July 14, 2023 | By:

Episode 111: Combat Vet Jon Rezendes on Large Carnivore Coexistence and a Habitat Protection Victory in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains

Jon Rezendes


Born and raised in Massachusetts, Jon Rezendes had a lifelong obsession with wilderness and big cats interrupted by the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Jon was a high school freshman and watched the first responder jets fly overhead from the now-defunct Otis Air Force Base en route to New York City and felt the unshakeable urge to serve. He took that deep obligation with him to the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 2009 as an infantry officer.

Less than a year after graduation, Jon led a platoon from the 101st Airborne Division in combat in Kandahar, Afghanistan before being reassigned to instruct at the Florida Phase of US Army Ranger School. In 2015, the “needs of the Army” ultimately stationed Jon at Ft. Bliss, just outside El Paso, TX, and changed his life forever.

The wilderness of the desert Southwest called him with a different sense of duty: to live among and protect those wild mountains of the borderland. The works of Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Cormac McCarthy influenced him heavily during this time. Jon left service in 2017 and, after a brief return to New England, he and his family permanently settled in the shadow of El Paso’s Franklin Mountains.

By day, Jon works for a decarbonization-focused software company that addresses the climate crisis with trusted data. On nights and weekends, he has begun to ‘use his words’ and his hands to advocate for wilderness and volunteer for local non-profits. While he is just beginning to actualize his journey as a conservationist, Jon is a prolific writer, aspiring Trans-Pecos Chapter Texas Master Naturalist (with a long way and lots of learning to go!), and supportive husband to his wife, a certified associate wildlife biologist and PhD student, who studies those same big cats that first held his infatuation even as a boy thousands of miles away.

Jon’s awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Airborne Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, a Bronze Star Medal, and the coveted Ranger tab.

  • A deeper dive into Jon’s article “A Conservation Star Deep in the Heart” about the rewilding victory in the Franklin Mountains of the Trans-Pecos
  • Examples of how El Paso looks at conservation, water, and habitat protection, a radically different approach than most southwest cities
  • The groups and individuals that are getting the job done for mountain lions and habitat protection in and around El Paso
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11 months ago

Please repeat the name of the organization that is a good place to start in helping the El Paso/Franklin Mountains effort.

Marilyn Guida
11 months ago

Frontera Land Alliance is the organization spearheading the El Paso/Franklin Mountains protection effort. They are online.

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