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Sad news in the Backcountry

March 2, 2010

Two great South Dakota conservationists have stepped into the shade. 

I  just returned from the Black Hills Sportsmen’s monthly lunch meeting where it was announced that Mike Williams died early this morning from cancer.  Mike was from Watertown, SD, and was in his second term as the National President of the Izaak Walton League of America.  Mike  was 68 years of age.

I got to know Mike through our grassland wilderness campaign.  He was instrumental in our obtaining the IWLA’s support for wilderness protection for the Indian Creek, Red Shirt, and Chalk Hills areas on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland.  I last saw Mike last summer in Sioux Falls.  We were both at Sen. Johnson’s district office pitching for legislation on wilderness and wetlands protection and spent some quality time afterwards drinking coffee and talking smart.

The other bad news came with the discovery of Christy Caswell’s obituary in the paper.  Cancer also claimed Christy, at the terrible, tender age of 36.

Christy was in the process of obtaining her master’s degree in ecology.  In the meantime she served as the conservation chair for the Sierra Club’s Black Hills Group, worked for the Nature Conservancy, was involved in the grassland wilderness campaign, and volunteered for our citizen stream monitoring effort in the Black Hills.  She had that dynamo tendency about her.

The backcountry and its critters are poorer for their passing.

— Jim Margadant

One Comment leave one →
  1. Melissa Caswell-Birkholz permalink
    March 17, 2010 10:54 pm

    This is Christy Caswell’s sister. Thanks for your thoughtful mention of her. Her family has been hit hard by her passing, as you may imagine. Our Dad and I have been sorting through the personal items Christy left behind. I made a back-up copy of her laptop files, which includes the wildlife and conservation research she did during her Master’s studies. It probably includes the preliminary work for a goal she was working toward, called Prairie Pathway. We don’t want to see those hours and hours she dedicated to her passion for wildlife go to waste at the tap of a “delete” button. When our hearts and lives balance out after dealing with our loss, I hope to share her research with people who know what to do with it, in hopes that it will be used to benefit the land and animals she loved so well. If you have some suggestions, or if you would like to communicate more about this at a later date, please contact me at the email address I provided. Thanks.

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