Dave Foreman (1946-2022)
William David Foreman, age 75, died on September 19, 2022, at his home in Albuquerque, from interstitial lung disease, surrounded by family and friends. Dave, as he was known to all, was an esteemed activist, thinker, writer, and speaker on conservation and environmental issues, an uncompromising advocate for sharing the Earth with other living beings. His half-century conservation career focused on protection of wild nature, especially wilderness and wildlife, and he coined the term “rewilding,” which was his special interest over the past several decades. His 2004 book Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st Century pointed the way toward new approaches to conservation in North America and worldwide.
Foreman was a natural leader and during his long career was a field director for The Wilderness Society and served on the national board of the Sierra Club. Seeing need for a more aggressive approach to wilderness and wildlife conservation than established conservation organizations, he co-founded Earth First! and served as its charismatic and unofficial leader for many years before moving on to be a co-founder of The Wildlands Project, dedicated to protecting a network of wilderness areas across North America and serving as publisher of that organization’s esteemed publication Wild Earth. Dave was one of the first wilderness activists to see the importance of conservation biology (becoming an early member of the Society for Conservation Biology) and how it could inform creation of wildlands networks. Over the years he was also instrumental in creating the New Mexico Wilderness Coalition, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (now NM Wild), and North American Wilderness Recovery, which spawned The Rewilding Institute (rewilding.org) to which he dedicated his energies in his last years. The Rewilding Institute continues to promote Dave’s vision of vast wildways stretching across North America and beyond, teeming with life, including those ultimate wildeors, Wolves, Pumas, Jaguars, Grizzly Bears, salmon, sharks, and other wide-ranging species and apex predators.
A gifted and prolific writer, Dave authored many books including Rewilding North America (2004), The Big Outside, co-authored with Howie Wolke (1989), Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (1991), Manswarm and the Killing of Wildlife (2011), Take Back Conservation (2012), and The Great Conservation Divide (2014). His single work of fiction was The Lobo Outback Funeral Home (2000). Other writings have appeared in numerous collections addressing protection of wild nature. Dave’s speeches became legend and motivated many to become wildlands advocates for life. Dave usually ended his sermons with a wolf howl – and many wolf howls have followed his passing.
Dave is survived by his sister, Roxanne Pacheco, nephews Gerard Pacheco and Benny Pacheco, niece Monica Pacheco, and his beloved cats, Misty and Yampa. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Nancy Morton, herself an esteemed conservationist and retired UNM professor of nursing.
News of Dave’s passing has spread quickly through the conservation community, and countless accolades and remembrances are pouring in to Dave’s far-flung, yet tight-knit wild bunch of fellow wilderness advocates. Rewilding Earth (rewilding.org) will share many of these in coming weeks. A common theme to these fond memories is: Dave Foreman changed my life, inspiring me to speak out for my wild neighbors. Several have compared Dave to a giant tree in an old-growth forest—fallen to the ground now, but nurturing new life far into the future.
Memories & Tributes to Dave Foreman
It’s hard to imagine a world without Dave. I first met Dave at a bus stop in Winnemucca Nevada. He and Bart were traveling in Dave’s old van and they stopped to pick up Karen Boeger and I. We were all going to travel together up to the Malheur Refuge Wilderness Conference. All that Earth First stuff was totally new to me, a fairly young and green BLM employee. I have to say that trip changed the trajectory of my life in ways I would never have guessed at the time.
Later living with Bart and Dave in Ely, Nevada it was clear my life would never be the same. Through them I met so many of you at RRRs, rafting trips, road shows, trip to Mexico and more. I miss all you crazy people and look forward to the stories in person I hope.
While I have stayed very close to Bart over the years, I regret I didn’t keep in touch with Dave as much as I could or should have. I feel so blessed to have talked with him on Saturday. I will treasure his final words to me.
—Shaaron (AKA Wildcat Annie)
I hadn’t been in touch with Dave for some time but have always held him in the highest regard. When you see him, let him know that even his woo woo compatriots honor him for the courageous leader he has been.
I can see him still on the Uncompahgre Plateau giving us his fire & monkeywrench sermon. All of us standing and shouting assent, even the Ponderosa.
Ah, bless that good man. So many images. I can still see him gripping the hood of a logger's pickup that was trying to run him down.
But a martini, enchiladas and cherry pie
damn. Dave knew how to live. And inspire us all.
