Shared Love of Nature Connects Us to One Another

By Paul Buttner

As part of my role to administer the habitat programs implemented by the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation (“Foundation”) I had a unique request that resulted in a special moment that I will never forget. For me, it connected so many important aspects of my career in rice, wildlife management and my passion for wildlife habitat creation.

The request was from a particular Foundation donor who wanted to apply her donation to a unique field that could essentially be dedicated to her father who passed in 2015. She happens to be Kim DeVincenzi who grew up in Colusa, now works for the rice industry and is a critical piece of the administrative operations of the Foundation. Her father was Garfield “Gar” Rourke who worked for Bank of America helping to develop and finance rice businesses in Colusa County. The field we chose is farmed by Hans Herkert, a young man whose father, Bob Herkert, worked tirelessly for the rice industry and championed its many wildlife benefits. Hans applied to create special waterbird habitat as part of our Foundation’s new program called Bid4Birds and was selected. I had the pleasure of mentoring Hans in his youth and now appreciate seeing him carry forward the love of farming with nature instilled in him by his father who passed in 2000. So, for me, this all came together in a symphony of special connections entwined within the uniquely common thread that is rice and habitat.

women reading dedication sign


Before taking Kim and her mother to this special spot, I realized that it needed something special there to dedicate the habitat in her father’s name. Then came the web research, writing and subsequent trip to the poster print shop followed by some quality time in my woodshop to pick out the perfect oak post and put it all together.

Bob Herkert dedication sign


The result? Well, I’ll let you see for yourself in the photos taken on that beautiful springlike day filled with deep, heartfelt emotion about a loving father and husband who dedicated his life to helping rice businesses and wildlife thrive in Colusa, his adopted home town.

Paul Buttner is Manager of Environmental Affairs for the California Rice Commission.


Paul Buttner