A local environmental legend passed away this week.
There are many words to describe the contributions of Ilia Fehrer, but the one we like the most is leader. There are many different ways to lead. Some do it vocally, some are quiet and some don’t even realize they are subconsciously doing it with just their presence and charm. Fehrer was a leader through and through and most likely falls into the later category. She led by example, seemingly reluctant to do so. She seemed to always have a unique inspiration behind her efforts and that presumably served as her motivation to address a wrong.
In the many years Fehrer was fighting for conservation in specific and the environment in general, we often clashed. There were times when we disagreed wholeheartedly with Fehrer’s letters to the editor and her public comments. There were times when we thought her views were a bit extreme. However, it was impossible not to respect the little lady because she spoke from her heart and with conviction. As a matter of fact, that perceived extremism was largely a result of her being ahead of the times in many ways on the environment.
Fehrer was fighting the green fight before it was jive to be doing so. She fought for conservation hard and did so for decades publicly and privately. There was a time when Fehrer was present at every County Commissioner meeting and weighing in at practically every public hearing that remotely had anything to do with environmental public policy and decisions.
In today’s world, there are plenty of imitators. You know the type. They talk a lot but they really have no clue. It’s all opinion, substantiated by nothing short of misconceptions without any interest in science or facts. They preach one thing but do another. They view themselves as conservationists and preach to anyone who will listen about their politics. However, in all actuality, they live a hypocritical lifestyle. These folks are a dime a dozen around here.
The antithesis of this was Fehrer, who never wanted to be in the spotlight. She simply wanted to make things right when she perceived they were wrong. She did as she said and will be remembered here as the individual who held the County Commissioners accountable decades before there were any federal or state funded programs with any sort of clout or organization. Today, there are hundreds of people who speak up for the environment. Most of these folks are attending this hearing or that meeting because they are being paid handsomely to do so. Fehrer was fighting the good fight for her beliefs, not because she was getting paid by the hour to attend.
Whenever the area loses one of these pioneers, a void is left behind in the community. Unlike in some cases, nobody will ever fill her shoes. While those shoes may have been tiny in stature, they were enormous in terms of the impact they had on policy as well as individuals in the area. People like her are a dying breed around these parts and it’s sad to see her go. The environmental community lost a leader, but thanks largely to her contributions over the years, there are still some old and young salts around to carry on her mission.