My house and Conservation Force’s main office were in the heart of the area struck by hurricane Katrina. Both remain inaccessible and out of operation as I write this. Our staff is misplaced. They have completely lost their homes, possessions and motor vehicles. Our own home may not be salvageable. All appliancea and electronic devices must be discarded. Every wall must be gutted. Most of our personal possessions have been rendered worthless by water and mold. Everything on the first floor – everything- is absolutely finished. No one had insurance.
In five generations of living in New Orleans, never has my family experienced or anticipated such a devastating storm. Much worse than the media has captured, it defies the imagination. Over 125 miles wide, the storm had gusts of wind over 200 miles per hour. A friend called in the late night. He and his son screamed that they had just made one last desperate attempt to reach safety and were frightfully shocked to have the wind driven rain take the skin off of their faces. That was their last known phone call before perishing in the torrent of waves and current in the night. They had been helping look after some Conservation Force property, but it was not the only property of Conservation Force lost that night. Three rooms of our home were full of Conservation Force documents and equipment. Our home was really where most Conservation Force work has been done. Absolutely nothing is salvageable. Mountains of documents from the Argali litigation, prior CITES conferences, hunters rights research and so much more have been destroyed.
We fear that we’ve lost more than our friends and our possessions. Conservation Force itself is at risk after we’ve devoted so much of our lives to it. Whether or not Conservation Force maintains its leadership and productivity is now up to donors more than ever before. This time, Conservation Force needs help to survive at all. We’ve opened a temporary office at 300 Main Street, Natchez, Mississippi, 39120. Mail and contributions can be sent there at this time.
We’ve also taken steps to move our office within metro New Orleans. In four to six weeks, we expect to open a new, expanded office (no space left at home) at the cloverleaf on interstate highway I/10 that you saw all the refugees transit through on TV. They were helicopter-ed to that point of higher ground, then bused out from there.
We’d like to thank those friends around the nation who offered Chrissie and I a temporary place to reside and even offices. Those individuals include Lacy and Dorothy Harber, Barbara and Bill Strawberry, Bob & Marg Kern, Michael and Mary Jo Salmon, Mary and Warren Parker, Cheri and Russ Eby, Don Causey, Eugene Lapointe, George and Rebecca Flynn, Jackie and Charles Harvey, Charles Leidheiser and Jeff Rann. It was heartening to receive the sincere offers, but we have had to stay close on hand to rebound more quickly. We would also like to recognize Lacy and Dorothy Harbor, Gerard Pasanisi of Tanzania, Bert Klineburger, Dallas Safari Club and Dallas Ecological Foundation, William Heubaum, Jerry Rubenstein, John Ellis, Brian Ham, Dan Dessecker, Karl and Carolyn Rathjean, Don Causey and a generous anonymous donor who have made extra contributions to Conservation Force because of the storm.
We have not let the storm deter us from Conservation Force’s mission. I attended the historic White House Conference on Cooperation Conservation in St. Louis, Missouri, as the storm raged. I then attended the 96th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, where I serve on five committees and made four presentations. By the time you read this, I will be in Douala, Cameroon, at the first of the African lion conservation strategy meetings. We are determined not to let the storm destroy Conservation Force, but our fate is in the hands of those who support us.
Though the clock is ticking on Conservation Force, the Humane Society of United States and International Fund for Animal Welfare have made a bundle on the storm. They reportedly have made high profile missions into the heart of the flooded areas and hacked into roofs to save some stranded pets. It indeed will be ironic if the storm destroys Conservation Force, but benefits them.