Tim Hogan, Eco-Activist and Botanist

Tim Hogan of Boulder, Colorado, died at home, December 6, 2023. Born in 1955, raised in Buffalo, New York, Tim headed West because of his love for wild lands, ecology, and the outdoors. The more wild a region, the more the land with its plants and animals, rock formations and weather patterns, drew him. After moving to Boulder in 1977 he met Eleni Arapkiles in 1982 and the two married.

Tim studied botany at the University of Colorado, moving directly into a position at the University Museum’s Herbarium, where he worked for his adult life. A mainstay of the Herbarium, Tim never wanted full time work; he needed off-the-clock time to hike, camp, climb, and botanize around Colorado. Often he’d explore alone, at other times with his wife or with friends who were naturalists, adventurers, and literary sorts. His home grounds were Colorado’s Front Range, the Sangre de Cristos, and the San Juans, places he made lengthy excursions every year. Among many publications, Tim’s most in-depth was “A Floristic Survey of the Boulder Mountain Park,” published in 1993 as a volume of the Museum’s Natural History Inventory of Colorado. It was the kind of inquiry that would have made his tutelary spirit, Henry David Thoreau, sit up and loudly clap. In it Tim embedded 639 species of vascular plants in their eco-zones, as well as dozens of lichens and mosses.

Like any committed botanist, Tim paid exacting attention to species threatened by human development. He knew that plant communities thrive only when their landscapes remain intact. He fought without quarter for the conservation of wild lands across the American West. He joined planning committees, he carried out tedious lobbying vigils, and he contributed sage counsel and a range of botanical detail to the Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision of 2003, a project focused on “rewilding” the Rockies.

Tim read with a hunter’s focus, especially the poets of wilderness and the warriors of conservation. His special affections were Thoreau, the voices of Native America, and poet Gary Snyder. This study of poems, novels, and well-crafted essays shows forth in the public writings he undertook: book reviews, letters to the editors of newspapers and ecological journals, and the open letters he would send, some of them blistering, to public officials. When the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge became a contentious site, Tim took a number of trips to observe firsthand the caribou herds, wolf packs, and grizzly bear. He hired a bush pilot to land him and his gear on a gravel creek bed, and return for him three or four weeks later.

A counterpoint to his activism, Tim was steeped in Zen Buddhism. He studied for years with Richard Baker Roshi at Crestone Zen Center, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos. Each December he would attend Rohatsu Sesshin, the intensive, highly demanding, “great cold” meditation retreat.

Zen good humor, a crackling wit, and a scorching fury at the loss of wild nature, coupled with a kind, gentleness that was with him until his last breath, attended Tim. He is survived by his wife Leni, a brother and sister; several nieces and nephews; and by many friends: the West’s naturalists, poets, mountaineers, and wildlife.

A gathering to honor Tim will be held on January 11, 2024, at 11:00 am on the 4th Floor of CU’s Center for Academic Success and Engagement (CASE) building at the University of Colorado Boulder,1725 Euclid Ave, Boulder, CO 80309 (directly above the Euclid Auto Park). Reception to follow. 

Donations can be made in his name to The Alaska Wilderness League and The Center for Biological Diversity.

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9 thoughts on “Timothy Hogan”

  1. Tim was instrumental in helping to run the Boulder Zen Center in its early days. In those days we had everything we owned in a cardboard box stowed in the great sitting room at Karma Dzong. I remember him as an earnest follower of Zen, always going immediately to his work at the University of Colorado Herbarium after sitting. This is where we met, sharing the task of keeping the Zen Center schedule. We never socialized and were more acquaintance than friends, but I never forgot his support and always smiled when hearing some small news about him.
    Gate Gate parasam gate parasam gate
    Bodhisaha

  2. I sat sesshin with Tim at Crestone Mountain Zen Center, before the pandemic, where in his role as doan he struck
    ringing (and welcome) notes from the great bell. He would appear too for zazen at Boulder Zen Center and when he no longer showed up, even so it was as though he was there.
    Gate gate parasam gate Bodhisvaha
    Tim.

