This month marks my first full year leading the Campion Advocacy Fund. And it’s been an exciting first trip around the sun. In 2019, we worked with our partners to pass landmark conservation legislation in the United States Congress, to substantially increase Washington state’s funding for affordable housing, and to spark a major overhaul of how the City of Seattle and King County provide services to people experiencing homelessness. We’ve been busy.

Amid these efforts, we were fortunate to have a moment to pause and celebrate Tom Campion, who founded our organization along with his wife Sonya Campion. On November 12, our team and hundreds of Tom’s friends came together to see the Alaska Wilderness League honor Tom with its inaugural Mardy Murie Lifetime Achievement Award.

For the past four decades, Tom has been an unflinching advocate in the fight to protect wild places across Alaska and the American West. On that journey, he has touched countless lives and shared the story of these sacred places with everyone from grassroots volunteers to the President of the United States.

In fact, former President Barack Obama was one of a number of public officials who added their thanks for Tom’s passionate leadership and activism. President Obama sent a letter for the event that read, in part:

“You have demonstrated just how powerful it is when a steady, principled leader brings people together to hold us accountable to our highest ideals. It makes a difference, and not just for folks now, but also for our children and our grandchildren – your work is helping to ensure that we leave them with a safer, cleaner and more sustainable planet.”

These moving words were reinforced by personal tributes to Tom from Gwich’in leader Lorraine Netro, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, and Congressman Derek Kilmer. You can watch a short video reel here. And you can read the full letter from President Obama here.

In his remarks to the audience, Tom reminded us that while it can be valuable to reflect on the road we’ve traveled, the most urgent fight for our wild places is ahead of us. In the coming months, the Trump Administration will try to authorize oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, clearcut logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, and a massive mining project in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world’s most important wild salmon fishery.

So as we launch into 2020, we take major inspiration from Tom’s tenacious spirit that is always encouraging us to live (and fight) in the now. But we also benefit from the lesson he offers to us all – that the things we care about usually aren’t won or lost in an instant. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to properly care for the things we love most.

Thank you for inspiring so many, Tom. The journey continues!