Calvin "Cal" Lensink (1927-2009)

  • I’d sort of like to have some of the advantages of what people have learned a lot about wildlife management since the time I started, and the equipment you got to work with. But actually I couldn’t have done any better in my career than I have.” Cal Lensink looking back at age 77)

    Cal Lensink enjoyed a 30 year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting the wildlife and wild places of Alaska. His love of nature was inspired by growing up in the Dakotas and Minnesota and led him to earn a M.S. in wildlife management from the University of Alaska and Ph.D. from Purdue University. Cal began his FWS career studying waterfowl of the Yukon Flats where his research helped save the “flats” from the proposed Rampart Canyon dam project. In the late 1950’s Cal moved his waterfowl studies down the Yukon to the Innoko and upper Kuskokwim Rivers, unveiling the importance of these wetlands to America’s waterfowl. From 1964-1974, Cal served as the manager of Clarence Rhode Refuge on the delta of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers where he initiated pioneering waterfowl and muskox studies—the latter leading to reintroduction of muskox to former ranges in Alaska and Russia. In 1975 Cal assembled a team to research the birds of coastal Alaska, a project that led to creation of today’s Alaska Fish and Wildlife Research Center. This research highlighted areas destined to become units of the Alaska Maritime NWR. With information from his previous studies, Cal co-authored the highly acclaimed publication “To Have and to Hold” that inspired expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System in Alaska to more than 78 million acres with the passage of ANILCA in 1980. From his wildlife studies and through his leadership, Cal was instrumental in creating or expanding the 16 National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, resulting in the preservation of millions of acres of Alaskan wild land.