This One’s for You, Larry
By Jim Glines, Black Hills Chapter
Some people move us in immeasurable ways. Larry Baesler, former South Dakota lands program manager, was one of those people. His passion for family, hunting, conservation—and life—was contagious, even in those last months before we lost him to cancer. Since his death, we volunteers in South Dakota have pledged to carry on his vision of making the Black Hills a better place for elk and other wildlife.
I met Larry in 2006 after he was first hired by RMEF. At the time, I was the Black Hills Chapter chair. Larry and I became fast friends, and we frequently took trips to look at different parcels for possible purchase or conservation easements. While out driving around one day, I showed him these water catchment sites that were in sad shape because they hadn’t been maintained. I asked Larry if he could help me get permission from the Forest Service to allow our chapter to repair and maintain all the guzzlers in the Black Hills. He drafted an agreement which was signed by the Forest Service and RMEF and we were in business.
But first we had to find more than 100 guzzlers, map them, and figure out what it was going to take to get each one back in shape. Larry called it the “Great Easter Egg Hunt” as it was tough to locate some sites. On one of our trips we passed by a spot that Larry thought could really use a guzzler. I contacted the landowners, Jim and Mary Scull, who coincidentally had just placed a conservation easement on the property (with Larry’s help). They were all for it. However, the good news was dampened considerably when Larry told me around the same time that he was very sick with cancer.
Despite his illness, Larry insisted on charging forward with the guzzler endeavor. He brokered a deal with Fiberglass Structures out of Montana, who supplied us with tanks for those first projects. We could not have gotten started without their help. Our crew of volunteers from the Black Hills and Platte Creek chapters loves putting these water sites back into service for the critters. We work about 10 days each summer, and we can put in a new guzzler with about 10 hours of hard work. The community supports our efforts by donating needed materials ever year.
We lost Larry in September 2008, but his spirit stays with us. That fall the crew built a guzzler and erected a sign honoring Larry’s passion and dedication to wildlife and RMEF’s mission on the Scull property, which was one of his favorite places in the Black Hills. In 2009, we maintained and restored 55 guzzlers. This year we built two new guzzlers in addition to monitoring the rest and repairing a few.
Special thanks to everyone who contributes to this effort. It’s one we plan to continue far into the future, in Larry’s honor.