. He fought companies who wanted to intensively drill areas like Fortification Creek and the Red Desert. He fought for the common man and for all wildlife at the Wyoming Legislature He was the volunteer executive director of WWF when they were searching for another leader. He helped devise a plan to conserve sage grouse, and he did it all in a manner that got everybody talking and working together. He did all of this while teaching science in Gillette and working with his wonderful wife Gwyn in the summers doing field studies out in the Wyoming Prairie.

Mark gave everything he had to wildlife and wild country. He never complained, never shirked a task. He fought for all of us, no matter what our station or our ability. He and his wife Gwyn took visually impaired hunters out to harvest some of their first game animals, and they worked together in the summer ensuring the health of prairie wildlife like raptors and prairie dogs for Coal companies on reclaimed land.

My friend Mark Winland is a giant. I am heartbroken at his passing. I remember sitting on the porch of their yurt over on the west side of the Bighorns after catching large fish in a small stream. Fish that had better lies and riffles thanks to Mark and Gwyn. I had decided to leave Wyoming, and Mark and I were having a couple of beers and talking about all that we had been able to accomplish. That list is longer than an old brown trout, but it includes over $100 million for wildlife, plentiful elk and trout, public land health, thousands of former students who love the outdoors and all of the critters in it, and a lot of battle scars.

Every single one of us who hunts or fishes in Wyoming, or anywhere in the west owes Mark Winland a debt of gratitude.

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