Recipient Biography

Daniel L. Dustin, PhD


As an author, philosopher, teacher, mentor, environmentalist, activist, public intellectual, and scholar, Daniel L. Dustin has enhanced the value of public lands as they enrich people’s lives. He has advanced the cause of parks and public lands and the biodiversity of all living things through his writing, teaching, and service. As a staunch advocate and dedicated steward, he has elevated the ways people view public lands as contributing to the general welfare and public good. He has challenged professionals, students, and the public to value parks and outdoor spaces through being stewards of access, custodians of choice. For example, the four editions of his co-authored book, Stewards of Access, Custodians of Choice, has been a philosophical foundation for parks, recreation, and tourism for almost 40 years.

Dan’s personal and professional life has embraced writing and presentation opportunities regarding the intersecting aspects of conservation, equity, and health and wellness. Specifically, he has addressed elements of healthy parks, land management ethics, social and environmental justice, and the spiritual and healing aspects of nature.

Growing up in Michigan with numerous family vacation trips to the West, Dan developed an additional love for mountains to complement the natural resources of forests and rivers in his native Michigan. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Michigan with a major in geography. During his college years with civil unrest prominent, he nurtured a concern for equity issues in both urban and rural areas. After spending four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War, he returned to the University of Michigan to attend graduate school to get a master’s of science degree in resource planning and conservation.

His PhD was completed three years later at the University of Minnesota, where he wrote a dissertation on the emerging area of gaming simulation applied to land management.

Dan received tenure over the years at San Diego State University, Florida International University, and the University of Utah. During his career, he was an invited visiting professor at over 25 academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Although a successful teacher and mentor as well as an active participant in numerous professional organizations, Dan’s greatest Virtual Presentation • October 2020 9 contributions lie in the writing and presentations about emerging ideas related to conservation, equity, and health and wellness. He is the author of 14 books, dozens of book chapters, and hundreds of articles and presentations. Dustin’s work challenges the way people think about important, sometimes taken-for-granted, areas related to parks, conservation, and recreation.

Dan never shied away from tackling controversial subjects to critically analyze dominant assumptions related to natural resource management. One example is the article he co-authored in the Journal of Forestry, “The Right to Risk in Wilderness.” This article and subsequent rejoinders provoked great interest in defining the possibilities and limits of how lands might be managed.

Dustin, along with other co-authors, advocated voraciously for the significance of wilderness as our nation headed into the 21st century. He also reflected on why wilderness will continue to be of value 50 years from now with an article published in Park Science and reprinted in the National Parks Traveler.

Dan was one of the early authors to discuss the importance of equity and respect regarding outdoor recreation. Dustin and his colleagues suggested that people’s relationship with the natural world should reflect a deeper understanding of the interdependence of all relationships in nature. Almost all of Dan’s writings elaborated on how people are part of nature. He advocated that if people conduct their lives in ways that contribute to a more caring and connected relationship with the larger community of life, then the world will be a better place. Professionals in the field of parks, recreation, and conservation have that opportunity, or as Dan would argue, that mandate.

Dan suggested that human health depends on nature’s health. The two cannot be separated. Through his connection with the University of Utah and being in a parks and recreation program within a larger College of Health, Dustin’s more recent teaching, writing, and presentations focus on health and particularly “green health” as it relates to how the natural world provides health opportunities for humans, and how humans have the responsibility for facilitating healthy environments.

Related to health has been Dan’s passion for understanding and articulating how nature is a healing and therapeutic arena to address social issues. He has advocated vehemently for examining how nature provides an environment to address mental health issues of veterans.

He garnered a grant from a large national foundation to study these phenomena and has held two conferences in Salt Lake City to bring organizations, practitioners, and scholars together who wish to promote the idea of the healing power of nature. The results of these conferences and his research include numerous academic articles as well as three books that address these issues: Outdoor Recreation and Our Military Family: Pathways to Recovery; Nature’s Grace:

America’s Veterans and the Healing Power of Nature; and This Land is Your Land: Toward a As a staunch advocate and dedicated steward, Dan elevated the ways people view public lands as contributing to the general welfare and public good.

He has challenged professionals, students, and the public to value parks and outdoor spaces through being stewards of access, custodians of choice. 10 The Cornelius Amory Pugsley Awards Better Understanding of Nature’s Resiliency-Building and Restorative Power for Armed Forces Personnel, Veterans, and their Families.

One area that Dan has linked to land ethics is the spiritual dimensions of the outdoors and wilderness. He defined spirituality and the human spirit related to nature not only in terms of religiosity but also how nature provides a broad means to nurture a sense of wonder, reverence, and awe. A notable book that he co-edited is entitled, Nature and the Human Spirit: Toward an Expanded Land Management Ethic.

One of the most accessible contributions that Dan has made to the field of parks, recreation, and conservation, and to broader public audiences is his five editions of The Wilderness Within: Reflections on Leisure and Life. In this series of personal and philosophical essays, he writes about his subjective insights regarding his journeys to the exterior world of mountains, forests, deserts, and tundra. The thesis of this book is that when people can find meaning in their lives through their relationships with the environment, they can live more fully through respect for themselves, others, and the natural world.

Dan’s work has enhanced the value of public lands. He is held in the highest regard and distinction by his peers. Further, his career has emphasized how individuals and professionals have an obligation to respect the interdependence of all beings. His efforts have been rooted in his conviction that health promotion (in its broadest sense) within the context of social and environmental justice in park, recreation, tourism, and conservation, is the profession’s, as well as humankind’s, destiny. His literary work and passionate orations focus on how living life in increasing harmony with the larger world is the best expression of the self. These ideas reflect how he has lived his personal and professional life and how his work has had a lasting and positive impact on colleagues, students, and the general public.

Focus areas: Habitat restoration & protection, fish passage, WDFW lands & water access areas, aquatic invasive species, construction projects, white-nose syndrome in bats, oil spill response, environmental education