The Dodson Journal

The Dodson Journal

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The Dodson Journal is a blog about people who I know and that are involved in interesting and fun activities, places that I find interesting and things that might be a tad unusual. Some posts will be about long past experiences and some will be from recent explorations. I hope you enjoy the posts and if you ever have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!


Permanently Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

In 1980 I lived in Henderson, Kentucky. While I was serving as the Naturalist for John James Audubon State Park and was engaged in several local environmental battles during my time in Kentucky, I was also asked to become a Regional Coordinator of the Alaska Coalition. My agenda was focused on convincing the elected officials of the State of Kentucky that Alaska was important and that they should support legislation that had been introduced and ultimately create places such as the Arctic National Refuge. Let me say that task was not easy, because the “coal mentality” of those elected representatives did not foster a conservation ethic for Kentucky, let alone for Alaska.

In the end, thousands of people across the State of Kentucky (and the rest of the United States) stood up for passage of the Alaska Interest Lands Arctic National Wildlife RefugeConservation Act (ANILCA). After much arm twisting, the two U.S. Senators both supported passage as did a number of Congressional members. I spent untold hours walking the halls of Congress, making telephone calls and attending meetings to urge passage of ANILCA. I was honored to be in the East Room of the White House on December 2, 1980 when President Carter signed the Act into Law.

Years later as an Adjunct Sustainability Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks I was pleased to be able to spend time in many of the areas that thousands of U.S. citizens helped to create, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was originally created in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range, and when ANILCA was signed into law in 1980 it was re-designated as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That was 36 years ago. Now, in 2016 it is time to permanently protect this magnificent Refuge at the top of the world.

David Allen Sibley is an American ornithologist. He is the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, considered by many to be the most comprehensive guide for North American field identification. His interview featured on the video below, much more eloquently than I am able to express in words the importance of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge once and for all.

Buy a Farm Book and Support the Cause


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On The Farm - The Uncertain Future of an American Legacy, is a book about the history and future of family farms and those individuals who refer to themselves as farmers. While many types of people consider themselves to be farmers, it takes hard work and special, dedicated people to turn a piece of land into a farm. This book is their story. It is also a call to action to save family farms, soil and to advocate locally produced food products.

On The Farm is a soft cover book that measures 10.5" x 7.5", retails for $20.00, (tax included) and contains 74 pages, with 28 color plates. A true collector’s item for anyone interested in farming, history and art, while at the same time contributing toward efforts to preserve family farms, promote local food and while promoting the use of sustainable agriculture practices.

I am proud to be the author of the book, which features 28 Color Plates by acclaimed artist Adriano Manocchia. Adriano contributed his artistic talents to create the original paintings which grace the pages of the book. The book Forward is written by Stephen Jones, PhD., President of Antioch University New England.

Proceeds from the sale of each book supports the ISC-Audubon F.A.R.M.S. Initiative (Food and Resource Management Sustainability). This effort FARMS Logo smallis aimed at advocating local family farms, local food and the use of sustainable best management practices.


Order your copy of On The Farm – The Uncertain Future of an American Legacy Today!,


Send your check for $20.00 per book (tax included) along with your name and mailing address to Ron Dodson, 1380 Indian Fields Road, Box 339, Feura Bush, New York 12067. Checks payable to The Conservation Company.



A Depressing Day at Hollyhock Hollow

I knew this day was coming. Ever since I retired from Audubon International and the organization abandoned Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, where 1they were headquartered for the first 25 years of their existence. I have gone to the sanctuary 2-3 times a week to check on the place. Weather permitting, I walked the trails and around the existing two buildings. Most days, I was not alone because the public still loves Hollyhock Hollow. But, I never saw one person from Audubon International at the sanctuary during any of my visits.

On a regular basis, I would send messages and/or pictures that I took at the sanctuary to Board members of Audubon International expressing concern for how things were looking at the sanctuary, particularly as it related to the buildings.

037smIt all came to a head early last spring, when during one of my field trips to the sanctuary, I discovered several large dumpsters and a group of workers essentially gutting the main building. This building, by the way was called The Rienow Building in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Rienow the donors of Hollyhock Hollow and the ones who established a Trust Fund for the care and upkeep of the sanctuary.

