In memoriam: Barry Lopez

For over 50 years, writer Barry Lopez made his home in western Oregon, upslope and in line of sight with the McKenzie River. His reflections on nature and people fill a library of notable books, essays, presentations and interviews in precise, attentive language. His stories challenge, inspire and celebrate our world in ways that ignited wonder and commitment for many of us working in conservation.

By Joe Moll January 12, 2021
Barry Lopez

Barry was a plenary speaker for the Land Trust Alliance's Rally 2013 in New Orleans, and he wrote and spoke generously on behalf of the McKenzie River and the work of caring for land, water and people. In a 2009 address, he encouraged us to be inclusive and humble in convening broad "community conversations."

"The effort to negotiate a peaceful ground between human desire for material achievements of various sorts and the not infinitely flexible limits of natural ecosystems is new, complicated, scary and necessary work," he said. "There is room in this endeavor — and a need in this endeavor — for every voice except the voices of those who know they are right."

He was a dear friend and mentor, from whom we learned and with whom we could dream, plan, laugh and cry. But he always circled back to whatever task was at hand: a piece to be written, barbed wire to be removed, the logistics of an event, an interview on camera. "We're here to work," he'd say. An unpretentious, powerful reminder.

Barry passed away on Dec. 25, 2020, with beloved wife Debra Gwartney and family at his side. We miss his presence, that incredible mind and his deep spirit. But his words are still alive, and his example of caring, disciplined workmanship sustains us. If you mourn his departure and celebrate his life, we hope you also find strength in that simple invitation, wherever your home waters, to work on behalf of the land, the water and each other.

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