Conservation success is based on windows of opportunity. These openings are sometimes rare and fleeting. The art of conservation is recognizing the opening and getting through it, usually in some policy forum, where achievement can be made.

Ken Robison was a pioneer in opening those windows. Ken recently passed away at the age of 79, after a long illness. As an editorial writer for the Idaho Statesman in the 1960s and 70s, Ken was a conservation voice writing for a conservative newspaper. Editorials opposing a mine in the White Clouds, opposing dams in Hells Canyon, supporting protection of the Middle Fork Salmon along with countless fish and wildlife issues, are all examples of where Ken pried open a window of opportunity.

It was no small thing to have Idaho’s capital city opinion page speaking out on these issues. Media has changed a great deal over the years, as has Idaho. But back then, newspapers were powerful community voices and conservation editorials were important statements in what was largely a pro-development, pro-extraction time. Just as the technology of mining and dam building was reaching unforeseen scale, Idaho was coming to grips with how fragile our resources were and how lucky we were to live here. These editorials were important calls for restraint.

I recently spent a bit of time with Ken in his home, at his invitation, to pick up a couple boxes of his book Defending Idaho’s Natural Heritage. Ken’s book is a history of conservation, and serves as a foundation for everything ICL does today. It’s  a history too rarely told, of citizens working together, often against great odds, to protect resources many take for granted today.

Ken would later serve in the Idaho Legislature, still a conservation advocate, and also an advocate for taxpayers where he led an important-and successful-initiative for the tax exemption for homeowners. As former Governor Cecil Andrus said in an Idaho Statesman story, "As a legislator, [Ken] was always thinking of the little guy."

As I met with Ken to pick up the books, I was struck by how much my generation owes him. But that was all in my head, not in what he said. Seeing my grey hair, what he wanted to know was how many young people were at ICL, and what we were doing to ensure the legacy we’ve all been so blessed to enjoy. He wanted to know that Idaho will always have passionate defenders. I named the ICL staff and others I knew, young people all, firmly holding the torch, a light he helped create in Idaho.

His eyes sparkled with that light. Together we work to pass it on and keep it bright.