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Green Chips has a conversation with the community leader who was the driving force behind the coalition that helped to establish Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Southern Nevada, National Parks Conservation Association Senior Program Manager, Lynn Davis.

September 2015

278de6bf-8cac-43d5-b806-b590ec33abb3As this is a feature about community leaders, what do you think makes a good leader?

Definitely vision. And being able to find common ground. Typically I think people can find common ground to see that vision through but I also think it building common grounds requires allowing others to have a spotlight, or a piece of the action. In pulling together this coalition that pushed for Tule Springs; everyone had a part in it. I believe, and hope, that they feel ownership in the project and what they did.

Do you have a personal philosophy or approach to life?

My approach for years – it is a two pronged approach – is based on two quotes:

The first is a Helen Keller quote, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”

The other is, “Leap and a net will appear.”

I often feel that sometimes you can dismiss something as ridiculous and dismiss it. But sometimes you can be completely surprised when you act on “why not?” I would say my approach is an expansive view – really to move anything forward, or create anything, you have to say “why not?”

What was your major in college and your path to your current position?

I went to the University of Utah and majored in Communications. I started my career as an investigative reporter for a magazine and did some pretty wild stuff. I went undercover at a blood bank and many other undercover stories that I will spare you the details of. From that position I was hired to work on opposing the siting of the MX missile in Utah’s west desert.

I was really young and became an activist through my work on that project.  I worked with the unions, marched for solidarity and I really started my career very engaged in issues. I ended up in Southern Utah, in a protest, in the early 80’s, just out of college. I got into a van and happened to be sitting behind Stewart Udall (former Secretary of the Interior) and David Brower (first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth). I look back on that moment in my life as a shift into more  conservation issues.

Is this where you thought you would be?

I think we all – this sounds so “woo woo” – are where we are supposed to be. I feel as though I’ve been guided to what I do. My father was a forest ranger so I grew up in very rural places, spent my summers in a cabin using a pump for water and a generator for electricity. I grew up loving the outdoors so my job working with national parks is very natural.

Is there one word that best describes how you work?

Passionate. Passion can be such a motivator. It can also trip me up. I always have to be aware, when I really believe in something, that others may have a different opinion.

What keeps you engaged/passionate about your job; what drives you?

I love Southern Nevada. I get up in the morning and walk my dog and I look at this beautiful mountain range ( I live near the entrance of Red Rock) and I am inspired by landscape. I get in the car and I’m really obnoxious on road trips – saying “look at this and look at that!”  We are so lucky in the west because we have vast landscapes you can see for miles and miles. So, I am very inspired by landscape and by people’s reaction to landscape.

How do you re-charge?

Getting outdoors. I live in Summerlin and we have a trail system that I love. Just getting out on the trails is energizing and I meet a lot of people along the way who all feel the same way.

What are you better at than anyone else and what is your secret?

I don’t like that question.

(I revised the question to ask what Lynn is good at.)

Strategy. Early in my career, I had a Mr. Miyagi in my life – a guy who was at least four decades older than I was and wore these really starched white shirts. He mentored me. It was like learning chess. I may have had some innate strategy skills but when you are mentored in it, it is much easier to develop that skill and think strategically.

Where are you from originally and what has surprised you the most about this community?

I was born in inner-city Detroit but lived in remote spaces. My father was in the Forest Service so we lived in Wyoming, below Jackson Hole, and on Mt. Hood, outside of Portland…beautiful, beautiful places. I would spend my summers with my grandparents in Detroit so I had a great mix of nature and the city.

What has surprised me the most is how beautiful this Southern Nevada is. When I moved here, I did not see it that way – I have to confess. I didn’t feel a pull to get into this community. We, as a community, still seem to be lingering in this sense of transience. That seems to be shifting now.

What is your biggest hope for this community in the next 10 years? 50?

Connection. Connection to each other. Holding to the theme about landscape and the natural environment, I do think, it is a way that we can connect. Our public lands and urban trail systems are ways we can connect as a community.

What app or technical gadget can’t you live without?

Oh… my cell phone! Its crazy how we need to connect all the time and there is a huge debate about cell phones in natural environment. I find it offensive when I am outside and someone is speaking loudly on their phone about a business deal, or something like that. I do carry my phone but I try not to answer it when I am outdoors.

What is the best advice you ever received and what advice would you give young professionals starting out?

Be genuine was the advice given to me. I think this is often hard to do but I would pass that advice on. Also to try a lot of things, go with the flow, and put your heart into it.

What is your favorite word?

Word? Was that on the list? Yikes. I don’t know that this is my favorite but I definitely overuse the phrase “aye, yi, yi.”  I don’t know if it is a Lucy thing or what?  I use it as an endorsement or to express my frustration. I’ve definitely noticed myself using it for the past decade.

Do you know your Myer’s Briggs Personality type?

I don’t know my Myer’s Briggs type but I do love personality tests and Strengths Finder. On the strengths side, I always confirm strategic skills.

Last question, what are you reading right now?

I am reading, The Year of Necessary Lies. It is an advanced copy from an author I have known for three decades, named Kris Radish. It is historical fiction about the women’s suffragette movement in Boston a time when the Audubon was being established. Women, at the time, were upset about birds being destroyed for their hats and coalesced politically. That activism was prevalent in establishing the national park system. No wonder I like the book, right?

Click here for more information about Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument or the National Parks Conservation Association.