New director adds ‘passion’ to conservation group |

New director adds ‘passion’ to conservation group

Nicole Frey
Ryan Demmy Bidwell is the new director of the environmental group Colorado Wild.

DURANGO – Growing up with a father in the paper industry, Ryan Demmy Bidwell says he quickly learned the importance of the wooden resource that supported his family. The appreciation broadened as Demmy Bidwell lived in Washington state for 10 years, spending much of his free time in the state’s abundant national forests. Today, his interest includes all the inhabitants of the forest, along with the environmental, political and economic aspects connected with the woods, he said.”I think I’ve always had a long-standing interest in the forest industry,” Demmy Bidwell said. “The interest eventually included conservation issues, which is important to me because (the forests are) a renewable resource, and we’re dependent on them in a number of ways. And that got me interested in federal forest issues.”Demmy Bidwell recently decided to apply his knowledge and interest as the new executive director of Colorado Wild, a nonprofit organization working to preserve wildlife habitat in Colorado.

Colorado Wild has made a name for itself tackling controversial issues, one of which is a proposed development of the Village at Wolf Creek. According to Colorado Wild, the proposed village would service more than 8,000 people while damaging meadows, creeks and pristine back country. The organization has sued the U.S. Forest Service over granting land to developers for the village, but it’s not the first time Colorado Wild has resorted to legal action over the forests it holds so dear. Jeff Parsons, the president of the Colorado Wild board of directors, said Demmy Bidwell was an attractive candidate for the job because “he has a detailed knowledge of the science behind forest management and a lot of experience in forest issues and a lot of passion.”Acknowledging nonprofit organizations don’t pay their employees nearly what they’re worth, Parsons said he feels fortunate Demmy Bidwell accepted his offer despite being “grossly underpaid.” Parsons added Demmy Bidwell is the first director Colorado Wild will have since founding director Jeff Berman resigned. Berman will continue to be involved in the organization. “There’s always concern about getting a right fit, and I think Ryan is just what we’re looking for,” Parsons said. “He’s a thoughtful, science-oriented, focused leader, and a very practical and strategic thinker. He has absolutely hit the ground running.”Demmy Bidwell said his time in Washington inspired him “to find management-grounded and scientific solutions for forests for the long term, not just the short term.”

“I feel like there are great opportunities to do a better job of taking care of our federal forests, so they continue to provide ecological service for generations to come,” he said. For the time being, Demmy Bidwell said he will work to maintain Colorado Wild’s two largest projects – the Forest Watch Campaign, which analyzes proposed work on forest land, and the Ski Area Citizens Coalition, which examines the actions of ski resorts. “It’s been a very busy month, but I’m feeling very encouraged,” Demmy Bidwell said. “I think there are a lot of opportunities to work toward better management of our public lands.”To Demmy Bidwell, one way to do this is to eliminate broad-based forest policy, and instead look at each issue on a case-by-case basis.”There’s a tendency to over simplify forest issues it’s boiled down to cutting or not cutting, building or not building,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s much more complicated, and we need to do a better job of finding a middle ground, to find what makes sense in a given place in a given time.”

But those battles will have to wait. For now, Demmy Bidwell is keeping plenty busy with the issues at hand and becoming acclimated to his new role.”I have a unique set of skills that will hopefully help me to continue what has been a successful track record that will take Colorado Wild into the future,” he said. Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism