[Kim Richey] [Links]

Fischer's efforts to reintroduce wolves
to Yellowstone result in landmark

Hank Fischer's interest in environmental issues caught fire about the time the Cuyahoga River went up in smoke.

"I had been interested in the outdoors since I was a kid growing up near the Cuyahoga River," says Fischer, BGS '71, a 1967 graduate of Stow High School near Akron. "You couldn't help but be a little interested in the environment when you grew up near one of the most polluted rivers in the country."

Fischer continued a family tradition by attending Ohio University - both his parents and his two brothers and sister also graduated from OU - but it wasn't until he made the long journey from Athens to his new home of Missoula, Mont., in the early 1970s that he began to plant the seeds for a career as a leading wildlife conservationist and environmentalist.

Fischer's book, Wolf Wars: The Remarkable Inside Story of the Restoration of Wolves to Yellowstone, chronicles his successful struggle to help reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The book, published by Falcon Press last May, has received favorable reviews from more than 40 newspapers and led to Fischer's appearance on NBC-TV's "Nightly News."

Fischer developed his love for writing while earning a bachelor's degree in general studies. It was while he was earning a master's in environmental studies at the University of Montana that he became intrigued by the wolf issue. In 1977, he was hired as the northern Rockies representative for the wildlife conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, a job he still holds.

The U.S. Army and the U.S. Park Service eradicated wolves from Yellowstone in the late 1800s because the public believed wolves posed a danger to not only livestock, but also to wildlife. Ranchers and powerful livestock industry officials were outspokenly opposed when Fischer and other activists launched the effort to bring the wolves back to Yellowstone in the early 1980s.

Fischer was named to the congressionally appointed Wolf Management Committee. His testimony before Congress, in court and at public hearings played a pivotal role in the fight.

"Yellowstone isn't whole without wolves," Fischer says. "It has the densest population of big game species found anywhere in North America. Without the predators this area evolved with, the system doesn't function on all cylinders. It's like a car without a sparkplug."

The livestock industry, backed by political heavyweights like Wyoming legislators Dick Cheney and Alan Simpson, "used all of their considerable influence to try and stop wolf restoration," Fischer says.

Fischer, who claims to have been a professional conservationist longer than anyone in the region, launched a massive wolf education campaign aimed at winning over ranchers, citizens and politicians opposed to the idea. "One local newspaper called me the least popular man in Montana," Fischer says.

One of Fischer's most effective strategies was compromising to create the Wolf Compensation Fund to compensate ranchers for all verifiable livestock losses caused by wolves. Since the fund was created in 1987, 23 ranchers have been paid more than $19,000.

Fischer says it took $7 million and nearly 20 years to outmaneuver political opposition, but
in 1995 14 wolves captured in Alberta, Canada, were released into Yellowstone National Park. In January, 15 more wolves were reintroduced. Fischer said the wolves in Yellowstone have caused few problems.

"Wolves have become the featured species in Yellowstone. People want to see them. And their presence has had a positive economic impact on towns around the park. There's benefit in this for almost everyone," Fisher says.

Today, Fischer is a leader of a new initiative to restore grizzly bears to the large wilderness areas of Western Montana and Central Idaho. As with the wolves, there is stiff resistance to the plan. But Fischer and his allies are better prepared for this battle.

Many believe historians will use the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone as a marking place in the annals of wildlife conservation.

"This reintroduction of the wolves is an im- portant statement about how American attitudes toward predators have changed," Fischer said.

Richey finds a musical home
in country circles

Photo: Pamela Springsteen

By Caroline Miller

The next time you're driving down the road and flipping through the radio dial looking for country music, chances are you'll hear Ohio University alumna Kim Richey, BSRS '80.

Richey's self-titled debut album, released last May by Mercury Records, has received wide acclaim. The Los Angeles Times called Richey "the female newcomer to watch in 1995." Billboard magazine called her "one of Nashville's most distinctive new songwriting voices." And USA Today praised the album soon after it was released, writing that it "places her substantial voice and straightforward lyrics in a luxurious groove of big, rich guitar sounds."

Richey's music is country with a twinge of rock - "a slight Southern California country-rock feel," says USA Today. She appeals to the die-hard country music lover and the rock enthusiast who occasionally picks up a country album.

Richey grew up in rural Ohio and Dayton. She developed a love of music at an early age, collect-ing records at the expense of her aunt, who own-ed a music shop. Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" and Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe In Magic" were among her childhood favorites.

Richey learned to play guitar in high school, but never appeared on stage with regularity until she met songwriter Bill Lloyd and started a band while studying at Western Kentucky University. Two years later, the band broke up and Richey headed to Ohio University to finish her degree. Lloyd is among many musical comrades who appear on Richey's debut album.

"Since I was only at OU for two years, I didn't get involved in a lot of campus activities or go to a lot of sporting events, but living in Athens did influence my music," Richey said. "Friends introduced me to different types of music and bands."

After graduation, Richey stuck around for a year in Athens, working as a drug and alcohol counselor. Then she hit the road for several years, living in Colorado, South America, Boston, Europe and Washington state, and working in restaurants as a cook and bartender.

"I'd check out one place for awhile and then decide it was time to find someplace new," Richey said.

During her nomadic years, Richey kept in touch with Lloyd, who was in Nashville working as a songwriter. "Bill used to send me tapes of artists in Nashville. When I heard Steve Earle's 'Guitar Town,' it knocked me over. I said if this is the kind of stuff they're doing in Nashville, I've gotta be there," Richey said.

Richey arrived in Nashville in the fall of 1988 to try her hand as singer/songwriter/guitarist. After developing her own style of nontraditional country music - one with a twist of folk and rock -Richey found her way onto the radio as a co-writer for Randey Foster's "Nobody Wins," which eventually became a No. 1 hit on the country charts. She also sang backup on Trisha Yearwood's single "XXXs - OOOs," and teamed up with Mary Chapin Carpenter on backup vocals
for Pam Tillis' popular "Everytime You Walk In The Room."

Richey uses her new album to showcase her hard-driving voice. She co wrote each of the 13 songs on the record, songs that tell stories of rejected lovers and about "feeling good enough to love again."

Richey remembers the first time it sunk in that she was headed for success in the music business. "About a year or so ago, I was going to a New York radio station to promote my album. The station arranged to have a limo pick me up and, while I was in the limo, my song (featured single 'Just My Luck') came on," Richey said.

With success has come more hard work, longer hours and more stress. Richey began a three-month nationwide club tour in February. "This tour, it's so overwhelming," she says.

"I've been asked so many times, 'Where do you see yourself in the future?' At this point, I just want to make it to Friday. "

Caroline Miller, BSJ '96, is a student writer in the Office of University News Services and Periodicals.

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