CWK Ranger Profile – Curtis Orvis
Professional and Personal Background
I developed a passion for rivers starting as a 5-year old, fishing on the Middlebury River in East Middlebury, Vermont. My love of nature and quest for knowledge in natural resources was ingrained through years of scout camp, hiking, canoeing, sailing, swimming, and boating. I was classically trained in civil engineering at UVM (where I met my wife) and in hydraulic engineering and river mechanics at CSU. I will always cherish my chance to work in hydraulic engineering on such rivers as the Columbia, Colorado, and Rio Grande and reservoirs including Elephant Butte, Lake Powell, and Tule Lake for the Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. Mid-career, I transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Northeast where my passion for rivers and fish came together in Fish Passage Engineering and we raised 3 wonderful children. I retired from Interior after 38 years to move to Florida and volunteer in water resources.
Tidal Caloosahatchee Group
What motivated you to become a Ranger?
I was interested in volunteering in retirement and continuing my learning about fishing and maintaining the water quantity and quality in the Imperial River where I live. The degradation in the river systems, possible salt water intrusion, poor water management, and shift to less government regulation have heightened my concern and motivation.
What do you like doing most as a Ranger?
I enjoy the connection with people who care about fish and wildlife habitats and conservation. It is highly rewarding to learn the local science and help wherever possible, to be good stewards and caretakers of our natural resources. I’m hoping to be on the water more in the future and work to decrease my carbon footprint.
Why did you choose southwest Florida as home and if not a native, when did you arrive?
My wife and I first visited grandparents and aunts and uncles in Florida in about 1980 and moved my mom to Bonita Springs in the early 90’s. We love the care-free, shorts and T-shirt lifestyle with the abundance of outdoor activities and fantastic weather. We have walked Barefoot Beach, seen manatees, gopher turtles, dolphins, and fish, and taken the kids to Corkscrew to see gators, birds, and wildlife.
What is your favorite waterway in Southwest Florida and why?
I consider the Everglades as the most significant wetland in the world, and of course, the Imperial River has long been a favorite since the 90’s. I recognize the links to all the water courses and the complexities in the surface and groundwater systems. I am disturbed by the impacts that agriculture, land development, and industry have had on water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and our food web. I hope to responsibly catch and release some of the incredibly diverse fish species in the Everglades during retirement.
Why is protecting our waters important to you?
I was working in the 70’s to pass the Clean Water Act and cannot understand why there was any question on reauthorizing after 50 years. Clean water is paramount to our health and well-being. For example, the public has slowly learned about the impact of dams on clean water, and only recently started recognizing the improvement in fish passage, water quality, and climate resilience that can be realized from removals. It seems that we need more people connecting with nature and our rivers for the public to understand the critical links of clean water to the food web and our true long-term sustainability. I feel that clean water and abundant natural resources are the greatest gifts we can give to our grandchildren.