Paul R. Vahldiek, Jr.

Location: Houston, Texas

Q: When did you first start hunting and fishing and what’s your favorite memory afield?

I began hunting and fishing around the age of eight. I have many good memories from over the years—ranging from early dove and quail hunts with my uncle and cousins to fishing trips with my 7th grade basketball coach. Later memories expand to watching a female cougar play with her cubs, smashing a Super Cub into a dead whale on a Bering Sea beach, and trading fishing lures for a hunting bow in the Amazon.

Q: What led you to become involved in conservation?
Loving the outdoors and caring deeply about fish and wildlife and our ability to conserve all for future generations led me to become involved in conservation.

Q: How did The High Lonesome Ranch become what it is today?
Both the HLR and I are continually evolving. Besides the obvious commitments of money and time, the HLR and I have grown in scope and vision through our association with great conservation associations such as the TRCP, Trout Unlimited, Wildlands Network and the Boone and Crockett Club.  These associations have been the continuing basis for the development of many extraordinary relationships within the conservation and science communities.

Q: Describe your vision for the High Lonesome Ranch?
The High Lonesome Ranch embraces a model of sustainability that, using public-private partnerships, provides stewardship of a large-scale, intact western landscape; restores degraded habitat and biological diversity; ensures long-term conservation of critical open space; and preserves western Colorado’s important ranching heritage while engaging in mixed use enterprises that viably support the broader caretaker and legacy goals.

We are also planning for our High Lonesome Conservation Institute, which will bring together scientists, educators, students and members of the general public to develop and apply a contemporary land ethic philosophy and the North American model of wildlife conservation. Fundamentally,  we are about sustainability—of the ranching, hunting and angling traditions; intact landscapes; and human enterprises.

To help manifest this vision, I have surrounded myself with great individual consultants and conservation leaders, ranging from Michael Soulé to Cristina Eisenberg to Shane Mahoney, Roger Creasey, David Ford and Rose Letwin. Also, my “vision” would not be possible without all of my committed partners and HLR associates.

Q: What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing the country today?
Some of the most pressing conservation issues we face today are the result of a rapidly growing human population and decisions we made about natural resources in the years before we had some of the science we have today. These issues include habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, unsustainable use of natural resources in a way that negatively impacts wildlife, and climate change. All of these issues are decreasing or creating shifts in habitat for fish and game. This is all intensified by diminishing public interest in hunting and fishing, which results in decreased revenue available for state wildlife agencies.

Hunters and anglers have long been the leading conservationists in America, and visionaries such as Aldo Leopold, Joseph Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt helped create just about all of the fundamental wildlife conservation tools and laws we have today—things such as the national game refuge system and hunting bag limits. We need a new generation of conservation leaders today to step up and help take the conservation vision of Leopold, Grinnell and Roosevelt into the future. The task before us for conservation is enormous, and we must coordinate our efforts (time, money and political) to achieve those goals.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of fish and wildlife conservation and how can hunters and anglers work to accomplish these goals?
I hope that in the future we see a more sustainable use of resources, one that embodies Aldo Leopold’s land ethic philosophy for stewardship of private and public lands subjected to mixed uses. This would involve improving wildlife health by restoring habitat, creating more permeable and intact landscapes, and utilizing natural processes, such as predation by carnivores, to restore ecosystems for wildlife and the humans who use wildlife resources. Human needs are an intrinsic aspect of wildlife conservation. Bringing together a diverse community of hunters, anglers, scientists, corporate and non-profit partners, educators, students, and everyday citizens will enable us to find creative wildlife conservation solutions.  We must find common goals with those who don’t hunt and fish.