Transitioning from oilfield worker to volunteer trash and reclamation operative came with a pay cut. But, after watching the mountain range he grew up in becoming increasingly polluted, Conor Raney felt he had to do something about it.
Growing up in Pinedale, Wyoming, Raney spent much of his childhood in the surrounding mountains. He bonded with his family on long hikes, studied the relics of Native Americans, and found meaning in life. His family dates back to the 1940s in Pinedale—his father and extended family were sure to pass on the knowledge they had accrued through decades of exploring.
After graduating from Pinedale High School, he set his compass on Laramie. He received a degree in physical sciences from the University of Wyoming, all the while exploring Albany and the surrounding counties. Money was tight after graduating, so Raney elected to become a full-time oilfield worker. Admittedly, this wasn’t his favorite work, “The first day of my four days off was to rest up, then I had two days off, and then the last day of my four days off was to rest up for the next ten days of work.” However, the job did provide a steady stream of income and helped him understand an industry that has developed much of the Cowboy State.
Yet, the long hours began to pull him away from his true love—the mountains.
What little time he did have to explore the mountains, he began to notice an unfortunate trend. An increasing amount of hikers were leaving trash, creating illegal fire pits, destroying high elevation foliage, and improperly burying waste. Few people were stepping up to mitigate the adverse effects of a social media popularized range, and Raney decided to take matters into his own hands.
Through fundraising, Raney was able to designate the summer months to solely cleaning up the mountains. “For three years, I was heavier coming out, then I was coming in,” claimed Raney. After years of effort, the massive amounts of trash began to strain his body, and areas he had reclaimed were trashed the following week. “It’s going to take a cultural movement,” claimed Raney, “we all got to take out a little more than we take in.”
He has since been hired by an archeology company contracted by the government to excavate and document artifacts of the original Wyoming inhabitants. Their connection to the landscape and skill in which they maneuvered it has always been an inspiration, claiming, “It humbles you to see how they lived.” However, his efforts to conserve the landscape aren’t over, as he is in the mountains every chance he gets, continuing the work that has inspired so many outdoor enthusiasts.
Raney has filled many shoes over the last decade, seeing Wyoming from many perspectives, but he is confident no matter which shoe he is wearing, they will be traversing Wyoming.
About the Author:
Christopher Bancroft is a freelance writer and photographer native to Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Bancroft sought to cover hunting, fishing, and travel stories. He now lives in Pinedale where he writes for publications like Meateater and The Bugle Magazine while also serving as a WWF ambassador.