Dave Foreman changed the course of conservation. He also changed the course of my life.
I first came upon Dave’s ideas in the 1980’s while I was working as an avalanche forecaster in Utah. I was introduced to Dave at a talk by Ed Abbey and ended up giving Ed and Dave a ride to the airport. Finally, here were two no-bullshit guys who were making sense. When I departed the avalanche scene, giving up on the recreation rat race, I knew I wanted to put Dave’s big ideas into play.
Dave forced us to think BIG. In the 1980’s conservation was concerned with saving the pieces, a whack-a-mole enterprise doomed to failure. Dave drew big bold lines on the map to capture whole landscapes. His ideas seemed radical at the time, but only because our thinking was too small.
Dave was no radical. Dave sat squarely in the middle of American conservation tradition. Dave was extending the thinking of all the great conservation legends, including Leopold, Hornaday, Muir, Murie, and Brower. Dave knew his conservation history and his place in it.
Dave succeeded in ways big and small. Dave is an unrecognized founder of conservation biology as a practice, which now guides protection and restoration efforts around the world. Because of Dave, the concept of “big, wild and connected” is mainstream conservation practice worldwide.
Dave was influential on Doug Tompkins’ work that has protected 10 million acres in South America. Dave inspired me to take down dams, build wildlife highway crossings and protect as much of Alaska as I could buy.
Dave Foreman lives on in all the world’s wildness. Long live Dave Foreman!
Senior Alaska Representative
The Conservation Fund
Bart first introduced me to Dave back in about 1976, when we were doing pre-RARE II field inventories of roadless areas when they were still with TWS and I was the Wyoming rep for Friends of the Earth. I remember Dave on the alpine tundra of the Wyoming Absarokas, he being like a little kid in a candy store, so enthralled with the tundra (“We don’t have this in New Mexico”) was he. Did some great backpack treks with Dave, including one in the Gila where I thought I might die of thirst because the watering holes that Dave assured me would have water were dry…. Anyway, lots of Dave stories for around the campfire….
I miss you, Dave, as do the wild places and critters.
I was at Dave's home in Albuquerque when he died. The following day I drove home alone along a rural route we had both traveled extensively, and arrived home safely in Silver City. The drive had Aldo Leopold, Gila, Blue Wilderness to my sides and in front of me. West on US 60, turn SW at Datil through Reserve, then South on US 189 through Glenwood, where Debby used to tend bar, and Pleasanton, where Dave and Debby lived in the early 1970's. The area is greener than I can ever recall, and both the Plains of San Augustine and the many mountains were gorgeous. The sky varied from full sun through partial clouds to full overcast, then sprinkles of rain starting at the Continental Divide and torrential rain just North of Glenwood. I think Mother Nature was crying...
Rewilding Earth Podcast Episode 96: Saying Goodbye To Dave Foreman And Keeping His Fight For Nature Alive
We have only met a few times, but I would like to tell you a story to remind you how many souls you have touched and inspired to love and fight for the wild ones and world.
I was a young woman, probably 25 when I first heard you talk. My best friend, Jenn Carroll Wilson, and I were working for Huey Johnson in San Francisco. Jenn and I would run off into the Sierras together to backpack every chance we got. We were learning how to be out there and more often than not we would get lost, get soaked in the rain or devoured by mosquitoes. She was my first truly “wild” friend. And, as she said, “We found “God” in those mountains.” She taught me to backcountry ski, use a map and compass, and open into my passion for all the wild ones. When you came to talk at Fort Mason she insisted we go. You bellowed and howled, you brought the souls of the animals into the room, and the truth that all the wild beings and forces had the right to be free and to thrive into our hearts. Your raw, pure, honest and fearless love gave us permission to love what we loved. You made us laugh, you made us cry. We left utterly and permanently transformed and empowered. We often recalled that day with laughter and joy. It was the day the direction of our lives was determined.
I know the heartbreak for our wild kin tears into us all each day. I wish you peace from that sadness now, Dave. May you pass over with ease knowing you did all that you possibly could for them. May everything you fought for so beautifully and honestly greet you in all the glory that is the Wild. Nancy is there already, waiting...
With deep, deep gratitude.
Ed Abbey introduced me to Dave Foreman and the rest of you crazy bastards back in March of 1981. John Wesley Powell's birthday to be exact.
Ed had called me up inviting me to join him in some kind of spring rites at Lone Rock off of Lake Fowell.