One of the people involved in the “gutting” of the building saw my license plate (AUDUBON) and decided that I might want to have a look inside…and so I was given a tour. They told me that the building had suffered serious water damage, due to ice dams on the roof during the winter and also had several pipes that had frozen and come spring was spewing water down the walls. Evidently, according the workers, this situation had gone un-noticed for quite some time.

I must say that I was not the least bit surprised by all of this, because I had been reporting the deterioration and general abandonment topics to 2Audubon International for several months. However, it was this damage and subsequent gutting of the inside of the Rienow Building that promoted me to report the general neglect and abandonment to the New York Attorney General’s office of Charities Registration. (For the record, I must report that I did receive a telephone call from the Attorney General’s office after they received my complaint…but I have never hear from them again since that call.)

So today, August 25, 2015 during a visit to the sanctuary, I see that the Rienow Building is being demolished completely. The second story was already gone, as was most of the first floor. A large excavator was sitting in the middle of the first floor pile of rubble. A few dumpsters were scattered about, full of scrapped wood, metal and who knows what else. I note that all of the wood that I saw in the pile was in fine condition and certainly could have been salvaged. The steel “I Beam” that ran the length of the building as the main support for the second story had been seriously bent and essentially destroyed.

Aside from the depressing nature of all of this and the fact that it was named in honor of the Rienow’s, it is also depressing to think about all of the donated hours given by volunteers back in the early 1990’s who helped to rebuild what was a 4-Bay garage and 3 bedroom, upstairs apartment, and transform it into a totally new headquarters building for the organization then called The Audubon Society of New York State. We had a grand party when the building was completed and the keys were turned over to the organization. It took a lot of hard work and a significant amount of fundraising to complete the building. We actually ran out of money before the second floor was completed and only with a $25,000 contribution from the General Electric Foundation were we able to totally complete the Rienow Building. I know that was just a little over 20 years ago…but it seems like yesterday to me. But…in just 20 or so years to abandon Hollyhock Hollow and destroy the Rienow Building is unbelievable and depressing to me.HHH Demolition 8sm

Hollyhock Hollow is much more than a building however. It is a biologically awesome place, with a deep rooted history in the environmental movement. The original Rienow home was destroyed by fire in the late 1980’s. A fire in which Dr. Rienow lost his life. It was in that home were many books were written by the Rienow’s, including A Moment in the Sun, which many say was a major catalyst for the creation of the first Earth Day. The Rienow Building was rebuilt, partially with the insurance proceeds that resulted from the fire that burned down the main home. What few mementoes of the lives of the Rienow’s were on display in the Rienow Building. And, now just a short time later the Rienow Building has been destroyed by the organization who was supposed to be the caretakers of the Rienow legacy. A sad and depressing day for sure!


Grandpa Turn On Your IPad

Jude Dodson on iPadMy telephone rang last night at around 8:30 or so. My first thought was, “Man…another one of those computer generated calls about the latest and greatest thing that I’ve been selected to receive!” So…I picked up the phone with a rather indignant tone, with a “Hello!”  On the line I heard a high pitch little voice that said, “Hi Grandpa…turn on your IPad so we can call you.”

In just a few minutes, I had my IPad turned on and was talking with and looking at one of my 3 Grandkids. This one, Jude, lives in Florida and we don’t get to see him in person very much, so it is always a treat to visit via the IPad.

I have been amazed at how quickly he, as well as Liam my second grandson (and I’m certain that Nora, the Granddaughter will join the parade soon enough) picked up on using computers. Unlike us “old guys” they have no fear of just pushing buttons, clicking on the screen and doing this and that.

As I was taking my morning walk today, this got me to thinking about my Grandpa and what he would think about an IPad. Heck, even my Dad would think that the technologies of today are nearly magic in nature.

My Grandpa Dodson was born around 1882, so he would have been around the same age as Jude is today in 1885. I say “around” 1882 because nobody, including him ever knew for certain in what year he was born. But, we do know that he was born in central Kentucky and that he traveled, with his family from Kentucky toward the west around 1889, when he was about 7 years old in a covered wagon.


