Seven publishers rejected Jim Rearden’s book, “Alaska’s Wolf Man,” before one accepted. The biography of Frank Glaser, published in 1999, won Rearden the title of Historian of the Year from the Alaska Historical Society.
Such are the challenges for a freelance writer, even one as accomplished as Rearden. By 1999, he had long since become the dean of outdoor writers in Alaska, having written more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles.
He’d started down that path more than 50 years earlier while studying wildlife management at Oregon State College. A summer job with the federal government brought him north by boat to guard salmon streams on Alaska’s southern coast.
After earning a master’s in Maine in 1950, Rearden took a job leading the wildlife management degree program at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He’d already gotten hooked on telling and living Alaska stories, though, so after five years he quit the university, moved his family to Homer and began freelancing and guiding hunters for a living.
“I wasn’t happy standing in front of a blackboard. I wanted to do things,” he told the Homer News in 2010.
In 1959, the new state’s Department of Fish and Game hired Rearden as a Cook Inlet fisheries biologist. He stayed for almost a decade before returning to writing — as outdoor editor of Alaska magazine for the next 20 years.
Shortly after taking the editor job, Rearden began managing fish and wildlife from the other end of the bureaucracy, as a member of the policy-setting Alaska Board of Fish and Game. When the board split in 1975, he stayed another seven years on the game side.
While on the boards, he helped to end the longstanding bounty on wolves and to prohibit fly-in hunters from shooting big game on the same day they’re airborne.
Rearden served on the boards with Sidney Huntington of Galena. Rearden helped tell Huntington’s remarkable story in the 1993 book, “Shadows on the Koyukuk.”
He continued to write in recent years even after a fall partially paralyzed him. He died in 2017.
“He was a hugely prolific writer who kept at it right until the end,” fellow Homer writer Nancy Lord told the Homer News in 2017. His books will be “immeasurably valuable” to future readers, writers and historians, she said.
More online about Jim Rearden:
- Articles about his life in the Feb. 23, 2017, and April 7, 2010, Homer News:
- An interview hosted by the Alaska Trappers Association
- An obituary in the Feb. 23, 2017, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner