Naturalist fighting cancer again |

Naturalist fighting cancer again

Eleven years after his first bout with cancer, naturalist John Olmsted is back in a hospital room, but with as much enthusiasm and passion for conserving land for public use as ever.

The prostate cancer has spread to his liver, giving the 72-year-old an inauspicious prognosis – possibly less than six months to live.

Even so, talking from his hospital room Wednesday afternoon, the self-professed disciple of John Muir spoke with a lilt and an easy laugh.

“Most people who get the report I got yesterday start planning for the end of their life, but I rejoiced in it,” said Olmsted, a Nevada City resident. “I feel blessed to have these chances to go through difficulties to have as an education tool.”

He recounted his years of work in conservation, from his first land preservation deal at Jug Handle State Preserve on California’s coast, to the subsequent string of parks and thousands of acres of open space he calls the “necklace of parks” across the state, including Bridgeport and the Independence Trail at South Yuba River State Park.

And when Indigenous Peoples Days returns next month to Bridgeport, Olmsted said he’ll be at the river for the Tsi-Akim Maidu’s Calling Back the Salmon ceremony, whether he’s on foot or “in a gurney.”

As someone who’s always sought alternative medicine, he has already signed up to see shamans and healers that week, he added.

“Shamanic healings are magnificent. They don’t just go after one problem,” Olmsted said.

After that, he said he plans to enter a hospice in Camptonville.

A fundraiser page has been set up at by Shawn Garvey, seeking donations to help Olmsted pay his bills.

Another friend, Stephen Hein, is collecting donations, through the Stephen Hein in Trust for John Olmsted account at Citizens Bank. Those donations can be dropped off at California Survey Co., Hein’s business at 126 Idaho-Maryland Road, Grass Valley.

“He’s been a major giver in saving the river and in land trades, a major fundraiser,” said former Grass Valley mayor and friend Mark Johnson. “He’s constantly been fighting for trails.”

Checks payable to John Olmsted also can be dropped off at Johnson’s business, Foothill Flowers, at 102 W. Main St., downtown Grass Valley.

To contact Staff Writer Greyson Howard, e-mail or call (530) 477-4237.

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