This ethic is exactly what played into the Cooks pursuing a WRE. It was, Sharon said, a way to give back to the land and to the waterfowl that Dean loved. Nate Key, the WRE Team Leader for California NRCS who works closely with the Cooks in implementing and taking care of the Island Ranch WRE, said that Dean’s love for wildlife, especially waterfowl, was a huge goal of the easement.
“Dean definitely loved waterfowl, but he also loved everything that came with the marsh and wetlands,” he said. “He wanted to take care of it.”
As far as participating landowners go, Key said Dean was an ideal person to work with when it came to providing technical assistance. He was always curious about what he could do better and was always tinkering with ways to improve the easement. This involved everything from increasing the amount of nesting habitat on the property and trying to improve plant diversity to dealing with erosion issues and keeping the fences intact. Most of this work was something Dean undertook himself, sometimes with the help of Sharon or their ranch hand.
“Every time I drove by here, if it was daylight hours, you would see Dean outside working on something,” Key said. “Dean was always very enthusiastic to take you on a tour and to show you everything he’d been working on.”