06 Jan

Glen Sheppard: Newspaper publisher an advocate for conservation in Michigan

Free Press Lansing Bureau

Glen Sheppard, an icon of conservation in Michigan and longtime publisher of the Charlevoix-based newspaper the North Woods Call, died Tuesday after an illness.

In a journalism career that began after he returned from service in Korea, Mr. Sheppard, 74, was a legendary defender of natural resources, hunting, fishing and gun rights — and the scourge of politicians and bureaucrats who threatened them.

On its masthead, the Call declared itself: “An admittedly biased newspaper: Dedicated to the proposition that there is only one side to any issue involving natural resources… NATURE’s!”

Bill Rustem — environmental adviser to former Gov. William Milliken who now works as director of strategy for Gov. Rick Snyder — said Mr. Sheppard was “the conscience of conservation for decades” in Michigan. Although circulation of the Call was small, Rustem said the paper and Mr. Sheppard had “enormous influence … (because) it was read by the right people.”

Dave Smethurst, an environmental activist and retired teacher from Gaylord who worked with Mr. Sheppard to limit oil and gas drilling in the Pigeon River Country of northern Michigan, recalled that Department of Natural Resources officials — often the target of Mr. Sheppard’s criticism — complained about the Call, even as they claimed not to read it.

But Mr. Sheppard, known simply as Shep, never toned down his rhetoric or backed away from a fight. Many of his sources were DNR employees. Mr. Sheppard took over the Call in 1969.

“I told my kids when they were little to make a difference with their lives. Shep certainly made a difference,” Smethurst said. “He was one of Michigan’s heroes.”

In 1998, Free Press columnist Hugh McDiarmid asked Mr. Sheppard how he’d write his obituary. The answer: “I have my obituary written. It’s three sentences long: He lived. He died. And he’s gone. That’s as long as you’re remembered, and that suits me.”

Arrangements are pending at the Winchester Funeral Home in Charlevoix.

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Gretchen Millich

I was so sad to hear of Glen’s passing. As a reporter, I occasionally interviewed him on conservation stories. I also subscribed to the North Woods Call. Glen was a good friend to Michigan’s critters, lakes and woods, and he will be missed.

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