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Governor honors Wind Crest veteran for ‘green’ work

Created date

September 22nd, 2009

Evans was honored by the governor for working to protect a key wildlife habitat; urging the routing of I-70 over Vail Pass, a direction far less destructive to wildlife habitat; and serving as a prime advocate for establishing a walleye fishery in the state. But a plane crash while serving in World War II almost made none of his later work for green initiatives possible. Instead, it helped shape this Air Force pilot s persistent personality and commitment to public service.

Out of altitude and options

I was flying an A36 in India and Burma where I had a close call, Evans recalls. On a return mission, from dropping supplies behind the lines, we had a few extra fuel tanks, and when we made a maneuver and peeled up, one of the wires near the brakes broke and put me in a high speed stall, too low to recover. As Evans explains, The gas tanks exploded, blew the canopy off, and next thing you know, it s getting a little warm. There are flames coming through the fire wall, and I m pretty sure at this point my clothes are on fire. All things considered, I am able to get [the plane] to the ground and get out. So there I am, rolling around, trying to get the burning clothes off, and next thing I know, all the ammo starts going off in the plane so I have to run another 50 yards to get away. When the medics arrived, Evans says, I was given a shot of morphine and later found out I had a fractured back, pinched vertebrae, and over 70% of my body was burned.

Purposeful persistence, with good nature

In the painful days that followed, one military doctor thought Evans wouldn t make it. But after 18 skin grafts, some painful rehabilitation, and six long months in a hospital in India, Evans started to recover and was eventually ordered to return home. That same courage and perseverance to hold onto life was what Governor Bill Ritter recognized Evans for last month. And it was what Ritter says made Evans so great at his job as a biologist and advocate for preserving the environment. I was occasionally called an S.O.B., Evans laughs, recalling his stubbornness while fighting for the environment. So, yes, that was one of my many nicknames. But like the governor says, everyone that really knows me knows I never took it personally and I prefer to think it stands for Sweet Old Bob. Craig Erickson,Wind Crest s executive director, says of Evans, Bob was essential in the protection of key wildlife habitat. And he had a significant positive impact on wildlife and the environment during his many years of service to the state. But aside from all of that, he has such a friendly and humorous personality that everyone here just absolutely loves him.

Fighting for the fish

As a member of the Department of Natural Resources, Evans continued to fly and perform stream surveys. His persistence and tenacity paid off when he worked with Shell Oil on land exchanges and, most notably, brought the walleye fish into Colorado. The eggs were flown in from Washington to a hatchery, and I had the task and privilege of babysitting them in their first few days, which consisted of hatching them in a bell jar and picking out the spoiled eggs, to prevent them from spoiling the rest of the lot. I lost some sleep trying to do it. But walleye is some of the best eating fish out there, and now they are in every one of our waters that can sustain them. In his letter thanking Evans for his public service, Ritter wrote: You caught the attention of many and revealed yourself as someone who really cared about the fate of Colorado wildlife. It is a humbling thing being remembered and thought of for your work, Evans says.