Liberty Lake man honored for elk habitat conservation
CONSERVATION — Rance Block of Liberty Lake was honored today for decades of work to protect wildlife habitat and sportsmen's access to the outdoors across the West, especially in Eastern Washington.
Block left a 15-year career at Boeing to join the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and dedicate his negotiation talents to conservation. Block recently retired from RMEF after 20 years during which he had a direct hand in protecting more than 130,000 acres of wildlife habitat in six western states.
“One would think that I have great anecdotes about kicking the dirt with Rance and a land-owner or dawn hikes to spot wildlife … I don't,” said Peter Dykstra, Coalition board president who presented the award. “I know him from countless hours in community rooms working with communities to overcome differences, find common ground, and build dreams protecting vital wildlife habitat. The reality of conservation work is that you spend a lot of times indoors and not a lot of time outdoors.”
In his address, Block highlighted his work on the Rock Creek project as an example of how unconventional community partnerships and grants from sources like the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program can help preserve access for all outdoor enthusiasts.
The project near Naches protected more than 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat, addressing the problem of checker-board ownership that put access to the area in jeopardy.
The project, which closed in late 2012, garnered broad support from elected and business leaders in the community in addition to recreationists.
He was involved in several similar efforts to block up checkerboarded land that will boost efforts to maintain the big-game habitat as well as assure public access.
Block offered some advice to conservationists looking to expand partnerships:
“It's important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of elected officials … potential partners … of outdoor users,” Block said. “In conservation work, there are a lot of potential partners that often go ignored when you're looking for supporters. It is important to recognize that people utilize our public lands differently and it's important to find ways to incorporate their support.”
He also noted that many of the breakfast's almost 700 attendees, most of them were over the age of 35. Block encouraged everyone in the room to take time to listen to the younger generation and craft programs that appeal to future conservationists.
Incidentally, the WWRC knows a few things about partnerships and conservation. Since it was founded 24 years ago, WWRC has leveraged $1.1 billion in government grants and appropriations and private donations to fund over 1,000 projects across the state. The money has used to create playgrounds for disabled kids, build urban and rural trails, buy wildlife habitat, secure farmland from development, provide new water access and more.
About the Joan Thomas Award:
In 2008, the Coalition created the Joan Thomas award to recognize lifetime conservation champions who worked tirelessly to ensure that the next generation would have access to the same beautiful parks, wildlife habitat and working farms that we enjoy today. Joan was the first recipient of the award.
Among her many accomplishments Joan was the former Chair of the State Parks Commission a former President and founding board member of the Washington Environmental Council, President of the League of Women Voters and a board member of the Mountains to Sound Greenway.
Joan left a legacy across the state, from her commitment to preserving Washington’s State Parks to the protection of so many other iconic places like Discovery Park in Seattle.