Monday, December 28, 2020

Ralph W. Abele On Leadership: Do Your Duty And Fear No One!

From the Fish and Boat Commission
profile of Ralph W. Abele, former Executive Director--

Throughout his life, Ralph W. Abele led, inspired, encouraged, motivated, supported and commanded the fight to save our natural environment. 

He believed strongly in the right of everyone to "clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment." 

As an uncommon leader of the Commonwealth and a champion for the living creatures who could not protect themselves, his motto was "Do your duty and fear no one!"

Born on a farm near Pittsburgh on Friday, the 13th of August, 1921, Ralph Warren Abele was the youngest of three children. 

Scouting was an avid interest from an early age, and his scouting participation whetted his appetite for conservation activities in the outdoors. 

Following graduation from high school, he received a partial scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh where he studied geology to become a petroleum engineer. 

His career was interrupted by World War II. As a company commander in the Army's Third Armored Division, he served in five campaigns in the European theatre, including the Normandy invasion.

As a scout leader of Troop 230 in Mt. Lebanon, Ralph Abele taught impressionable young men about the wonders of nature. In the late 1950's and early '60's, before the first Earth Day, Ralph instilled a conservation ethic in young minds with his message that the land is ours only to nurture and pass on to future generations. 

Many of the students he taught later pursued careers in conservation. And those who didn't still had his positive philosophy in their minds and hearts.

In 1969, Ralph's dream of working full time to protect the environment came true when he moved to Harrisburg to become the executive secretary of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee of the House and Senate. 

Finally, he could really make a difference and effect some changes. And that he did! 

During his tenure, he helped write many important environmental laws including the 1970 Clean Water Amendments, the Clean Air Act, the Sewage Facilities Act and the Conservation Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

In 1972, he was appointed executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish Commission and set out to protect Commonwealth waters. 

He was quoted as proclaiming "If the fish can't survive in the water, there are serious problems for man."

Ralph, who believed that public service was a noble career, took his job seriously and believed he had an obligation to protect Pennsylvania's lakes, streams and aquatic life from the damaging effects of acid rain, pollution and habitat destruction. 

He took on the strip mining industry, didn't give up and ultimately won some important victories.

His Fish Commission "family" rallied behind his "Resource First" philosophy. They were given important missions - go after polluters, rewrite the Fish and Boat Code, develop and implement Operation FUTURE, restore shad to the Susquehanna River and teach the younger generation what's important.

Ralph was perhaps best known for the "Straight Talk" columns he wrote for Pennsylvania Angler. His power of the pen was both a delight and a consternation to many people. 

For those who agreed with his attacks against the abusers and his admonitions that "It's later than it's ever been," his was a refreshing voice of conviction. For those who disagreed or who were called to task, he was a nemesis.

Upon his retirement from the Fish Commission in 1987, Ralph reflected on his years with the agency. He considered his greatest achievement to be in helping the agency "establish credibility as a real conservation agency. 

He believed the future was in educating the public so they would want to protect the environment. He set the stage for the Commission's future role by establishing a Bureau of Education and Information.

Ralph had no intention, however, of retiring from the conservation field and remained active on many boards and in an advisory capacity to several organizations. 

During retirement, he was a regional director for the National Wildlife Federation; served on the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania Nature Conservancy, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and as a member of the external committee for the Goddard Chair at Penn State University.

One thing is certain - Ralph Abele will NOT be forgotten. How he lived and what he believed in made an indelible mark on the lives of almost everyone he met.

In his final "Straight Talk" for Pennsylvania Angler, he wrote:

The trail will be long and full of frustrations.

Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together.

We have to reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies.

To learn more, visit the Fish and Boat Commission’s Ralph W. Abele webpage. 

Visit the PA Conservation Heritage website to learn more about the people, events and issues that are Pennsylvania’s conservation and environmental heritage. 

Click Here to watch a WITF video about Ralph Abele on the PA Conservation Heritage website.

Conservation Leadership:

-- Gov. Gifford Pinchot On Leadership: Collaboration And Honesty Are The Foundation Of Effective Leadership In Public Office

-- Mira Lloyd Dock On Leadership: The Old Selfish Minds Must Go. Obstructive Reactionaries Must Move On. The Young Are At The Gates

-- Rachel Carson On Leadership: The Human Race is Challenged More Than Ever Before To Demonstrate Our Mastery, Not Over Nature, But Of Ourselves

-- Gov. Dick Thornburgh On Leadership: People Living In The Chesapeake Bay States Should Not Have To Wait Another 30-Plus Years For Clean Water

-- Gov. Robert P. Casey On Leadership: Our Problems Have Taught Us That We Cannot Continue The Mindless Practices Of The Past

-- Gov. Tom Ridge On Leadership: I Call For Pennsylvania To Be A Showcase Of Well-Reasoned And Inspired Environmental Leadership 

-- Op-Ed: New Year's Resolutions For Pennsylvania Legislators - Fair Districts PA, PA League Of Women Voters

-- 233 Stories: These Conservation Leaders Gave Us Cleaner Water, Land & Air In 2020! They Deserve Our Thanks, Our Support! 

-- Lebanon Valley College's Commitment To The Environment

[Posted: December 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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