His Mom died, unfortunately about the time that they arrived in Daviess County, Indiana and my Great Grandma, Nancy Jane (Arvin) Dodson is buried in an unmarked grave in Maysville, Indiana. And, so…the Dodson brood ended up staying in Daviess County and that is what led to me being born and raised in Washington, Indiana.

When my Grandpa was around 3 years old In 1885, electricity was not a common household item, but household electricity had been invented and was literally only a couple of years away. Likewise so were automobiles, refrigeration, radios and such. I clearly remember going with Grandpa to get large blocks of ice to put in his ice box, which was standing in the kitchen corner.

In 1885 Alexander Graham Bell captured his own voice on his version of an IPad. If you want to hear his recording CLICK HERE

As for me, it would have been 1951 when I was the same age as Jude is now, and I was living in Washington, Indiana. That year, unemployment dipped to 3.3% in the US and new roads were built to take the ever increasing numbers of cars. The average family income was $3,700 per year and people had money to spend, so cars became more luxurious. More powerful engines were being added each year and options for two tone paint were all the rage. During this time things like turn signals were still an “extra” and most drivers still used hand signals to tell other drivers which way they were turning. Television continued to grow with popular programs like "I Love Lucy" and the first tests for Color Television Pictures were broadcast from Empire State Building on June 25

It will be 2075 when Jude is the same age as I am now. I wonder if he will have any grandkids. I wonder what life for him will be like 62 years from now. From covered wagons to the IPad in about 130 years. While the future might bring many technological wonders, I hope that future generations never forget where we all came from and that none of us would be here if it wasn’t for the work and sacrifices of those who came before us.



The Family Cycle - by R. Eric Dodson

Ron DodsonAt the start of this month my dad, Ron Dodson, celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday. I’d like to take a brief moment to congratulate my dad for surviving all that is required to raise three boys while also maintaining a strong marriage of forty-two years (and still going) with my mom, Theresa.  I tip my hat to you dad.

Things have certainly changed since dad was a young man, and he has witnessed a great number of historical moments over the years.  He’s seen many fads come and go.  Going to space and landing on the moon are now old news.  And bell-bottoms, mutton-chops, and the age of disco are too.  Thankfully.

I’ll bet that in dad’s youth he never thought about the day when he, himself, would be a grandfather.  And while it’s true that my parents had to wait a long time to have grandkids; thankfully, I was able to give them their first grandson just over three years ago. 

trail signI have quickly learned through the experiences of fatherhood what it means to have someone depend on you. To have someone who looks up to you. To have someone that you love unconditionally. And, as I look back over the course of my own life, I am thankful to my dad for standing by my side on so many occasions when no one else would.  I will forever be grateful for the unconditional love that you (and mom) have always had for me, and can only hope that I can be half the father to my son as you have been to me.

At the start of this month, and equally noteworthy as turning sixty-five years of age, dad officially retired from The Audubon Society of New York State, which goes by the fictitious name Audubon International.  Dad’s retirement is noteworthy because it came from an organization that he founded twenty-six years ago, and had dedicated his life to ever since – almost as a child of his own. 

Bruce DodsonOn dad’s last day of employment earlier this month, you might have thought that he would have spent the day celebrating with the staff, but you’d be wrong.  Instead, his last day was spent alone at the “old” headquarters location at Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary in upstate New York with not a single word spoken or written in acknowledgment of over a quarter century’s worth of tireless service and dedication.   

The evening after he turned off the lights to his old office for the last time he returned home to look through a camera-roll full of photos that he had taken earlier that day. The camera was filled with photos of every office room, from every angle, of both of the old office buildings where he had worked for most of his adult life.  All you’ll see in the photos though are a few discarded file cabinets, some empty desks, and the occasional overturned office chair.

Further down the camera-roll there were also photos taken outside the buildings as well. There was a photo of the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary trailhead sign anchored securely to the ground by rock and cement. The sign construction project was important because it had been a labor of love that Ron’s own dad, and my grandfather, Bruce Dodson, took upon himself to complete to help his son many years ago.  And there was of course a photo of an aging pavilion that rests next to a red, yellow and orange sea of bee-balm wildflowers and daylilies. A memorial plaque to my granddad hangs quietly on an inside truss of the pavilion.  He died the night after he completed construction of the pavilion for my dad, and the plaque and pavilion now exist as a symbol of a fathers love to a son, and a son’s appreciation for it.

