Memoirs of a combat biologist

This is an excellent review of a book on a very important topic. How government resource agency biologists choose to look at their work -- as conservation vocation or as agency career -- does determine, daily, how the war to conserve and protect the environment and the laws enacted to conserve and protect it is conducted.

The review, however, cannot be read without reference to another book, Tom Harris' Death in the Marsh (Island Press, 1991), about Felix Smith, the reviewer, and his his defense of the honor of the biologist in the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge War of the 1980s.

“Choosing a Conservation Vocation or a Bureaucratic Career; Personal Choices and the Environmental Consequences” by Richard “Dick” Kroger—Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada–2005. Reviewed by Felix Smith.

This book should be a must read by all those contemplating or studying for a career with most any resource conservation and environmental agency. It also should be read by the working professional in those same organizations. Mr. Kroger postulates the general lack of strong conservation ethic and poor choices made by career conservationists have caused more needless environmental and resource degradation than any other single factor, especially at the level of state and federal agencies.

Mr. Kroger coins the term “Conservation Vocationist” to identify those who are dedicated to the proper natural resource management from “Bureaucratic Careerist” who work in the field of conservation but instead are motivated by their own selfish personal interests.

The “Conservation Vocationist” has a strong conservation ethic. His or her choices / decisions are based on what is best for natural resource renewability and the perpetuation of a sustainable society. Choices / decisions by “Bureaucratic Careerists” all to frequently are guided by questions like -- what is the best plan of action to enhance or at least not jeopardize my career goals?

Those who have spent or who are spending their career in a state or federal conservation or environmental agency will quickly recognize some of the examples and situations Mr. Kroger describes based on his nearly 40 year career as a fish and wildlife biologist and project leader with federal agencies and a resource person with a non-governmental conservation organization. Mr. Kroger discusses his experiences with several agencies as he moved around the country. He spent a 5 plus year stint in Sacramento, California with the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service. His many moves helped strengthen his “Conservation Vocationist” ethic, broadened his background and sharpened his skills under variety of natural resource management situations.

Mr. Kroger’s presentation is straightforward. Each experience added to his solid science background. He was quick to realize that solid science and recommendations frequently get lost when a presentation was poorly conducted or the looks of the presenter were less than professional. He recommends that conservation and environmental biologists and project leaders must have a strong Conservation Vocationist ethic. This ethic is not an 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week thing. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year for the dedicated career Conservation Vocationist. It is life long, it is challenging, and frequently can be a life altering pursuit.

Mr. Kroger makes a great effort to explain the primary reasons why government conservation and environmental agencies do such a poor job managing and protecting our natural resources. I am sure there will be Bureaucratic Careerists who will vocally joust with Mr. Kroger. However these folks have not written a book on how to choose the best natural resource decisions to assure perpetual resource sustainability that is compatible with the spiritual and economic needs of all the people including those of future generations. While capitalistic greed and political influence is a fact of life in our democratic system of government, the truth must be told to those in political power and to the people who actually own the air and water; and the fish and wildlife and to a great extent the habitat upon which such renewal resources depend. Mr. Kroger gives the Conservation Vocationist outside of government a better understanding of some of the underlying reasons behind what alternative the Bureaucratic Careerist chooses, and how to better combat or correct them to effect better decisions in natural resource management. Non-government Conservation Vocationist and others may start seeking those reports and manuscripts gathering dust on agency shelves and away from public view.

Mr. Kroger gives an honest glimpse into his life, his Conservation Vocationist career choices and his passion for the fish and wildlife and ecosystem sustainability. He can be justly proud of his many accomplishments, both big and small. His book “Choosing a Conservation Vocation or a Bureaucratic Career; Personal Choices and the Environmental Consequences”, is a must read by aspiring Conservation Vocationists as well as the career professional in resource conservation and environmental agencies. I would also recommend the book to any one who is seeking a career with any agency or bureaucratic system, be it conservation and environmental, law enforcement, forensic science, teaching, law, and engineering to name just a few.

Mr. Kroger, to this day, carries his passion for fish and wildlife resources and the associated experiences up front. He has his own restoration effort well underway which consists of restoring 160 acres of burned out corn and soybean land to a tall grass prairie and wetlands in southwestern Minnesota.

To California Readers.

Mr. Kroger was a “combat biologist” during his stay in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Field Office, - Division of Ecological Services (1974 to 1979) and I was his supervisor. Dick Kroger was a point person with a passion to do what he could to protect and conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources and their dependent habitats. He was instrumental in developing Habitat Evaluation Procedures for California. This was especially important for protecting shoreline / wetland habitats. He was active writing grant proposals to fund biological evaluation studies for both San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento / San Joaquin Delta and was the biologist providing guidance and oversight for these activities. He was the key biologist behind developing the Service letter report –Fish and Wildlife – Problems, Opportunities and Solutions as a part of the Central Valley Project reanalysis effort. Much of this information was incorporated into the basic support package for the development and passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

Dick carries his passion for fish and wildlife resources and the associated experiences up front. When I talked to him recently, he was sitting on his porch over looking his prairie – wetland restoration area, he interrupted the conversation with “I just saw a hen wood duck fly into a nesting box” and “there goes a white-tailed deer about 100 yards out”.

Mr. Kroger can be reached at 1-507-768-3608


2067- 530th Street
Wood Lake MN 56297-1421