In Memory of James L. Dudley, Volunteer Extraordinaire
A long recognized adage in the conservation community, “special places attract special people” describes those wonderful folks who seemingly arrive out of nowhere but quickly shine through with their special passion, dedication and love of special places. James L. (Jim) Dudley was one of those very special people who arrived at a particular special place by the name of Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area and Wildlands near Owings Mills, Maryland. Jim appeared in 1988 at just the right time as the Serpentine Ecosystem Restoration Program (SERP) was beginning. SERP was an initiative coordinated by the Natural Heritage Program of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to reclaim this extraordinary serpentine barrens. When Jim arrived, this endangered frequent-fire ecosystem was about to be lost to rapidly spreading Virginia pines which were no longer being kept at bay by fire, an unfortunate consequence of the Smoky Bear fire suppression campaign.
Soldiers Delight, an internationally known site, boasts rare and endangered resources on top of rare and endangered resources: rare butterflies breeding and feeding on rare plants growing out of rare soils. These unusual soils are easily damaged by even the lightest vehicles or a modicum of foot traffic. So the challenge for SERP was to determine how to cut and remove the invading pines from over 500 acres of endangered habitat without damage. SERP needed a Jim Dudley, and Jim seemingly appeared from nowhere at the perfect time.
|Jim (right) with Melvin
after pines were cut and
cleared from a restoration area
|Jim (far right) poses with a prescribed burn team|
Being an avid NASCAR and Formula 1 racing fan, his knowledge of engines and accessories was invaluable. Before and after each SERP event, Jim would prep or repair the temperamental chipper to make sure it was working perfectly. And his mechanical expertise was put to work installing a large storage shed for restoration and prescribed burning equipment and an ultra-terrain vehicle. He constructed a perfectly level foundation on his own with his own tools.
|Jim with a couple of SERP volunteers after a fire|
|Jim and his wife, Evelyn, (far left) help with “blacklining” a firebreak
with their son, Charles, (middle with striped shirt) and DNR staff and
James was a Vietnam War-era veteran. In 1996, after 32 years, Jim retired from Noxell/Proctor & Gamble Companies where he worked as an analytical chemist. In addition to being a conservationist, Jim was also an outdoor enthusiast who enjoyed camping and hiking. He enjoyed coin collecting, Italian sports car restoration and spelunking. He served as Assistant Scout Master of Troop 792 for the Boy Scouts of America. In his earlier years, he worked in the Chicago area at a steel mill. He enjoyed listening to Judy Collins, Rod Stewart and Peter Nero, as well as jazz and classical music.
Jim is sadly no longer with us, but for all the visitors to Soldiers Delight, his legacy lives on in the gorgeous panoramas of the serpentine landscape that his hard work and dedication helped produce. This special place has been largely restored thanks to this very special person. We owe our thanks and gratitude to Jim.