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Oregon Patriarch Dies
Interesting reading about the origins of California Bighorn and Mountain Goat reintroductions in Oregon...


November 9, 2006
Patriarch of Watchable Wildlife is gone
Bob Mace always had a soft spot for the world's critters that weren't shot at or cast toward, insisting that these animals be defined by what they are instead of what they aren't.

The term "nongame" was too negative, Mace believed. So the deputy director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife went to his thesaurus in 1979 to find a better moniker for animals that don't fit the "game" label of deer, elk and other popular kids in the wildlife clique.

"I got to the W's and got to 'watchable,'" Mace recalled in a 1997 interview. "'Watchable Wildlife.' That's what it's all about. My secretary said, 'That's the word.'"

Watchable wildlife is now an almost universal term given to programs that promote and manage animals consumed by people's eyes, ears and camera lenses, but not pursued with guns or rods. It's used by virtually all state and federal agencies that manage non-hunted animals, who forever owe Mace for their higher social standing.

The moniker is one of many gifts left by Mace, who died Sunday of congestive heart failure at his rural Central Point home. He was 84.

Still, Mace made one last contribution toward fostering a greater appreciation of the little critters around us.

His estate will fund the $1 million Watchable Wildlife Center planned for the Jackson County Expo Park.

The 6,000-square-foot facility will be dedicated to teaching kids the wonders of wildlife, large and small. When completed, it will overlook the Phyllis Mace Pond, named for Bob Mace's wife of 61 years. She died in January 2005.

Even in death, Mace found a way to stand up for the little guys.

"Bob always made it a point to say, 'I'm no good to you until I'm dead,'" Jackson County Expo Director Chris Borovansky said. "But, really, he was very good in life.

"Boy, you talk about a good steward of wildlife and the land — it's him," Borovansky said. "That man has quite a legacy."

Watchable wildlife came at the end of a long career in Oregon wildlife management dating back to 1946, when he joined the Oregon Game Commission fresh from a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy.

Mace rose quickly through the agency, which at the time was funded and had marching orders strictly for managing species meant for sportsmen, such as deer, elk, waterfowl and antelope.

In the early '50s, he spearheaded the re-introduction of California bighorn sheep in Oregon, devising the massive traps and arranging a deal with British Columbia that allowed Oregon to trap 26 bighorns there in 1954. Twenty survived their trip to Hart Mountain and formed the heart of Oregon's bighorn sheep herd.

He also instigated re-introduction of mountain goats to northeast Oregon and worked on several other game species through the 60s. During the '60s and early '70s, Mace found the spare time to write information/education (I&E) pamphlets on various big-game species, which are still distributed to Oregonians at ODFW district offices.

In 1979, he began representing Oregon on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages the Alaskan waters frequented by most of Oregon's salmon and steelhead.

Through it all, the tall, lean man with fiery eyes and anvil jaw spoke his mind and backed his words with tireless work, friends said.

"He was a take-charge guy," said Don Denman, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission co-chair and long-time Mace friend. "He believed the best way to get something done was to go after it and get it done.

"It's going to be a different wildlife world without Bob's input," Denman said.

Mace had slowed in recent years, suffering from congestive heart failure, Denman said. He was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and was hospitalized last week before returning home in preparation for hospice care, Denman said.

Surrounded by his three children, Mace died at his home overlooking a popular upper Rogue River salmon hole named for him.

"He was alert and bright up until the last couple hours," Denman said. "He was planning things, making sure his charities he set up were running along."

As recently as three weeks ago, Mace pitched his Watchable Wildlife Center ideas to prospective financial backers at the Expo, wowing them with his passion on behalf of kids and wildlife.

"He was a visionary," Borovansky said. "We're pursuing Bob's dreams for him now."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail

A memorial service for Bob Mace was scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Conger-Morris Funeral Directors chapel, 715 W. Main St., Medford.
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