A Conservation Icon Comes to Life

This Week in NWF History

Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.

J.A. Brownridge. Photo by R.F. Hildebrand
J.A. Brownridge. Photo by R.F. Hildebrand
In the late 1950s, J.A. “Ash” Brownridge, a longtime National Wildlife Federation executive, developed Ranger Rick Raccoon and his friends to cultivate future generations of conservationists, engaging them with wildlife and the natural world in fun ways.

Speaking to children about the environment was a departure from much of the conservation movement at the time, which focused almost exclusively on inspiring adults to action. Brownridge, who joined the Federation in 1949, realized that incorporating characters to convey conservation messages was a great way to motivate and engage children to be environmental stewards in their own right. His famous character, Ranger Rick, first appeared in 1958’s The Adventures of Rick Raccoon and provided the basis for the Federation’s award-winning Ranger Rick magazine, first issued in 1966. He also wrote a second book, Ranger Rick and the Great Forest Fire, to accompany a children’s board game.

Ranger Rick magazine became the children’s counterpoint to National Wildlife magazine, previously founded by Brownridge in 1962. Both publications continue to this day, highlighting important conservation issues and illustrating the day in, day out efforts across our national network of affiliates.

Brownridge’s first publication. Photo from NWF

As a result of Brownridge’s vision, more than 50 million Americans have been introduced to nature through the pages of Ranger Rick magazine — a conservation education legacy that remains strong today with a reach of more than half a million homes across the United States for both Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick, Jr.

To engage the youngest generation of learners, the National Wildlife Federation just launched Ranger Rick Cub, a new publication for children ages 0-4, to present animal learning in fun ways through real-life stories, photographs, games, and sing-song poetry.

Ranger Rick’s look has evolved over the decades, always remaining true to his enduring goal of environmental conservation. He even has made some new friends to accompany him on his adventures! Today he is sporting a new look as part of his 50th anniversary celebration, thanks to artist and creator of Yo Gabba Gabba!, Parker Jacobs. Take a look at how Parker brings Ranger Rick to life:


Brownridge’s leadership and vision inspired generations at the National Wildlife Federation to focus on educating budding conservationists of all ages, and the legacy of Ranger Rick, we hope to continue to inspire conservationists for generations to come!

Bring Rick HomeLearn more about NWF’s award-winning publications for children and subscribe to Ranger RickRanger Rick, Jr., or Ranger Rick Cub to see our beloved conservation icon.