Elk advocate on breaking down barriers over a cup of coffee

October 18, 2013


This year, the Coalition recognized Rance Block of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as our Joan Thomas Award winner.

Rance left a career at Boeing to dedicate his life to wildlife habitat conservation at the Elk Foundation. He recently retired, but he is still influencing the future of the conservation community in Washington.

During his speech, Rance held up a cup of coffee and said, “It’s a symbol of the most important aspect of conservation, and that’s the ability to listen. It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of elected officials… It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of potential partners.”

“In tough economic times, partnerships are the key to showing broad support for projects,” Rance said. “It’s important to have a cup of coffee and listen to the needs of outdoor users… It is important to realize that people utilize our lands differently and it’s important to find a way to incorporate their support.”


Rance also emphasized that we need to find new ways to get kids outside to usher in a new generation of conservationists. He recommended funding out what interests young people in our communities and designing programs around those interests.

The award was presented by Coalition board president, Peter Dykstra, who has spent a lot of time working with Rance, but not in the ways one would expect.

“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 Dykstra.

“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.”

Thanks for your service Rance, we hope you get to spend more time outside in the future.

About Joan Thomas’ impact on the outdoors:
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.

She was a leading advocate for some of Washington’s first environmental laws that were met with resounding bipartisan support.

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, a founding board member at the Coalition, 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 and all our local parks and trails.

Elk photo by Lisa Williams on Flickr used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Rance Block and Peter Dykstra by Sy Bean for the Coalition.