Dayton Hyde is this century’s Aldo Leopold – a person who is rooted in the belief that humans should not have dominion over wildlife, but rather they have a responsibility to protect all creatures and the ecosystems in which they naturally thrive. Hyde’s holistic view of the Western prairies, combined with his ingenious, yet sometimes unconventional, practices have made a significant impact in the protection of a whole host of animal species, including the wolf, rainbow trout, coyote, sand hill crane, great gray owl, and porcupine.
Dayton’s practical and intuitive expertise in preserving the delicate balance of nature on his Oregon ranch—where among many conservation projects, he worked tirelessly to preserve the property’s wetlands—has resulted in the creation of a much needed stopover for migratory birds. His passion for preservation and conservation is also at the heart of his establishment of a 13,000 acre Wild Horse Sanctuary, where the horses he rescues and manages have become his partners in saving this piece of land forever. Set up in a trust so that it can never be developed, Dayton’s refuge for captive wild horses is a brilliant and effective solution to solving some of the most critical issues affecting the Western range. At the same time, it provided Dayton with the means to save this historic tract of land without sacrificing the surrounding ecosystem. This magnificent stretch of land, nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is one of the few pieces of western range that remains untouched by development, and where wildlife can truly live and run free.
You can read more about Dayton’s efforts to protect wildlife and wildlands through his efforts to educate fellow ranchers on the importance and practicality of sustainable range management. Through his nonprofit Operation Stronghold, Hyde has helped other landowners establish a viable wildlife habitat on their private property. Between 1979 and 1987, the little known Stronghold program boasted over 4 million acres of protected private land.
Dayton has been called a “rancher’s rancher” and a “naturalist’s naturalist”. He is a living example of how a single individual, through the combination of science, compassion and common sense can teach us all to exist not as masters of the natural world but as partners with it.