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BY PETER VAN HORN
In 1994 an editor for The Voice newspapers of Michigan told Lydia Lohrer that no one would read her column. She wanted to write about hunting and fishing, but her editor insisted readers weren’t interested in a woman’s perspective
on the outdoors. Yet he took a chance and gave her a green light. The column “Backwoods” was a resounding success.
Since third grade Lohrer had dreamed of being an outdoor writer, but had no idea it could be a career. After college she worked as a copyright, patent and trademark proofreader. Then a copy editing job opened at a local newspaper and Lohrer wanted it. After applying several times, she offered to work two weeks for free. Her solid editing skills and the trial period got her the job, the experience from which she later used to get her column.
Bruce Matthews was at a Michigan Outdoor Writers Association annual meeting in the late 1990s when a young woman with a baby stepped up and introduced herself. She was Lydia Lohrer and she was just starting out in journalism. He describes her as a positive, ambitious, encouraging woman.
“She has such a heart for getting people involved with whatever she is doing,” he said.
Television was the next medium for Lohrer. “Huntress” aired for the first time in 1999 with Lohrer as a co-host. The show, which ran on the Outdoor Channel, featured her outdoor bowhunting skills and was the first hunting show to feature a woman as the host. “Huntress” provided her with a chance to start making a difference; Lohrer felt that outdoors enthusiasts were wrongly viewed as people who only took from nature and had nothing to give.
“I could portray hunters and anglers as conservationists,” Lohrer said.
After a few years of the show, Lohrer had two children, and another on the way. Hosting a television show became more difficult as her family grew. She gave up the travelling and the cameras to focus on writing and spending time with her kids.
“American Family Outdoors” gave her a chance to do just that. The 90-second segment focused on tips to get families outside, airing between other Outdoor Channel programs every day. Lohrer also wrote columns for various magazines, and in 2012 she took a job writing an outdoor column for the Detroit Free Press.
Fourteen years before landing the Detroit column, Lohrer met Tom Huggler, OWAA life member and former president. Back then, Lohrer was a sharp journalist looking for experienced writers to show her the ropes. Her curiosity and passion intrigued Huggler, and they became friends.
“When you see someone with a keen, genuine interest in things, you want to help them,” Huggler said.
An early interaction with Lohrer has stuck with Huggler for years. On a woodcock and grouse hunting trip at a northern Michigan lodge, he couldn’t give her enough information about the birds to feed her interest. He was impressed by her hunger for knowledge and her quality work.
“She is really doing a nice job,” he said. “I want to read what she writes because of her research and passion.”
To Huggler, Lohrer exemplifies a positive trend for women in the outdoors. At one time women were only asked about things like outdoor cooking and never consulted on questions of hunting or fishing.
“Women have more authority in outdoor writing than they did 30 years ago,” Huggler said. “Now a lot of women have a lot more to say about the outdoors and they offer a new perspective.”
Lohrer re-joined OWAA in 2010 after a long absence. The standard of professionalism associated with the organization got her attention. She was looking for an organization with consistent integrity.
“They offered a value system that was right in line with my own values,” Lohrer said.
Sharing her passion for the outdoors was always important to Lohrer. She home-schooled her two sons before putting them in public school so she could teach them in an outdoor setting. One day her boys brought a cricket in to show their class. The cricket escaped, and Lohrer realized something was wrong.
“There were boys standing on their chairs shrieking because of a loose cricket,” she said.
So Lohrer and her husband Patrick Bevier started an organization, Outdoor Explorers, as a way to connect kids to nature. Most nature education programs focused on exotic wildlife and she wanted to do something different. The couple wanted to educate kids about the wildlife and plants in their own backyards and give them an opportunity to interact with nature. Their program focuses on conservation and appreciation of wilderness.
Lohrer still lives in Michigan with her husband and four children. Her column appears every week in the Detroit Free Press, and she visits schools with the Outdoor Explorers. Matthews keeps in contact with her as well, and he is glad to share a profession with her.
“She made a career in outdoor journalism when most people wouldn’t, with her positive attitude and ability to buck up in the face of great adversity,” Matthews said.♦
-Peter Van Horn is a student at the University of Montana. He believes that outdoor journalism is an essential tool to address real environmental issues. Van Horn is also interested in feature writing and wilderness photography. He joined OWAA as a journalism intern for the summer of 2013.