Skip Navigation

The Refuge loses a dear Friend

We will miss you Bob
Bob and Darlene Ebeling, 2013 Volunteer of the Year

     The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has lost a great friend with Bob Ebeling's passing.  His legacy spans the generations - As a rocket booster engineer, conservationist, community organizer, fundraiser, and Refuge FRIEND and Volunteer for over 27 years, Robert Venon Ebeling began his second career at the Bear River Refuge in 1989. He walked into refuge manager Al Trout’s office and announced that “he was here to help" restore the 50 miles of dikes and 50 water-control structures, that had been lost to the Great Salt Lake flooding, circa 1983-89.  Bob immediately took charge of the restoration project, unparalleled by any in the Refuge System, as the sole volunteer and with a budget of zero dollars and no equipment. Enlisting the assistance of fellow engineers, using personal trucks and airboats, and supplied with lumber from generous business owners, Bob with crew set forth to bring the salt inundated marshes back to life for the water birds he so loved.  Bridge decks were reset, roads were re-graded, dikes were reinforced, and marshes were reseeded.  By 1990, the first impoundments were holding water and alkali bulrush was growing once again! 

     In the years since those monumental first steps in the restoration phase, Bob continued to champion the Refuge through fundraising, conducting public relations tours, advocating for land acquisition, and promoting the construction of the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center. In his later years, when age restricted his once unbounded energy, he volunteered at the new wildlife education center (part of his dream) answering questions of visitors and admonishing youth to care for their backyard (Bear River Refuge).  He told at risk students, “Stay in school, do well in math and science and start a career in conservation.”  As a well deserving recipient of the National Volunteer of the Year Award in 2012, Bob’s contributions of time, talents, and personal possessions have been invaluable to restoring the Refuge to its present state.  His passion for sharing education about the Refuge and its need for engaging youth was inspirational.  The words Bob spoke in 1989 ring true today, “The benefits to wildlife viewers and hunters, both local and travelers, is immense and carries great aesthetic and financial rewards to the community”. 

     “In my opinion,” says Al Trout, “the entire process of reconstruction was based on innovation and problem solving.” “Without Bob’s presence, inspiration, and technical expertise in mechanical engineering, the process would have been delayed…When Bob Ebeling showed up at my doorstep, it changed the future of the Bear River Refuge, to the good.” –Al Trout, Bear River Refuge Manager 1989-2006   

     “We owe Bob a debt of gratitude, for which we can never repay. The Refuge is here for future generations.”  Bob Barrett, current Bear River Refuge Manager

     Not only did Bob Ebeling leave a lasting impact here, before his time at the Refuge, he was one of five booster rocket engineers at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol who tried to stop the 1986 Challenger launch. Ebeling retired soon after the Challenger disaster. He used his engineering expertise and what he proudly called his love of ducks to help restore the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near his home that was damaged by floodwater from the Great Salt Lake. Read the full story here from NPR

Bob Ebeling Awarded National Wildlife Refuge Volunteer of the Year in 2013. Full Story Here

Facts About The Refuge loses a dear Friend

The National Wildlife Refuge Association chose our very own Bob Ebeling for the 2013 National Volunteer of the Year Award! (Pictured above with his wife, also a volunteer, Darlene, from 2013.)
Last Updated: Mar 24, 2016
Return to main navigation