I drove down in my old flat black pickup truck and was met by a bunch of long haired scowling red necked cowboys who wanted to know who the fuck I was and what I was doing there.
Dave, Howie, Bart, Ron, Louisa and the rest, thanks for kicking my early 80s ass. I will never forget Dave or any of the rest of you. To the real Monkey Wrench Gang.
I'll leave you with an appropriate Hank Williams song lyric...
"The man picked up a monkey wrench
He changed my tune
He got me chasing rabbits
Spittin' out teeth
And howling at the moon"
Happy Trails Dave.
—KEN SANDERS (AKA Spurs Jackson)
Subject: Just to let you know how much I love you.
I’ve had time to reflect on how much you mean to me, sweetie, but never verbalized it. Saving my pathetic life from my kayaking mishap in the wild (not so much now; you’d be hard pressed to drown in the poor thing) San Juan! Being so kind with drunken me on that 79’ river trip out in the desert! You were good counsel, if under unusual circumstances and I’m eternally grateful for you pointing me toward Jon. We had a good life together, no regrets.
I only wish we all had a much longer together time with the folks who have meant so much to the collective us.
Guess it’s a flaw in our human nature that we forget just how short our time here is; we think we have forever to say I love you, take that one wild trip, do something unexpected to enrich our souls, call that old friend and say just how much they mean to us or reminisce over old adventures that just floated into your mind. We always think we have time or that they might think we’re sappy or maudlin to show our true, honest, open feelings.
Just like I thought you’d always be around to worry about, be like a big brother, felt comfy knowing that you’d be doing something new and exciting, be it writing, traveling to wild places, fighting to keep wilderness wilderness because you knew what mattered to you in life and could be so single minded, staying true to your beliefs. But also be just plain someone comfortable at home with his beloved Misty and Yampa and yet eloquent enough to enlighten the rest of us with the wonder you feel.
I really hope I can just say hello and hear that gravelly voice I’ll never forget. (I have no idea how anyone could think you have a Texas twang!)
Rest easy my dear old buddy and fellow Buckaroo (remember that initiation?) I’ll never forget it!
Know that you have many, many old, friends, buddies, comrades, pals, blood brothers and sisters who carry you in their hearts.
I’d like to remind you of a wonderful few lines in that darling little book which honored you -
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
I loved getting those big bear hugs when you’d come East for a meeting or assignment! I loved hearing the Easter story; never got boring!! I was so touched you kept that pathetic ink drawing I did of you sitting on the tree stump puzzling over a map!
Love you forever for so many reasons, said and unsaid.
Remembering a Father Tree
Tribute by John Davis, Rewilding Institute Executive Director
The wilderness community and the global rewilding movement pay tribute to a founding father. In his three-quarters of a century, Dave Foreman changed and expanded the way we do conservation in North America and inspired conservation activists and biologists to think big, wild, and connected throughout the world.
Remembering Dave Foreman
Sitting on a plateau
Overlooking the Jemez, Ortiz and Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Cottonwood trees blowing in the evening breeze
The big dipper – Ursus Major appearing over the dark night sky.
And I take in the message I have just received—
Dave Foreman has left this world.
I was to see him yesterday,
— to say my goodbyes in Albuquerque.
But he was going down, not feeling well.
I thought about what I would say to him,
My gratitude for his vision, his courage, his singular focused passion and dedication
To rewilding this continent.
To raising awareness, consciousness, action
For Earth First
For the Wild Ones.
He set the course for so many of us
Who carry on the fight
To re-wild North America
To bring pack apex predators,
To reconnect broken landscapes,
To bring back the wild.
And as I write these words
An eruption of coyote song,
A coyote serenade in the Pinyon pine juniper savanna in Cerrillos, New Mexico.
The call of the Wild
For Dave- in his homeland.
A reminder that the wild will persist
Will keep resisting persecution,
They and we “Wildeors” will carry on your legacy,
Will keep howling & fighting for
Big, Wild & Connected
—your bold vision of
A fully functioning, healthy & diverse
RIP Dave - now united with Nancy & Crumbo.
Camilla H. Fox
FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PROJECT COYOTE
The Rewilding Institute (TRI) mission is to explore and share tactics and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation and restoration in North America and beyond. We focus on the need for large carnivores and protected wildways for their movement; and we offer a bold, scientifically credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization on planet Earth. Subscribe | Support