A tribute to David Soules: A man of the land.

David Soules was known for giving oranges to everyone during projects and excursions.

By Mark Allison

David Soules was one of the kindest, most generous people you could ever meet. He had an easy laugh and an infectious boyish enthusiasm, particularly evident when talking about or experiencing southern New Mexico’s public lands and the Chihuahuan desert. He was a passionate presence and would bring his engineer’s brain to bear in long and sometimes obscure — but important — disquisitions of various issues, both big and small, be they public access, wildlife guzzlers or a proposed transmission line.

At the same time, he was a real listener, with a rare willingness to learn something new. He always had time to sneak away to a quiet corner to compare notes, share thoughts, and scheme together about how to make something better.

David held a doctorate in mechanical engineering, was a lifelong sportsman, served on the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission, was co-author of “Exploring Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument,” was a member and supporter of numerous nongovernmental sportsman’s and conservation organizations, and served on New Mexico Wild’s board of directors since 2010.

In his last days before his unexpected death, we discussed new places to explore, new dreams of additional protections, and ideas about ways to better care for the land and the wildlife that call it home. We were both looking forward to Nathan Small returning to the New Mexico Wild team and making lists of things to tackle together.

As chair of our personnel committee, he also talked with me about more mundane policies and procedures and about how to better support staff. He was proud to serve as mentor to our public lands fellow, Grecia Nuñez, recently departed for American University Law School. I was hoping to find a way to share time with David and his wife, Nancy, on a future Arctic canoe trip.

David was a humble, grounded man, quick to praise others and freely offer his help whenever asked. He was more comfortable exploring the land than receiving recognition for protecting it — however well deserved. The successful, decade-plus-long effort to establish the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument (2014) was the result of the work of countless people, but it is impossible to imagine without David. He was a guide, an interpreter, an evangelist for the land — an austere landscape that sometimes requires patience and an intimacy to fully appreciate its beauty and value. His knowledge and love for it, and his willingness to share that knowledge and love, created converts, newfound appreciation, and new stewards.

The National Monument, and the 10 new Wilderness Areas that are now protected forever within it, is a gift from David to all of us. How rare and special it is to be able to leave something so enduring for future generations, and I can only hope that Nancy, the rest of his family and all who loved him can receive some measure of solace from that. David was a large spirit, and I will never be on that land again without thinking of him.

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