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Remembering Vic Scheffer

Dr. Victor B. (Vic) Scheffer was a man who knew how to make a difference. He led the way as conservationist, biologist, photographer, author, professor and more. When he died last September at the age of 104, he left behind a trail of accomplishments any centenarian would be proud of.

Dr. Scheffer was one of the founders of The Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter, as well as a founder of the local Audubon Society.  The former University of Washington professor, photographer, and author was among 14 people who gathered in a Bellevue living room in 1959 to organize the Conservancy’s local office. The national organization had been incorporated on the East Coast in 1951. 

Dr. Scheffer and his cohorts worked to save some of Washington’s most treasured natural spaces, including Cypress Island in the San Juan Islands and the Mima Mounds south of Olympia. To draw attention to the value of Cypress Island, Scheffer and others cataloged the diverse species of animals, plants, and birds on the island. Their work helped persuade the state’s Department of Natural Resources to preserve Cypress Island, which today remains the last largely undeveloped island in the San Juan group. 

Scheffer remained most proud of the work he did to preserve the unique geological formations of the Mima Mounds in south Puget Sound. Today the 445-acre Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve includes an interpretive trail and is home to one of the country’s rarest ecosystems. 

A marine biologist, his 1969 book The Year of the Whale is credited by many for helping to spark the worldwide movement to ban whale hunting. He followed it up with The Year of the Seal in 1970, and went on to serve as the first chair of the U.S. Commission on Marine Mammals from 1973 to 1976. 

Scheffer’s passion for conservation and the outdoors continued throughout his life. He authored more than a dozen books, and continued writing essays well into his 90s. 

We are so grateful for all Vic did to preserve our shared natural heritage. He will be missed. 

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