A Naturalist’s Reflection on the Legacy of Legendary Conservationist Jim Fowler

Jim Fowler, beloved naturalist, conservationist and media personality, has passed away at the age of 89. Jim devoted his life to educating the public about wildlife and promoting conservation through his many television and public appearances.

Jim first began his media career as co-host of the Emmy Award winning wildlife series Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom alongside Marlin Perkins. He later hosted the show solo and became the wildlife correspondent on NBC’s Today Show. He was a regular guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where he appeared more than 100 times with wildlife ambassadors to deliver conservation messages.

More than that, Jim was a long-time supporter of the National Wildlife Federation, serving on our advisory board. In 2012 he was the recipient of our Conservation Achievement Award for his tireless work inspiring people to care about wildlife.

On a personal note, Jim was a mentor-from-afar for me, though he didn’t know it. I only met him once, when he received our Conservation Achievement Award, but his work in the media had a big influence on my own career. As a kid seeing Jim on television, the seed was planted that would grow into becoming a naturalist and doing everything I could to share my own love of wildlife, with the goal of inspiring conservation.

Jim understood the power of entertainment media to reach Americans and was an expert in helping viewers learn about wildlife, leveraging TV to promote conservation. Because of Jim’s trailblazing, I’m able to do very similar work in the media on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation today. Those who knew Jim well describe him as kind and caring and that was certainly my impression when I had the privilege of meeting him.

Jim’s mission was this:

“The continued existence of wildlife and wilderness is important to the quality of life of humans. The challenge of the future is that we realize we are very much a part of the earth’s ecosystem, and learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.”

We at the National Wildlife Federation couldn’t agree more. Jim was a tremendous voice for wildlife conservation and will be sorely missed.