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MISSOULA, Mont.–A passionate conservationist with a glowing legacy of protecting and stewarding wildlife habitat, Larry Baesler of Rapid City, S.D., passed away Sunday following a battle with cancer.

Baesler leaves behind two families–his wife and three children, plus a host of admiring colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

As a lands program manager for the Elk Foundation, Baesler’s work in the Black Hills helped protect thousands of acres from the crush of development that is forever changing the South Dakota landscape. Baesler also was instrumental in the recent, successful initiative to preserve lands of national historic significance in North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, a place called America’s “Cradle of Conservation.”

“Larry had a heart as big as elk country. He embodied the passion we all feel for RMEF and its mission. Until the very end, he continued to produce conservation results in the Black Hills,” said David Allen, president and CEO of the Elk Foundation.

Allen added, “Larry Baesler is going to be missed but his lasting legacy will always be in the land, wildlife and wild places that he loved.”

Baesler was born and raised near New Leipzig, N.D. Nature, hunting, fishing, trapping and the outdoors were always an intimate part of his life. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Dakota. In college, Baesler also met his future bride, Marcie Tavis. They married in 1973.

His career took him to Texas to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1978, the Baeslers returned to his family’s farm in North Dakota to work and raise their children, Chris, Sara and Rebecca. Baesler later worked for the Elk Foundation as a regional director, left to serve as executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, then returned to the Elk Foundation.

Baesler enjoyed carving antlers, making knives and writing outdoor articles.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has already conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.4 million acres–a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. Most work occurs on public lands. More than 561,000 acres have been opened or secured for public access including hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.