Mike grew up in 1950s and ’60s Sonoma County. He was drawn to “everything outside” through weekends at his family’s cabins at Salmon Creek along the coast and on the Russian River. Drifting among wintering sandpipers along the coast, while laying in a canoe bottom, he developed his love of birds. Hiking trails in canyons filled with redwoods, madrones and oaks burned the scent of the coast ranges into his memory.
In 1972 he drove his VW bus with a McGovern sticker to Death Valley National Monument in Inyo County to teach in a two room K-6 school with his wife Nancy. In Inyo County, slightly larger than Connecticut, with less than 18,000 residents Mike got sand in his shoes and has never left the desert. Living among the “parkies” he began his decades as a desert conservationist. After moving to Lone Pine in the Owens Valley in 1980, Mike joined in the campaign for the 1994 CA Desert Protection Act. He helped lead tours of Death Valley and Saline Valley for Congressman Mel Levine (House author) and Senator Alan Cranston as well as various celebrities – “Botanist to the Stars.” He served 10 years on the Death Valley National Park Advisory Commission after President Clinton signed the bill into law.
In the Owens Valley Mike was a charter member of Eastern Sierra Audubon, the Bristlecone Chapter of CNPS, the Owens Valley Committee and Friends of the Inyo. He has been president or chair of every group that he has been a part of including the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The stamp of Los Angeles’ boot is heavy on the Owens Valley. LADWP water and land issues dominate conservation. Since the early 1980s he has helped return water to 62 miles of the Lower Owens River (dry since 1913), shaped the 1991 Inyo County/Los Angeles Long-term Water Agreement and began the current efforts to achieve protection for tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl that have returned to Owens Lake attracted to the Los Angeles Owens Lake Dust Control Project. Mike is Chairman of the Inyo County Water Commission and a member of the Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee.
Mike has written for many Sierra Club and Audubon chapter newsletters. He has been a participant in numerous radio and television productions dealing with desert water and wildlife. These include Japanese television, a BBC/ABC radio series on desertification, “There it is – Take it!”, a DVD guided auto tour of the Eastern Sierra, a KUED (Salt Lake PBS) program on the Las Vegas water grab in northern NV and two interviews with “Which Way LA?” (Warren Olney, KCRW).