Rowell Fund

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation Loses a Special Board Member & Friend

Galen Rowell, Adventure Photographer (Aug. 23, 1940 - Aug. 11, 2002)

On August 11, 2002 Galen Rowell and his wife and partner, Barbara, died along with two others in a tragic plane crash a short distance from the runway of the Bishop airport. The Rowells were returning home from a trip to the Bering Sea. Pilot Tom Reid of Bishop and passenger Carol McAfee, also of Bishop were also killed.

A fund in the names of Barbara and Galen Rowell has been established. It honors a two individuals that cared deeply about conservation and served on the boards of numerous nonprofit foundations concerned with conservation.

Because of his long interest and concern for Sierra Nevada bighorn, Galen became a member of the Foundation board of directors shortly after the nonprofit foundation was incorporated.

The Sierra Nevada was Galen’s first mountain range, and after decades of exploring mountains all over the world it remained his favorite mountain range. To be closer to the Sierra Nevada, Galen and Barbara had moved to Bishop, shortly before they were killed. They opened a gallery in Bishop, and moved their entire business there shortly before the tragedy.

Galen’s interest in Sierra Nevada bighorn began in the early 1970s. In 1972, when little was known about this animal, he published an article on them in the Sierra Club Bulletin that included his first pictures of these sheep. In that article he put forth the reasoning behind the creation of two preserves established by Inyo National Forest that year for the few surviving bighorn herds in the Sierra Nevada. His purpose was to help build support for the idea of setting aside key tracts of habitat on public lands just for the purpose of preserving the Sierra bighorn.

Two years later president, John Wehausen, began his studies of Sierra Nevada bighorn and Galen quickly found him in hopes of satisfying his long held desire to obtain good pictures of these sheep. In the 1970s, when Galen occasionally accompanied John during winter field work, Galen finally obtained a few good photographs, the best of which he displayed in his gallery in Bishop when it opened.

When The Foundation was formed, Galen was a natural for board membership, which he readily accepted. The month before his untimely death, Galen told John Wehausen that he was planning to spend more time in the eastern Sierra Nevada and hoped again to accompany him on bighorn sheep field trips.

In many ways Galen and Barbara were larger than life, and their loss has created a large and persistent hole in the human world for those who knew them. The same holds for Galen’s presence on the board of directors, where he will remain in honor of his extraordinary life and support of Sierra bighorn conservation.