Life was a little bit simpler for Allan Reishus growing up in southern Minnesota during the 1950s.
It was a time the now 63-year-old Reishus treasured catching frogs, shooting his BB gun and exploring the surrounding wetlands.
“Probably like most boys in that era at that age, I loved playing in the mud puddles and the streams, creeks and lakes of which there are many in Minnesota,” he said. “I would trouble my mother when she would call me in for lunch or dinner. I’d hide.”
It was from these humble experiences that the Craig resident of 35 years developed a passion for wildlife, the outdoors and conservation of the pristine land he once knew so well.
Reishus moved to Craig in 1975 to start Moffat Family Clinic with another doctor after receiving his degree from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
He retired from his work as at Moffat Family Clinic in 2004, but that doesn’t mean the resident isn’t still doing the work he loves — both with a stethoscope and in wild places.
Reishus keeps busy working for cruise ships as a part-time doctor, which he has done now for about 15 years. The doctor spends about three months out of the year aboard cruise ships, recently in places like the Caribbean, Alaska and Northern Europe.
“When I say I am mostly retired, this year I am working three months,” he said. “I’m kind of phasing down.”
Now, what takes up most of Reishus’ time, however, is pursuing his first love of the outdoors and wildlife.
In addition to his involvement in several national and local conservation organizations, Reishus has spent the last few decades building various nesting structures for birds such as blue birds, geese and even osprey.
He considers the nesting structures his “own little personal projects” and has completed more than 100 of them.
From his work with birds, Reishus developed a passion for protecting their habitats and other area wild lands for future generations.
“Wildlife will do fine if they have habitat,” he said. “An individual bird or fish is valuable, but what is more valuable by a factor of 100 is its habitat.”
At a young age, Reishus became an avid hunter of duck, goose and pheasant sharing many days in the field with his father and friends.
“Initially I was going along to watch and pretty soon he let me carry a stick and I would go, ‘Bang, bang.’” Reishus said. “I never missed with that stick.”
As Reishus became a bit older, he saw the “so-called wilderness” areas he came to know by heart in Minnesota disappearing.
The problems partly rested with housing developments, but mostly with farming practices, Reishus said. Some farmers, he said, were being paid to farm their lands and others to stall farming the land.
“On one side of the road, the government would be paying someone to drain a wetland and on the other side they would be paying a farmer to idle his land,” he said. “What is the logic in that?
“I learned I couldn’t depend on the federal government to help me with what I saw as important, which were wetlands.
Moreover, the issue illustrated for Reishus that the government “didn’t always do what was logical.” It also taught him there was little he could do by himself in the face of such issues.
“I had no power, no influence whatsoever,” he said.
Reishus entered college with eyes to be a wildlife biologist, he said.
“But, I quickly learned after working part-time that there were very few jobs available in that field,” he said. “Everybody and their brother wanted to be a wildlife biologist.”
The soon-to-be physician changed his focus to medicine, but his passion for fins, feathers and fur remained.
After settling in Moffat County, he and his then wife had two children. Reishus’ daughter is a math teacher in Oregon and his son is a computer science researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Reishus now lives with his dog, Julie, at his home near the Sandrocks overlooking Craig.
Now in his adult life, things have come full circle for Reishus. With his profession slowing down, he is finding more time for the things he loves.
The self described “wannabe wildlife biologist” drew on the feeling of helplessness watching Minnesota’s wild lands disappear and decided to join about eight conservation organizations.
He contends a large group of like-minded individuals can have much more of an impact than just an individual.
“If everybody contributes a little bit, why, those organizations can swing fairly big hammers,” he said.
Reishus is an active member of Ducks Unlimited and the local Friends of Northwest Colorado, among others.
He also recently applied for a spot on the Colorado Wildlife Commission, but was not selected.
“That is probably the single most important body here that determines wildlife habitat and wildlife populations and hunting and fishing regulations,” he said.
Belonging to such organizations is Reishus’ way of paying back for the years of hunting and fishing he enjoyed — something every outdoorsman owes, he said.
“I’d like to see that protected,” he said of the wildlife opportunities. “If we lose our habitat and thus our wildlife, we are going to be like every county in the country.”
Reishus has done more than just pay lip service for his cause, however. The resident has made time for his bird-nesting area projects.
“I love birds of all colors and all sizes and types,” he said.
Last December, Reishus started what might be one of his most ambitious projects —osprey nets.
“I got thinking that on the Yampa River, why don’t we have any nesting osprey here?” he said.
And after a fair amount of research, Reishus was able to place two 65-foot poles with platforms for nesting in the county.
“This spring, I was hoping for a nest or maybe two, but we did not get any use of those,” he said. “So, there is always hope for maybe next year, you know? This is a building year, like they say about football teams.”
About 15 years ago, Reishus started building nesting boxes for blue birds and has scattered about 110 of them around the county and a few in Routt County.
Reishus has also built about 30 nesting boxes for kestrels, which are small hawks, and about 15 for Canadian geese.
It was during his time in the wilderness among the birds and his nesting projects that Reishus developed and interest in oil and gas developments.
Simply put, Reishus thinks there should be no hurry to develop the area’s natural resources.
The ultimate weakness of the oil and gas industry, Reishus contends, is a lack of enforcement of reclamation practices.
“I may not be around 25 years from now to see the reclamation or the trash left there, but my kids and grandkids will be, so I’d like to be cautious with oil and gas development and coal,” he said.
Moffat County and its wildlife and its wild places are the love of his life, Reishus said.
“I loved it even more the way it was 30 years ago,” he said. “I would like to see Moffat County stay wild, pristine, the West with the lifestyle that we’ve had here.
“We really do have a unique county in our corner of the state.”
The passion he has developed by caring for the outdoors and its wildlife will continue to permeate his life.
But, for Reishus it all comes back to the place it started — the unbridled joy of being outside.
For him, it’s mood elevating.
“I have never been depressed in my life,” he said. “Whenever I feel like I might get a tiny bit, all I need to do is go for a walk to the river, sagebrush or mountains.
“To me, the most positive thing I can do, and most people can do, is get outdoors.”
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