Angling World Loses a Voice

Jim Range, leader of outdoor conservation, passes away.

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
Jim Range


James D. Range, 63, died peacefully, surrounded by family and loved ones, on Tuesday, January 20 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota after an extraordinarily courageous battle with kidney cancer. 

Range was one of the nation’s most prominent champions of natural resource conservation. He was known in Washington and throughout the United States as a skilled policy strategist with an extraordinary bipartisan network of friends and contacts. Along with his political adeptness, he possessed an oratorical gift and was known as someone who always spoke from his heart with passionate conviction. A life-long outdoorsman, Range was instrumental in the conservation and continued protection of many different corners of the American landscape and was a passionate advocate for the country’s fish and wildlife and their habitat. Perhaps best known as a long-time advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, he also was known personally to countless people as a beloved confidant, friend and mentor.

At the time of his death, Range worked as senior policy advisor in the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz and served as Chairman of the Board of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, an organization he co-founded in 2002. He was instrumental in the founding of the Bipartisan Policy Center and worked as an advisor to that organization.

Mr. Range was chief counsel to Senator Baker during the period between 1980 and 1984 when the senator served as Majority Leader. From 1973 to 1980, Range served as minority counsel to the U.S. Senate's Committee on the Environment and Public Works. He was counsel to the National Commission on Water Quality in 1972. 

From 1984 through 1992, Range worked as Vice President of Government Affairs for Waste Management, Inc., and from 1992 to 1994, Range served in the identical capacity for Rust International, Inc., a subsidiary of WMX Technologies, Inc. 

“Jim Range was a dedicated, loyal and trusted member of my staff who helped to fashion some of this country's most vital environmental legislation,” Sen. Baker said. “Of all his efforts to promote comprehensive oversight concerning clean air and clean water, Jim was especially helpful with a project that was of particular importance to me.  He was an essential part of the team that was able to come up with a unique approach that allowed the creation of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area located in Tennessee and Kentucky.  Were it not for Jim Range and a few others, this idea would have never been possible. Jim and I continued working together, outside of our formal positions in government, to try to influence responsible care for our country's all important natural resources in a bipartisan spirit. I will miss Jim’s counsel, but more importantly, I will miss him.”

In his 1986 book “Running in Place: Inside the Senate,” James A. Miller described Range as “… a legislative cowboy – a southern, tough-talking, Jack Daniels-drinking, boyishly handsome, charismatic lawyer who long ago made the right connections on his way up north. … At 36, the blustery Range has become one of a handful of key aides recognized by senators and staff alike as an authoritative source of crucial information about the Senate’s agenda.”

Many of Jim’s beneficial contributions to natural resource law are well-known. He played an instrumental role in the crafting and final passage of a string of landmark laws, including the Clean Water Act, but his true cumulative influence on behalf of America’s fish and wildlife resources is inestimable. Jim attributed much of the success he and his colleagues had in the policymaking arena to their ability to work in a bipartisan fashion, putting America's outdoor resources above party politics. He often paraphrased President Ronald Reagan, saying, “It’s amazing what you can get done in this town when you don’t worry about who gets the credit.”

Aside from service as Chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Board of Directors, Range served on the Boards of Directors for Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Wetlands America Trust, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Yellowstone Park Foundation, and the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust.

An original board member and Chair of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Range also was a White House appointee to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, the

Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council and the Valles Caldera Trust.

In 2003, Range received the U.S. Department of the Interior's Great Blue Heron Award, the highest honor given to an individual at the national level by the Department. He was also awarded the 2003 Outdoor Life Magazine Conservationist of the Year Award and the Norville Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Sportfishing Association.
Range was profiled by Time magazine in 2005 for his efforts to expand the availability of conservation easements, and a Wall Street Journal story that same year highlighted Range’s successful efforts to engineer the rollback of an excise tax that was unintentionally placing American fly rod manufacturers at a huge competitive disadvantage. Of Range and Rod DeArment, a former chief of staff to Bob Dole when he was Senate majority leader, the Journal reported, “The men worked together to push through pillars of the Reagan agenda -- tax cuts in 1981 and the last big reform of the Social Security system in 1983 -- but also were allies in a little-noticed 1984 law that placed excise taxes on fishing gear and some motor fuels into a trust fund that sponsored state programs to clean up rivers and improve fishing ecosystems.”

When still serving as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico said of Range, "Jim Range has been one of those rare individuals who has dedicated his life to bringing opposing parties together to unite for a common good. He did it as a senior staff in the United States Senate working on clean air, clean water, and wildlife issues. He is still doing it in the conservation field now with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. I truly believe that if extremists on both sides of the environmental spectrum could learn from Jim's wisdom and work, the whole country would be better off."

Range enjoyed a wide variety of outdoor activities, but loved hunting and fishing the most. He pursued both passions all over the world but ended up falling in love with Montana and its trout and game birds. He spent as much time as he could at his property on the Missouri River in Craig, Montana, the Flyway Ranch. Range graciously hosted many important events over the years for leaders from political, business, non-governmental organization and media circles. It was his personal bastion of respite as he found relief from his many commitments and busy schedule on the waters of the Missouri River with a fly rod in his hands.

In addition to hunting and fishing Jim enjoyed pastimes close to home. Jim was an avid backyard birder and loved tending to his perennial garden. He had a special place in his heart for orchids, which he raised in a greenhouse dedicated to that purpose. He had a multitude of bird feeders that he faithfully replenished throughout the year.  Jim’s back garden in the springtime was a magical oasis of colorful blossoms and birds, scent and song, where he loved to work in the early morning and relax in the evenings.  Jim was also a renowned gourmet cook.  Friends far and wide were drawn  to his table, where they knew they would enjoy an exceptional meal—usually featuring fresh game or fish—numerous libations and lively political debate that would last late into the early morning hours.

Growing up in Johnson City, Jim learned his love of the outdoors in the mountains of Tennessee.Range attained a B.S. degree at Tulane University, a M.S. in fisheries biology from Tennessee Tech, and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law.