Protected Areas lose a champion

Robert C. Milne 1939 – 2012

Rob Milne

On September 23, the world lost a true champion of parks and protected areas with the passing of Rob Milne, retired Chief, Office of International Affairs, National Park Service, 1975 to 1995 and long term WCPA member. Rob was a major figure in the international conservation community through this period and beyond. His achievements in the fields of ecology; protected area training, planning and management; international heritage consulting and site assessment were recognized by numerous awards including the Dubrovnik Gold Medal by Secretary General, UNESCO, Paris (1996); the USDI Distinguished Service Award (1996); the USDI Meritorious Service Award (1989); and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Commission on Protected Areas Fred Packard Award (1984).

With a B.Sc. in zoology from Duke and a M.Sc. in ecology from North Carolina State College, Rob was well prepared for his first National Park Service assignment at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 1961 when he was hired as a seasonal naturalist by Vernon (Tom) Gilbert, the park’s Chief Naturalist. Rob’s wife Tobey was employed as a receptionist at the Museum of the Sea in Buxton. Living in a small cottage near the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, Rob and Tobey significantly increased visitors' understanding and enjoyment of the National Seashore. They worked well together at the Island, and shared a number of adventures with Tom and his wife Patsy, cementing a lifelong friendship.

After Cape Hatteras, Rob’s NPS career also included Glacier and Lassen National Parks, Mather Training Center, the Eastern Service Center, the Division of New Program Development- working on Environmental Education, and a detail to the Conservation Foundation.

Rob’s international career was launched in 1965 when Russell Train, then Chair of the African Wildlife Foundation, and Bill Eddy, a prominent conservationist with experience in East Africa, telephoned Tom Gilbert to ask for recommendations for someone to work in Nairobi National Park, Kenya as an Education Warden for Kenya National Parks. Tom Gilbert, who was about to embark on his own multi-year assignment at the Mweka College of Wildlife Management in Tanzania, recommended Rob for the job. Within three weeks from receiving the call, Rob was in Nairobi with his wife Tobey and their two small boys. He had very little preparation whatsoever, but for a 48-hour submersion course in Swahili. According to Bill Eddy, Rob and his family settled right in and Rob did a wonderful job. Rob was an outstanding naturalist and interpreter. He was highly respected by the African staff that he worked with in the Education Center and was able to accomplish a significant amount of work. This experience also led to a lifelong friendship with Bill Eddy and Russell Train.

On his return to the U.S., Rob continued work in the environmental education field. He again worked for his friend Tom Gilbert in the Office of Environmental Interpretation. There he co-authored, with Bill Eddy, the book, “Consider the Process of Living” and a film for the Second World Congress on National Parks held at Yellowstone NP in 1972.

In 1973 the NPS assigned Rob to be an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan, Anne Arbor, where he formulated and directed the International Seminar for the Administration of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves. When he became the Chief, International Affairs Division in 1975, he oversaw the continuation of the annual International Seminars through 1991. A total of over 700 park and protected area leaders from 108 countries participated in this program. For many of these leaders, these seminars represented a pivotal point in their careers and had profound impacts on the management and development of park and protected area systems in their countries.

With his genuine, unassuming and warm personality, Rob developed strong personal and professional relationships with persons at all levels of society and from many countries. As Chief of the International Affairs Division, he encouraged the sharing of experience and understanding between cultures and provided frameworks for cultural and natural heritage conservation assistance. He initiated and directed collaborative projects on every continent in over 100 countries working with people from different cultures and economic levels, ranging from the illiterate village farmer to government ministers and diplomats.

During his tenure as the Chief of the OIA, Rob served for nine years as the Vice Chairman (North America), Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas, The World Conservation Union (now IUCN). He was also the US government and/or NPS Delegate/Representative to multilateral and bilateral meetings, conferences, and negotiations in over 45 countries; and Chair and Vice Chair of the 21 nation intergovernmental World Heritage Committee. He made many close friends in the international protected area community during his time as Chief. After retirement from the NPS, Rob moved to Paris where, from 1996-1997, he was Principal Policy Advisor to the Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. He intermittently served as Acting Director of the Centre during this time. While working for UNESCO, Rob served as the Chief of Mission - World Heritage In Danger Assessment, at the Plitvice World Heritage site, Croatia and he headed up negotiations of UNESCO Memoranda of Understandings with IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM.

In describing his career, Rob reminisced that he … “Fostered the sharing of experience and understanding as well as professional and personal growth opportunities within the world park community for 25 years and enjoyed 99.9% of it beyond imagination. The opportunity to make a difference and contribute domestically and internationally to making the world a better place to live has been extraordinarily satisfying.”

His friends and colleagues in the National Park Service and international conservation community are grateful for his friendship and tremendous accomplishments in making this world a better place.

Rob is survived by his spouse, Jane DeGeorges of Donnay, Basse Normandy, France. He was predeceased by his wife Tobey Milne and is survived by his son, Michael Milne of St. John, Virgin Islands and his son Andrew Milne, Andrew’s wife, Jalila and their daughter, Alexa, from The Town of Southern Shores, North Carolina. Condolences may be sent to Jane DeGeorges, Lieu dit Villers, 14420 Donnay Basse, Normandie, Calvados, France (, Andrew Milne, email and Michael Milne, email A family memorial service was held for Rob in Normandy in September, following his cremation.

Donations in Rob’s memory may be sent to any of the three following organizations:

Global Parks – A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization formed to organize and support a Volunteer Cadre of retired conservation professionals to support national systems of protected areas and supporting institutions around the world. Rob Milne assisted in the creation of this organization.;;

The International Ranger Federation (IRF)- This is a non-profit organization established to raise awareness of and support the critical work that the world’s park rangers do in conserving our natural and cultural heritage. Rob played a large role in the growth and support of this organization.;;

Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary (nonprofit) health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Rob died of complications from leukemia.;;

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