Air scientist, Dr. William “Brock” Faulkner, was a tireless advocate for livestock producers in Colorado & across the nation.
It was June, 2006, and I was driving home from the Omni in Broomfield, following the conclusion of a Colorado Livestock Association (CLA) Annual Convention, and thinking about how CLA could become more engaged in addressing the issue of ammonia deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park (Park). We had met with folks at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and it was their belief based on modeling at the time, that agriculture, both crop and livestock were major contributors to the “problem” in the Park. After the initial meeting with CDPHE and a handful of stakeholder meetings it became apparent that the agricultural community was going to need some help in understanding the scientific aspects of ammonia and other nitrogen compounds. There was never a question that agriculture was a contributor, the question was and still is; how much does agriculture contribute and more specifically how much does agriculture in Colorado contribute?
As I was contemplating our dilemma my cell phone rang and Tom McDonald was on the line. Tom is in charge of all things environmental at JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and had been involved in the process of trying to identify someone who could help us address the scientific nature of ammonia, nitrogen, crops and cattle and how they all interact in a very complex equation. At this point in our conversation Tom and I, and others, had contacted a number of individuals that were considered to be experts in the field of air quality and had attempted to enlist their assistance, but for a variety of reasons we had no success.
The reason for Tom’s call was to let me know that one of his contacts at Texas A&M had shared the name of a PhD candidate who would receive his degree in December. It wasn’t that we were desperate, but we were needing someone who could help us understand what we were facing. Following several minutes of discussion, we both agreed that it was worth the effort to contact this young man and see if he might be a fit. As we both weighed the pros and cons of engaging someone who had limited experience with our issue Tom made the statement, “Geez, I hate to have to break in a kid on an issue of such importance!”
Little did we know at the time this was the best decision that we could have made. Dr. Brock Faulkner became the face of our effort with regard to reducing nitrogen deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park. He not only understood the science, but more important he was able to communicate that science in a way that everyone could understand. Whether he was talking to someone with a degree in atmospheric science, a feedlot or dairy operator, someone with the Park Service or CDPHE, he could explain the intricacies in such a way that everyone ended up on the same page.
Today, the problem with increased ammonia deposition in RNMP has not been solved, but there are indications that maybe we are on the right path. In some years there has been reductions in deposition and we have discovered that there are other sources of ammonia including those that come to the Park from outside of Colorado.
“Brock was a good and honest man and scientist, and as such he was not looking to take a side or position, but rather to seek to understand the science. His background as a rancher and scientist made him a perfect fit to help the membership of the Colorado Livestock Association understand how the pieces of the complicated nitrogen puzzle fit together and how production ag plays a role in that puzzle. As a scientist he was extremely knowledgeable and quickly earned the respect and trust of other scientists as well as the Parks Service and the regulatory community involved with Rocky Mountain National Park. Brock was not involved with CLA or the Rocky Mountain National Park issue to earn a name for himself. His goal was to understand the science and help make sure that it was used to make sound and wise decisions. His guidance and support will be greatly missed by all those that have known and worked with him.” -Justin Miller, JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, LLC
“Brock was our advocate for things regulatory and scientific. A translator of sorts. This issue of nitrogen emissions is perhaps our biggest environmental issue and we need help with it. Brock could break it down for us and help us understand what our part is. But as important as that is for us, he was able to act in a similar capacity for the scientific and regulatory community and translate our positions and reality for and to them. He had such a great mix of skills and was equally at home on the ranch or in the classroom. He easily earned everyone’s respect and friendship, and so deserved it.” – Jon Slutsky, La Luna Dairy
As of February 17, 2016 we no longer have Dr. Faulkner to help guide us. For on this day, he was released to the presence of Jesus after fighting a two-year battle with leukemia. He will be missed. Most by his family and friends, but also by those of us who were fortunate to have known him for his keen intellect, infectious smile and the strength to fight on in the face of such a terrible disease.
God Bless you Brock Faulkner, may you Rest in Peace!
Colorado Livestock Association honored the late William Brock Faulkner, PhD, with its most prestigious honor, the Top Choice Award, at the 2016 CLA Annual Meeting April 13-14, 2016. Dr. Faulkner was a passionate and tireless advocate for the livestock industry in Colorado and across the country. Over the last 9 years, Brock worked closely with livestock producers in Colorado on air quality issues related to Rocky Mountain National Park. His career in teaching culminated in serving as Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University and he advised the Secretary of Agriculture on the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Air Quality Task Force. In addition to the Top Choice Award, Brock has received numerous awards including the 2012 Texas A&M College of Agriculture Award for Outstanding Achievement in Early Career Research, and the 2014 Gale Holloway ASABE Professional Development Award. His greatest professional joy, though, was working with students. He leaves an uncommon legacy of young men and women who were deeply impacted by his teaching and mentorship.
Original Article by Bill Hammerich, Colorado Livestock Association