For the Birds
“I’m a fortunate guy.” Josh Arrants measures his life’s success not with what he’s received, but in all the ways he’s been able to give. “I’m never going to be a millionaire, but I hit the lottery, man. I’ve absolutely hit the lottery.”
By Richard Turbiak. Photo by Mandy Mohler of Field Guide Designs.
Through Arrants Outdoors, LLC, Josh brings together over 19 years of experience in studying ecosystems from coast to coast. He offers a diverse array of ecological and environmental consultation services, meeting your needs no matter what the size your property may be. “My career has arched – air quality, drinking water quality, ecological endangered species management. I paint a lot of corners.”
With his strong sense of gratitude, Josh is compelled to give back to the community. He’s currently working pro bono on two projects. One with the South Carolina Wildlife Federation installing 500 nesting boxes across the state to monitor warblers. The second, conducting biodiversity surveys for the Lindsay Pettus Greenway five miles south of Charleston, which will build the core of the greenway’s programming to educate and engage the community. “It behooves me to do good with what I’ve been given. I try to give back with my hours and expertise.”
Locally, in October Josh will facilitate a nature walk for the Glacier Institute – Fall Birds of Glacier National Park. A combination of classroom time and field work, participants will discuss the various habitats that’ll be explored out in the field, along with common birds expected to be seen.
Josh was not an outdoorsy type growing up in South Carolina. From the ages of 18 to 25 he worked in two textile factories as a shipping and receiving supervisor to save up money to put himself through college. “I used to drive to work and get a headache because I didn’t want to be there. Third shift, six nights a week. Couldn’t get into a restful sleep cycle. Down to 130 pounds. White as a piece of cotton.” His office was inside the warehouse and he’d walk the 100 yards to the loading dock doors to check the weather.
He began eating his lunch in the night air to enjoy the early spring. And he heard a bird. In a pine tree. Every night. It drove him nuts. What is that bird? “It was unique and small. And it worked his butt off – but nobody knew. Not even what type of pine tree.”
It’s this curiosity that’s driven Josh. His father was a textile mill worker, and also a Baptist deacon occasionally giving sermons when preachers were out of town. Josh would ask his father, “Why is the sky blue?” His father would respond, “Because it’s the color God wanted.” But when Josh found out it was due to the bend of nitrogen and other gases in the atmosphere, he excitedly had to share it with his father. “Dad wasn’t amused. I always leaned toward science a great deal, intrigued certainly by biology.” Growing up Southern Baptist, he’d debate his Sunday school teacher on evolution. “Great story, but let me show you what the science says.”
The deep backwoods of South Carolina was a good place to grow up, but it served as a juxtaposition to how Josh didn’t want to spend his life. “My father, my uncles – you just went to work. You got a paycheck, you paid your bills, you went back to work. That was the cycle.” After enrolling at Central Carolina Technical College to study accounting, Josh went to his counselor to help figure how to register for classes. There in her office he began flipping through the course catalog and locked eyes on a degree in natural resources management. One part wildlife management, one part forestry and horticulture.
“I thought it would be neat – I wanna do this!” His friends and family thought he was crazy. Josh was not an outdoors person. He didn’t hunt. He went fishing a couple times in his life. But it “was the most exciting thing I’ve ever been learning my entire life. I wrapped my entire being around it.”
After his first two semesters, he got an internship with Shaw Airforce Base in South Carolina studying endangered species. Shaw AFB turned into more than a job for Josh. His boss Steve Lohr, now the Director of Renewable Resources with the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, showed a deep passion for what he did. “A passion that ignited everyone around him. And I was lucky enough to bask in that glow.”
During his seven months at Shaw AFB, he was introduced “to the most amazing possibilities that I ever could have done.” Soon Mr. Lohr referred Josh for a position with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, as a technician supporting the Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species Inventory. His career took off. As did his deep sense of gratitude.
“I’m just so lucky with everything that’s happened with me. I’m just a poor sharecropper’s grandson from South Carolina who now flies around the country visiting gold mines, auto manufacturers. I work with land trusts and conservation districts. I get up every day, ‘this is insane.’ Almost 20 years and still I’m blown away by this. The whole thing! And the fact I can live where I want to live – this beautiful valley.”
Josh first came to the Flathead Valley in 2011. As a naturalist with the US Department of Defense, he was sent to a two-week conference in Missoula. Over that bridge weekend, not only did he squeeze in trips to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, he also drove up to Glacier National Park. “I was absolutely blown away. I grew up only seeing the Appalachians – old rolling hills predating the Rockies by 45-70 million years – ancient.” The idea of Montana Josh had built in his head came from pictures of what he read or saw on television. Pictures he would stare at in awe and wonder.
“It was like meeting the most interesting man in the world. You may have an idea of how interesting this guy is, but when you really find out… That’s how it was for me with Montana. When I really found out how beautiful she was, the first thing I said when I flew back home, ‘I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But that’s where I’m living.’” Six years later, Josh and his wife Aimee moved into the valley. “I couldn’t be more happy – herds of bison at the National Bison Range, big horn sheep at Logan’s Pass, mountain goats, robins overhead. For what I do for a living this is as close to paradise as it gets. Montana is that to me.”
“If before I draw my last breath, if I can get someone else excited about how special nature is – everything I do is built around that premise. I’m lucky as heck. I get to be a translator for Mother Nature. I get to interpret that for people.”
To learn more about Josh and Arrants Outdoors, LLC, visit his website www.arrantsoutdoors.com, as well as his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
About the Author: Richard Turbiak is the Executive Director of Citizens for a Better Flathead. Also a stained glass artist, he finds much inspiration in the beautiful Flathead Valley.