Hope Ryden

August 1, 1929 – June 18, 2017

North American wildlife lost one of their staunchest advocates with the death in June of esteemed author and naturalist Hope Ryden. AWI is honored to have worked with Hope: From the 1980s through 2004, she served on the board of trustees of AWI’s lobbying arm, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL). After AWI and SAPL merged in 2004, Hope moved to AWI’s scientific committee.

Hope’s first in-depth project for animals occurred in her mid-30s, when she produced an ABC documentary on the rescue of thousands upon thousands of wild animals in Suriname after their rainforest home was flooded by the construction of a dam on the Suriname River. (A photo from the rescue operation hung in AWI’s former Georgetown, DC, office for decades.)

A July 11, 1968, news segment Hope produced on Bureau of Land Management plans to round up wild horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming shifted the political landscape and prompted Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall to establish the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range—a refuge of more than 33,000 acres. Hope went on to testify at House and Senate hearings on the protection of wild horses on public lands, which culminated in the adoption of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. At one such hearing, Hope stated, “Although I am normally not a crusader, the plight of the mustangs so gripped me that I left my job to spend full time studying, photographing, and writing about these persecuted animals.” Later, Hope testified before the Supreme Court as part of a successful defense of the constitutionality of the law.

Hope became renowned for her keen, meticulous observation of animals, catching behaviors not previously documented. She spent years gathering data on wild mustangs, coyotes, and beavers, among others. Her extensive writing and artful photography exuded her passion for wildlife. She opened readers’ eyes to the moving and intricate lives of individual animals and families, not just of species as a whole. Among her more than twenty books: America’s Last Wild Horses, God’s Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote, Bobcat Year, and Lily Pond: Four Years with a Family of Beavers. To the end, Hope remained an activist, ever advocating for the right of wild beings to live in their natural habitats without threat from people set on their destruction. AWI is forever grateful to Hope for offering us an intimate look into the lives of wild animals and for motivating countless citizens to call for their protection.

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