Hollyhock Hollow SanctuaryThe Sanctuary at Hollyhock Hollow, once bustling with life and energy, now sits essentially abandoned.  The parking lot sits strangely empty these days. The buildings themselves equally barren of life.  An odd, but fitting parallel I suppose.

The organization that my dad founded, and the place that I once worked is not the same that it once was.  To me it is merely a shadow of its former self, but it certainly doesn’t take away from what it once was, and the ideals upon which it was founded. So, as a former employee, I would like to say “thank you” to my old boss for providing me with a great job and a great place to work out of for so many years.  It was a terrific place to work, and the good work that we did was substantial. The work that we did during its heyday literally changed the world.

First ASNY Board of DirectorsWhen dad visited that first golf course in Glens Falls, NY back in the late 1980’s, and assisted them in the removal of skunks who were tearing up the golf greens and tees, I would bet that not even dad, as visionary as he is, could have imagined at the time that he was setting the stage to launch an industry-changing endeavor. When dad created the Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, he not only developed a proactive means to encourage golf course superintendents to care for the environment, he also started the process of literally changing the way in which the golf industry was viewed by the general public.  I sincerely believe with all my heart that his vision, his efforts, and the efforts of the people that joined him and stuck with him along the way, not only changed the way that the golf course industry is seen as it relates to environment, but also has had a sincere and positive environmental impact on the planet. 

Ron DodsonWhen dad shut the door and locked it behind him that last day and reflected back on the past three decades of his career, my only hope is that he was proud of his accomplishments. I know that I am.  I am also equally proud of the ongoing efforts that we have, and still are creating, together, to continue building upon those very same life goals.

The folks at Audubon International announced Ron’s “retirement” nearly a year ago. I supposed that they were simply anxious to get on with running the organization in the new and different ways that they thought were “better”.  Regardless of a premature “retirement” announcement, the fact is that dad has no intention of sitting in a rocking chair for the rest of his days to await the pushing of the daises. Those of you who know Ron shouldn’t be surprised at that. His drive to assist people to care about the natural world and conservation where they live, where they work, and where they play is a passion like rarely seen before.  He is a visionary in the environmental sector, and I am proud to call him my dad.

Grandpa and JudeThe fact of the matter is that Ron and I are just getting started! It’s an exciting time that we both have looked forward to for quite some time now, and we are both very anxious to hit the ground running.  I am personally looking forward to continuing to build upon my dad’s life’s work, and I am so very lucky to have him by my side at the start of this – an all new journey with a brand new start.  

With these changes also comes a new and unleashed potential to do even more through The International Sustainability Council and Audubon Lifestyles (ISC-Audubon). With the framework and foundation already established through ISC-Audubon we plan to continue forward with dad’s (and now my own) life’s work.  I believe that our positive environmental impact on the planet will dwarf that of previous endeavors, and I look forward to getting on with it!

Through ISC-Audubon, I also look forward to restarting the journey all over again with my dad, and I plan to carry the torch forward into the next generation were I hope that someday my own son will carry it forward, with, and from me.

And so with that, I’d like to simply finish by saying, Congratulations Dad! Congratulations on reaching a milestone birthday. Congratulations on an epic career. Congratulations on changing the world.  But mostly, congratulations on starting your new job.  We start today, and it’s time to get back to work.

Let’s do it all over again!

Father and Son 

Showing your support and appreciation for Ron's life work is easy. Help us to continue on this journey by becoming an ISC-Audubon Member or make a donation today!

$25 Annually $100 Annually $250 Reg / $100 Annually


Sponsors are a critically important part to the success of ISC-Audubon. As a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating sustainability, we offer all of our programs to our members free of charge, and are publicly available for download on our website.

ISC-Audubon is proud to extend the opportunity to select businesses and organizations to become sponsors of our sustainability education and advocacy programs. As a sponsor, your business or organization can realize significant value.

Click here to learn more about this opportunity. 


A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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