(1936 - )
Evergreen resident Boyd Norton has amassed an assortment of awards for writing and photography accomplishments as a wilderness conservation activist.
Norton’s respect and concern for wild places was touched off during a visit in the early sixties to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. He and his wife, Barbara, were fresh out of college.
Raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Norton said of his hometown: “There wasn’t a hell of a lot of wilderness there, so we just reveled in our discovery of all these hidden places in the West.”
Norton had a physics degree from Michigan Tech; Barbara was a chemist. He landed a job with the Atomic Energy Commission to study nuclear reactor safety. With a team of fellow nuclear “hot rodders,” they intentionally blew up one of the reactors. But after a few years, Norton became disillusioned with the bureaucracy. He left in 1969 for a job with the Wilderness Society in Colorado and the couple moved to Evergreen.
By this time he had already gotten his foot in the book and magazine publishing doors, producing wilderness photos and articles.
“I wanted to share with people what it was we found such joy in discovering in these out of the way places and wild country,” he said.
He also discovered that too many of the places he enjoyed were at risk. He worked with other conservationists to save Hells Canyon, along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho, where a dam was proposed. It took nearly a decade, but eventually it was designated a National Recreation Area.
Scenarios similar to the Hells Canyon battle continued in different places with different associates. More awards for Norton accompanied several projects. His most recent book “Serengeti: The Eternal Beginning” was a finalist in the 2012 Colorado Book Awards.
He was named “One of the 40 most influential nature photographers from around the globe” by Outdoor Photography Magazine in Great Britain in 2010. His work has been published in numerous mainstream magazines and he has written 16 books, with more on the way.
He is the recipient of the Ansel Adams Award from the Sierra Club for his “use of still photography to further conservation causes over a lifetime.”
He is a founder and Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and Writers. In 1980 he was acknowledged by the Environmental Protection Agency for “important, exciting environmental photography and writing.”
Norton’s efforts to save wilderness treasures in the United States have led him to testify before the U.S. Congress. Beyond the borders of the states, he has been effective in the designation of Siberia’s Lake Baikal as a World Heritage Site.
Back at home in Evergreen, Norton was naturally drawn to grass-roots groups with strongly held convictions.
After meeting Bill and Louise Mounsey and Mike and Ann Moore, the Nortons got involved with the Brook Forest Parent Group in the early seventies. Norton recalled parent meetings to support the Open Living School, which later gained notoriety for its alternative offerings.
“It was very informal, but we were very concerned parents,” he said.
Mounsey encouraged Norton to help him set up the nonprofit University of the Wilderness, which provided trips promoting conservation awareness and photography classes. “It was about exposing people to wilderness,” Norton recalled.
“Mounsey also introduced us to a handful of people who were really upset over the idea of having the 1976 Olympic Winter Games Nordic competition in Evergreen,” Norton added.
Residents were particularly irked that a biathlon event was planned near the high school. Game organizers had even suggested event parking could be accommodated on a frozen Evergreen Lake.
Two groups — Protect Our Mountain Environment, (POME) and Citizens for Colorado’s Future — were successful in 1972 of making sure Colorado voters rejected public funding of the XII Winter Olympics. It was held in Austria instead.
“We were eventually vindicated because our argument was, ‘What are you going to do for snow?’” Norton said. As it turned out, the February landscape in 1976 was not a white one.
Norton’s persistence has paid off to help protect cherished places whether in Africa or Alaska.
Sources: Boyd Norton; Evergreen Our Mountain Community by Barbara and Eugene Sternberg; “The Olympics That Weren’t” by Cynthia Psarakis, Feb. 18, 2010 www.nbcnews.com.