Dan Oko has lived all over the United States. He was born in California, raised in New York City, went to school in Michigan to study philosophy and creative writing, and began his reporting career in Seattle. In the Pacific Northwest, he took a deep dive into environmental writing at the time the controversy over clear-cutting old-growth forests was at its zenith. That’s also where his love for wilderness adventure was honed, which galvanized his interest in reporting on environmental issues and outdoor travel. Another career move took him to Montana. When his girlfriend headed to Austin for grad school at The University of Texas in 1999, he followed, and never looked back.
He quickly hit his stride as a freelance environmental and adventure travel writer, and over the last 20 years, his work has appeared in a wide range of outlets including Texas Monthly, Adventure Journal, Outside, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Highways and Garden & Gun. Along the way he has mountain biked, hiked, backpacked, kayaked and fished his way across Texas.
“I take a lot of trips and I write about those trips, and fundamentally, that’s what I do. I’m very interested in the conservation of our public lands. I’m interested in wildlife and the environment. And as often as not my avenue to get there is to jump on my bike, go on a camping trip, or plan a backpacking trip where I can experience these things firsthand.”
Having married the woman he followed to Texas, Dan and his wife are now raising their daughter in Houston. The family loves to escape the big city by spending time outdoors, and they’ve made many memories together camping and hiking in Texas State Parks.
“We want to pass our love of the outdoors to our daughter, but we also want her to understand what it means to be a steward. The simple act of picking up trash on a trail or near a campground is just one way we can leave it better than we found it.”
Living in Houston, there’s no escaping the impact of a growing Texas population and the attendant pressure on natural resources not only around Houston but also across the state.
“We’re facing a big fight to save what’s left. My passion to be a writer grew out of a notion that my voice could provide an opportunity to conserve what’s left. When I talk about raising my daughter to accept personal responsibility, that’s actually me acting on that same personal responsibility. I want her and her friends to understand that they can be a voice for the environment and a voice for what they love.”
This year, Dan added his voice as a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit and why we should be inspired to conserve it. For Dan, becoming an ambassador will give him another platform to share his passions and find new places to roam.
“I think access to public lands in Texas is crucial. I think the expansion of public lands is crucial. I feel like I’ve been an ambassador in an unofficial capacity for a long time. So, the ability to grab this cap and come out and talk to people about what’s important to me is absolutely simpatico with everything that I’ve been interested in for decades.”
Dan hopes that more Texans will get engaged and involved in the work of Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to conserve the wild things and wild places of our state.
“It’s more important than ever. In the last year, more people have discovered the healing power of nature. It fills the heart with a real sense of hope. And I think that is a great investment. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is raising money that will serve generations of Texans.”