A Commitment to Conservation

I have dedicated my life to caring for the environment, and as I became more involved, I became more passionate. I try to follow Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘never quit’ in everything I do.

Lowell Baier image

55-year professional career as an attorney, conservationist, activist, commercial real estate developer, and author may be enough for many of us to slow down and ease into retirement. That is not true of Lowell E. Baier ’61, ’19H.

“There are still mountains to climb,” he says. “I have dedicated my life to caring for the environment, and as I became more involved, I became more passionate. I try to follow Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘never quit’ in everything I do.”

The mountains Lowell is climbing are no longer the physical treks he has made across the western United States and Asia; rather, they represent the environmental causes and projects to which he has passionately committed his life. He is an activist for conservation, working for the passage of legislation that protects America’s land and natural resources and ensuring its proper enforcement.

As with all of us, Lowell’s childhood and adult life have been shaped by many influences. He says his upbringing on a farm outside of Remington, Indiana, the time he spent on his grandfather’s homestead ranch in Montana, the mentors who have guided him, and his Christian faith — reinforced while he was a student at Valpo — are the most impactful.

“Growing up, we went to church every Sunday, and I had a strong faith,” Lowell says, “but it really wasn’t until I attended Valpo that I gained a real understanding. It was at Valpo that my faith grew and became an important part of my life.” Lowell considers public service to be the highest calling of citizenship in the U.S., and his career has been a passionate pursuit of that calling. In recognition of his work to make the world a better place, Valparaiso University awarded him an honorary doctor of public service at May 2019 Commencement. He had previously received honorary degrees from Indiana University and Rocky Mountain College. Of the three honorary degrees, Lowell believes the one he received from Valpo is most satisfying, as it recognizes his work in public service.

He has been recognized many times for his leadership and service. In 2008, he was named Conservationist of the Year by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In 2010, Outdoor Life magazine named him Conservationist of the Year; the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies likewise recognized him in 2013, as did the National Wildlife Federation in 2016. In the early 1970s, he was one of the founders of the Wild Sheep Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the habitat of the four species of wild sheep in North America. Since 1975, Lowell has been active in the Boone and Crockett Club, and he was the first person to be named president emeritus. The club, founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, is America’s oldest conservation organization.

Theodore Roosevelt, considered to be the father of conservation in the U.S., created the United States Forest Service in 1905 to protect wildlife and public lands. Seven years after Roosevelt left office, the National Park Service was established, with 23 of the 35 sites originally selected by Roosevelt now managed by that organization.

At a very young age, Lowell greatly admired President Roosevelt’s work in protecting the nation’s natural resources as his own lifelong passion for conservation was being developed. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt is one of Lowell’s heroes. Through the firsthand experience of seeing the destruction of the land caused by unregulated mining, farming, and grazing, Roosevelt was driven to his conservation efforts. Lowell developed his own appreciation for the impact people have on nature while growing up on a farm and spending summers at his grandfather’s Montana homestead.

It was that passion to protect the environment that led to Lowell’s legal career as an attorney with expertise in natural resources and wildlife conservation. After earning his law degree from Indiana University, he moved to Washington, D.C., to practice law and became a well-known advisor to elected officials and educators on environmental and conservation issues. Lowell has testified before Congress, took the lead in drafting President George H.W. Bush’s wildlife conservation agenda in 1989, and has served as an advisor and counselor to subsequent administrations.

His book, “Inside the Equal Access to Justice Act: Environmental Litigation and the Crippling Battle over America’s Lands, Endangered Species, and Critical Habitats,” was selected as a grand prize winner by the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award. It is the first book-length, comprehensive examination of the little-known Equal Access to Justice Act and its role in environmental litigation, focusing on its effect on wildlife and endangered species conservation.

Of his numerous career accomplishments, Lowell says the most gratifying was his work to acquire more than 24,000 acres to virtually expand Theodore Roosevelt National Park by one-third its size. In 2004, then Department of the Interior Secretary Gail Norton personally asked Lowell to undertake a project to secure the last remaining piece of privately held land that was originally Theodore Roosevelt’s historic Elkhorn Ranch. From 2004 to 2007, Lowell led a successful national campaign to raise $6.5 million and add the land to the existing national park, located in the Badlands of western North Dakota.

The importance of the Elkhorn Ranch on the conservation movement is historic. Established by Roosevelt in 1884, it has been called the “Cradle of Conservation” and the “Walden Pond of the West.” It was from the Elkhorn Ranch, 1884–1887, that Roosevelt developed the cornerstones of the conservation movement, leading to what is now our national park system, forest reserves, wildlife refuges, and other key components.

Lowell Baier is a strong example of a Valpo graduate who is doing good things in a world that needs him. These many project sand evidence of good work are only a few examples from his 55 years of public service. And he is not done yet.

So, what is the next big project? Always learning, always working, always driven to make a difference and improve, Lowell will soon add another accomplishment to his highly successful career. He is completing two omnibus books on the history, application, and challenges of the Endangered Species Act as it approaches its 50th anniversary.