"I'm at heart a biologist, a tree hugger. I love organisms. That's my world. I spent the first two-thirds of my life doing nothing but looking at organisms and thinking about how the animals and plants interact with each other, what they do, and ignoring people. People just didn't matter. I guess it was getting onto 15 years ago now, a whole lot of events occurred that caused me to realize that I could go on studying nature, looking at nature, enjoying nature for the rest of my life, and do all kinds of things that would win me prizes and acclaim and a salary and all that stuff, and then I would turn around and all that nature would be gone. Because there were too many processes operating out there to remove this very thing that I love and feel about.
"So my wife and I in 1985 decided to take on what we call today biodiversity development. We didn't have a name for it at that time. To make fast forward to the present time, we came to realize in the last 15 years that a conserved wildland-that a marsh, a river, a rain forest, a dry forest-is a kind of land use, just like a rice field, or corn field or cattle pasture is a kind of land use. And as a kind of land use if it is to be accepted by society, to be viewed as a legitimate way for things to be, it has to pay its own bills. It has to produce some kinds of goods and services just like a cotton field produces goods and services, just like the university produces goods and services, just like a hospital produces goods and services. That wild area also has to produce something. It's got to pay its own bills to put it crudely.
"So immediately we get into the question 'well, what can a wild area produce?' Because our whole human tradition is, the way we deal with a wild area, is to cut it down, remove it and put alfalfa fields and cattle pastures and corn fields on it. That's use. So the question is: 'how can you use it without cutting it down?' So immediately you start recognizing that we've in fact been using wildland areas for a long time but we just don't call it that.
"Instead of thinking of it in an esoteric sense of its just nice nature, my philosophy is let's get a little more explicit about this. Let's recognize the wildland area as a productive area for society and then start thinking about it as a thing that produces for society. So immediately you get into the question 'then what are the crops that come out of this wild area?'"