  3. Tim was a wonderful person who will be deeply missed.
    He had a passionate love for nature and the beautiful Colorado mountains.
    His adventurous spirit and compassion for the environment served as an example for us all.
    Sending love and support to my dear friend, Leni, during this difficult time.

  4. I knew Tim for many years from seeing him regularly at the CU Rec Center. He was a devoted exercise enthusiast, however he always had time for a hello and quick chat. He was so friendly and outgoing. I always enjoyed hearing about his work at the Herbarium and our discussions of Colorado outdoors. I’m sorry to hear of his passing and will miss his smile and friendly, kind spirit.

  5. I’m thinking it was summer, 1984, Tim & I were paired up as co-instructors for a 23-day Colorado Outward Bound School wilderness course in Colorado’s Gore Range. Although Tim & I casually knew each other through mutual friends before that course, it was during those weeks where we truly bonded and I realized what an absolutely brilliant human being Tim was. Tim was gifted with a remarkably well grounded sense of understanding for the infinite beauty and intrigue embedded in our natural world, its profound effects on us humans, and human impacts to same. Tim’s wry sense of humor and dervish grin were always welcome and rejuvenating. Tim will really be missed. Leni, my thoughts are with you!

  6. Tim’s smile was so bright; outshined only by the twinkle in his eyes, and the warm glow of his spirit. May his memory be for a blessing, for all that knew him, and for the entire natural world.

  7. Tim was a Jenny Lake Climbing Ranger in Grand Teton National Park for a few years during the late 70s and early 80s. He was considered a most trusted climbing partner, passionate about wild places, and all-round great ranger.

    He is most known for climbing the South Buttress Direct in 4.5 hours from Leigh Lake to the summit of Mt. Moran (5,700 ft elevation gain) with long time ranger George Montopoli who said “we only roped up for a few pitches and from the top of Direct we soloed to the summit via the direct ridge. What a day!!!” Indeed!

    When a fellow ranger had a climbing accident on Rock of Ages in August 1980, Tim was one of the first SAR Team members to come to his rescue and accompanied his fellow ranger all the way to the hospital many hours later. Tim, thank you for being part of our team.-JLRs

  8. Tim was always so kind and fun to be around as we worked together on Colorado rare plant conservation. He submitted many important observations of rare plants, including from remote locations, and was happy to help with reviewing specimens, participating in rare plant meetings, and helping to secure important funding. He will be missed, and remembered so fondly.

  9. Everyone here knows about Tim’s passion and eloquence on behalf of the natural world, and his passion and eloquence taking to task those who sought to injure the natural world. For many people, Tim was “the voice” expressing what we were feeling in a way that was better, clearer, and more forceful than most of us could ever muster. Most of my experiences with Tim were in remote places on extended trips in southern Utah and the Alaskan arctic, reveling in the stark beauty of these places, sharing, confiding, simply spending time together. On our recent trip to the Arctic Refuge, we had walked out into the middle of a huge, flat valley, watching a group of Dall sheep on the hillside just above where we were camped. We were so engrossed in watching the sheep through our binoculars that we failed to notice the swirling, turbulent, pitch black, massive clouds looming up behind us. All of sudden the sun was fully blotted by these clouds. We both turned to see what was happening, we both yelled “Oh Shit,” and we both ran the half mile back to our camp, diving into our tents seconds before wind, lightning, and hail pummeled everything around us. After 2 hours of deafening beating on the tent walls, I called out, “Hey Tim, how ya doing?” Tim called back, “Good, hanging out.” Days later, on this same trip, we laid face-down on the tundra among the newly opened flowers that carpeted the ground, and, from the perspective of a flower, watched clouds moving across the brilliant blue sky surrounded by mountains. On all these trips, we talked about how the instant coffee we both had brought was passable only in these grand circumstances. We talked about our loves. We talked about our hates. We talked about listening to silence. We talked about talking. And we walked, a lot, mostly without talking, simply being in the landscape. Tim was a joy to be with: sometimes cranky, sometimes wistful, sometimes stubborn, always thoughtful, always caring, always giving. I loved Tim, and like everyone here, we will sorely miss him.

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