Posts Tagged ‘Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge’

Remembering Harold H. Burgess, Trumpeter Swan Society Past President and Board of Directors

April 16, 2012

Last month, members, Board members and staff of The Trumpeter Swan Society were saddened to hear of the death of Harold Burgess.  Harold served on the Society’s Board of Directors and as President of TTSS for two terms. He was recently honored by the Society as one of the first recipients of the TTSS George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Award.  A copy of his obituary follows:

Harold H, Burgess

Harold H. Burgess died Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Weslaco, TX, at age 94.  He was born in 1917 at Cedardale, Michigan.  Survivors include his children Thomas, Mary and Barbara, son-in-law Terry, grandchildren David, Hannah, and Betsy, granddaughter-in-law Crystal.  His wife Ruth; his parents Guy and Mary; his brothers Henry, Fred, Robert, Eugene, and James precede him in death.

After graduation from Deckerville High School, Harold served with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Upper Michigan.  He graduated from Michigan State College with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry.  In 1942, he became a superintendent at Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia, West Africa.  While traveling through the Liberian hinterland, he met his future wife, Ruth Longstaff, at Ganta Mission.

Returning to Michigan State College, he finished his Masters in Zoology.  After enlisting in the 8th Army Engineers, he married Ruth in December 1947 and served as a forestry adviser in Korea and later as an agriculture adviser in Japan.

In 1950 he began 30 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, managing four National Wildlife Refuges of the Missouri-Mississippi watershed in succession, completing his career at the Area Office in North Kansas City, Missouri.  For a second 30 years after retirement, he volunteered at various nature sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and state parks.  Those in Texas included Laguna Atascosa NWR, Lower Rio Grande NWR, Santa Ana NWR, Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park.  He also took part in the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, Elder Hostel programs, as well as both the Frontera and the Rio Grande Valley Audubon Societies.  Harold received The Valley Nature Center’s “Outstanding Naturalist Award” for 2002.

Though interested in all birds, Harold considered himself an avian ecologist rather than an ornithologist.  After initial work with pheasants in Michigan, his career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed projects improving the habitat of specific waterfowl at various National Wildlife Refuges.  At Upper Mississippi  (WI) he worked with Wood Ducks; at Union Slough ( IA), Blue-Winged Teal; at Squaw Creek (MO), Snow Geese and Canada Geese; and at Lacreek (SD), Trumpeter Swans.  Even in retirement on the Lower Rio Grande, he added another specialty:  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

However, Harold had found his passion to be with Trumpeter Swans.  Trumpeters had nearly gone extinct in the 48 states by the 1930s.  The ensuing work of the Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving this nesting population, was extended by The Trumpeter Swan Society, whose mission is to restore the species to its previously existing breeding and migration ranges.  After retirement in 1980 he volunteered with The Trumpeter Swan Society, serving on the board of directors and two terms as president.

In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to consider making a donation to or becoming members of The Trumpeter Swan Society.   The family will appreciate cards and reminiscences from Harold’s many friends.  A memorial is planned later this spring and is open to the public.  It will take place June 16, 2012, at 2 PM at The Valley Nature Center, 301 S. Border Ave, Weslaco, (956) 969-2475.


November 11, 2009
Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David. K. Weaver

Photo: Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David K. Weaver

On the road some 300 days a year lecturing as an advocate for wildlife, Dr. Jane Goodall discovers many fascinating stories of endangered species and the people who have labored to save them.  In her latest book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, Dr. Goodall chronicles many of these inspiring efforts.

With co-authors Thayne Maynard and Gail Hudson,  she has collected the stories into a 392 page volume that focuses on the very most endangered species in the world.  On her associated website, Hope for Animals and Their World, she highlights additional species, including the Trumpeter Swan.  You’ll find rich descriptions of her personal experiences with Trumpeters portrayed in prose. She describes standing close to them, the sounds they make, the size of their feet.

Jane Goodall chronicles the decline of Trumpeters and the establishment of The Trumpeter Swan Society, which began with a small group of dedicated individuals committed to the swan’s secure restoration.  She writes about a mid-1970’s TTSS conference near Yellowstone where managers weighed the merits of restrained populations held by the tether of winter feed. In attendance was Ruth Shea, currently a TTSS Director. Listening to those how envisioned had a larger vision, one that has fueled a life passion and years of professional work with swans. Ruth’s vision and life story resonates with Dr. Goodall’s. Both have experienced intense field research time that inspired them to become advocates for their species.

Dr. Goodall continues with the 1960 launch of Trumpeter restoration at LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge, located in South Dakota on the border of Nebraska. She describes a personal visit to the area, guided by biologists Tom Koerner and Shilo Comeau on a bitter cold day. She shares rich memories of seeing two swans in flight.

 She goes on to describe restoration in western Montana, and gives a great description of swan biologist Greg Neudecker, a former University of Minnesota football player.  Greg is quite at home handling tenacious swans, working with conservation-minded landowners, and inspiring public participation in restoration efforts. Applauding that Trumpeter restoration success is possible in a region where high quality wetlands are held by private ranchlands, author and activist Jane Goodall says that nowhere on Earth is there a better model for conservation than the Blackfoot program.

Her closing section holds a sweeping quote from TTSS’ Ruth Shea who concludes that the Trumpeter Swan “was nearly destroyed by the unthinking actions of many people across North America. But it also was restored by the thoughtful and dedicated actions of many people, who shared a common vision and worked together.

If you share this vision, please take action! Join TTSS and help us be more effective today!