Resources Branch Chief
Ridgecrest Field Office
Remember Lonesome Dove, that 1989 epic TV mini-series? Remember the scene with the pecan grove and water moccasins? That's Robert Pawelek's (pronounced pa-VEL-ek) place, down near Corpus Christi. That's where he is from -- by gawd, Texas!
Early on, along with his friends, mostly sons of vaqueros and Polish farmers, he had aspiration to become a rodeo cowboy. After spending considerable time counting the ceiling tiles at various hospital emergency rooms and shoveling his share of horse manure, he changed direction and went to college.
Like a true Texan, Robert studied livestock and wildlife interface at Texas A&M, graduating in 1982. After a stint with Chevron as a uranium miner and duty with the Texas National Guard as a medic (and deployed to the 1987 Mexico City earthquake), he decided he had done his part to help win the Cold War. He went back to get the home ranch back up and running and almost starved. Naturally, he took a job as a zookeeper at the San Antonio Zoo, managing an off-exhibit breeding program for endangered antelope species. From there he got it in his head to go into the USDA Cooperative Extension Service as a county agent with his first assignment in Hidalgo County, Texas, about as far south as you can go and still be in the U.S. A.
Like the two characters from the Lonesome Dove series, Gus McCrea and Woodrow Call, Robert decided to leave the vastness of the Texas to see what lay beyond to borders of the Lone Star State. He spent 12 years as an agriculture, natural resources agent in central Oregon for Jefferson County and Warm Springs Indian Reservation. While there, he managed to squeeze in his masters degree at Oregon State University in 2001. He worked with the BLM's Prineville District in riparian rehab and juniper management and enjoyed it very much.
He stayed with the Extension Service a few more years (17 total), taking an assignment in the hills of southeast Ohio, across the river from Huntington, W.V., working with stubborn tobacco farmers before coming to his senses