Dan Brister, in the field with the buffalo. Flanked by two dear friends and colleagues, our web coordinator Chuck Irestone (left) and Ken Cole, our new executive director (right). BFC file photo.
Earlier this summer, BFC received heavy news when we learned that our executive director and beloved friend, Dan Brister, had made the decision to take on the challenges and opportunities of going to law school. Dan dedicated twenty years of his life to the buffalo and BFC, serving the campaign in more ways than we could ever properly thank him for. Dan served as a field volunteer, carpenter, mechanic, media coordinator, videographer, writer, editor, mentor, organizer, strategist, and so much more. He joined BFC in December 1997 (then Buffalo Nations), arriving on the eve of his birthday thinking he would volunteer for a week. The buffalo and the work of their defenders captured his heart and soul; that one week turned into two decades, time in which Dan gave everything he had to the cause for wild buffalo. Dan was a founding board member who later became our project director, and finally, executive director, a position he held for the past ten years. Many of you have had the pleasure of meeting Dan over the years, some in person, and some through his incredible gift of writing, weaving magic with language in service to the buffalo, and perhaps you’ve read his captivating book In The Presence of Buffalo. For BFC staff and board members, Dan was our right-hand man involved in every aspect of the campaign. A part of him truly is BFC and always will be. Dan is a man of many incredible gifts, enormous compassion, gentle firmness, and a brilliant mind. And more than that, Dan is one of our very best friends and we will miss his presence and the sound of his laughter. No words can convey how blessed we and the buffalo have been to have him with us, and, after becoming a lawyer, he will return to the buffalo and other wildlife, with new skills, enhanced wisdom, and a different kind of weapon to wield in their defense. Dan, you are our friend and brother for life. We love you and wish you all the best and support you every step of the way!
And, as they say, when one door closes, another one opens….
Ken Cole (center) in Lewistown, Montana last month with Buffalo Field Campaign advisory board member Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam (right), and Steve Turner from the band Mudhoney (left)
On August 21, we had the good fortune to welcome our new executive director and long-time volunteer and board member, Ken Cole to the position. Ken first volunteered with Buffalo Field Campaign in late 2001, after learning about BFC and later meeting other volunteers. He spent several years moving between his job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in the spring/summer to volunteering with BFC in the winters. His experiences at BFC exposed him to many perspectives and to the value of community and activism. He came a BFC board member in 2005.
Ken was born in Reno, Nevada, and grew up in Boise, Idaho, where his family has lived since 1888; he still lives there today with his amazing wife Susan. He is an avid fly-fisher, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He loves to hike in the backcountry and see new places throughout the West. He also enjoys seeing live music and playing guitar in his rock band, Ipper.
His father, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a hydrologist, is his biggest influence. He exposed Ken to the value of healthy ecosystems and gave him an understanding of how important it is to protect the lands—and the wildlife that depend on them.
Ken has a degree in Biology from Idaho State University and studied Fisheries Resouce Management at the University of Idaho. While in school, he worked summers as a crew leader doing field research and stream inventories for the U.S. Forest Service. He was also a fly-fishing guide for private outfitters in McCall and Yellowpine, Idaho.
After graduation, Ken became a Biological Technician for Idaho Fish and Game. During this time, he helped establish a locally-adapted brood population of steelhead on a tributary of the Upper Salmon River; processed biological information, tagged and counted salmon on the South fork of the Salmon River; and conducted fin-ray aging studies of Snake River Chinook at the Nampa Fisheries Research Laboratory.
In 2008, he was hired by one of BFC’s favorite organizations, Western Watersheds Project, first as the National Enviornmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator, and later as the Idaho Director. He worked to protect public ands and wildlife—with a focus on sage grouse, wolves, bighorn sheep, and others— from the impacts of abusive livestock grazing.
“I am so honored to be the new Executive Director of the group that I have loved for so long. I will work hard to help secure the future of wild buffalo and fight to allow them to roam new areas of Montana, Idaho, and beyond. I hope to use some of the tactics I learned while with Western Watersheds Project and place additional focus on the management of public lands near Yellowstone National Park. Let the buffalo roam!” ~ Ken Cole