Heather Howitt Memorial Fund

What is it?

The family of Heather Howitt has requested that a Memorial Fund be established in honor of their wonderful daughter.

Since Heather lived her life committed to Earth stewardship and was passionate about birds this fund has been established with Rivers & Birds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting earth stewardship.

Heather was always generous of her time and heart when it came to Earth conservation. She volunteered many hours with Rivers & Birds over the past two years and believed in their cause.

Once on a mountain hike, Heather told us that the most important influence in her life was the many camping trips her parents had shared with her as a young child. These experiences inspired her love of nature.

What is the fund for?

This fund will be used to support Rivers & Birds efforts to take local public school children out into nature for joyful learning adventures that inspire them as Earth stewards.

How may I contribute?

To make a financial donation of any amount for the Heather Howitt Memorial Fund You may click this paypal button:

Or write a check to Rivers & Birds and mail it to: PO Box 819, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514. We will notify Heather's parents about your gift in her honor.


Heather L. Howitt, 34, a resident of Taos for two years, died Monday, March 19, 2007.

Heather Lynn Howitt, 34, was born on May 3, 1972 in Royal, Michigan. Heather was the only child of her parents who survive her, Stephen Charles Howitt, and Estelle Rose Howitt, of Crossville, Tennessee. She is also survived by her Aunt, Karen Giannotta and cousins, Carlo and Jill Giannotta, all of Illionois. Throughout her childhood, she lived with her parents in Michigan. As a child, Heather always enjoyed the outdoors.

Her father, Steve, related that he and Estelle took Heather on her first camping trip when she was only 3 months old. Just this year, Heather related that these adventures created the path for her journey into a career that focused on Earth conservation. Her loving Aunt Susan shared this sweet story. “ Heather was one of these little children that was slow to learn to walk”, she said. “Looking back on her nature now we realized why.Forget walking, Heather just wanted to fly. She had an adventurous spirit.”

Heather left home for college after high school, attending Western Michigan University, first studying Political Science and then graduating with a degree in Environmental Sciences. Heather related that while she was at the university, she would sit outside on campus near a lovely pond. She became so captivated by the beauty of the birds on those days that she made the decision that she would learn everything she could about birds.

Her mother, Estella, said that as soon as Heather figured out that bird research was what she wanted to do, she was off to a myriad of places following the seasonal cycle of bird work; traveling and working for a variety of conservation and government organizations. “No one ever stopped Heather from doing what she wanted to do.” By volunteering many hours with accomplished ornithologists, Heather herself became an expert in bird identification and monitoring methods.

She conducted professional bird surveys for a variety of agencies including the US Fish & Wildlife and the US Forest Service. Her mother describes her as her little “free spirit”. Heather accrued a long list of places worked, experiencing the ecosystems, the birds, and no doubt influencing a large variety of people that she had worked with over the years in Indiana, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico and throughout California including Yosemite, Point Reyes, and Occidental. That free spirit is what eventually brought Heather to Taos.

Heather came to Taos in the fall of 2005, fresh off a season of work as a biologist for the Mescalaro Tribe Fire Program out of Ruidoso, NM. Upon arriving in Taos, she discovered the local nonprofit organization Rivers & Birds and began to donate her time to help with their conservation education efforts and experiential nature programs with children. Last year she was hired by the BLM office for biological work under their fire ecology program. Aside from her professional and scientific contributions as a biologist for BLM, she also served on BLM’s wildland firefighting crew on out-of-state assignments (where she had no problem fitting in as “one of the guys”).

On December 11 2006 Heather and her soul mate and friend Steven (with whom she passed away) both helped out with a community tree planting project on a glorious day along the Rio Grande. There were both young and old gathered on this beautiful day. The river shimmered in beauty and the spirits of all present were high. This spring with this memory so close a memorial tree plantings were held in honor of Heather Howitt and Steven Musich along the Rio Grande and at the Taos Public Library. Soon birds will nest upon these trees and their song and flight will reflect the great joy for nature that Heather’s life celebrated.

No doubt, Heather Howitt's gentle earth-loving spirit will continue to shine over her family and the magnificence of this Earth.


Heather Howitt and Stephen Musich Memorial Service Speakers recall victims’ boundless spirits at memorial

By Kevin Shank - The Taos News

The wet and cold weather Saturday morning (March 24) matched a sorrowful mood among hundreds of friends and family attending a memorial for Stephen Musich and Heather Howitt at Sri Neem Karoli Baba Ashram and Hanuman Temple. Musich, 36, and Howitt, 34, were killed March 19 when a speeding pickup crossed onto the shoulder and struck the couple as they walked along Kit Carson Road.

Those huddled beneath two large tents outdoors at the Hanuman sanctuary recalled the boundless spirits of Musich and Howitt, their dedication to the environment and unique pursuit of adventure.
Ken Little of Santa Fé deliv-ered a eulogy for Musich, while Justin Dean of Taos spoke in memory of Howitt.

The memorial included several other speakers, a special chant and music and a touching presentation of flowers into special vases by the families of Musich and Howitt. Little spoke of Musich as a “kind soul and gentle giant” who was driven in the pursuit of truth. Musich was born Jan. 4, 1970. He and Little grew up across the street from one another in Illinois. “We were like brothers,” Little said, recalling the many meals he shared in the Musich house-hold. He said Musich enjoyed a typical suburban childhood, “attending church, playing kick the can, racing bikes and rabble rousing.”

He said Musich developed his sense of adventure as a boy, and also honed a passion for music, including a peculiar pastime of playing LPs at “fast speed.”

“Music was in his soul, whether it was his country-rock phase when he wore jeans and boots, or his Elvis phase,” Little said, helping lighten the mood briefly for those listening.

Little said Musich always laughed, and the two shared stories of childhood when they recently reunited when hap-penstance brought them both to New Mexico.

Throughout the stories of Musich were many references to the man’s devotion to the hippie ideals of freedom and the open road.

“Stephen lived an inspired life at the wheel of a Volkswagen bus with the road ahead of him,” Little said.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Kansas, Musich went to the Pacific Northwest to begin a career as a fisheries biologist. He loved to ski and recreate in the great outdoors, where he was con-stantly on a search for truth and “spreading good will wher-ever he went.” Little said that Musich grew spiritually after arriving in Taos and sought to live a simple life. “He danced, laughed, sang, worked hard and always loved,” Little said.

“Stephen and Heather are all around us now. They are in the sky, they are in the winds and they are in our songs,” Little concluded.

Dean, who worked with Howitt at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Taos, described her as a passionate advocate for the natural world and a crusader for conserva-tion, particularly efforts benefiting migratory birds.

Howitt was born May 3, 1972, in Michigan, and began her outdoor pursuits at an early age: “Her first camping trip was when she was 3,” Dean said. Howitt began working after college for a variety of conser-vation agencies, spending time in Indiana, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, California and New Mexico.

Her “free spirit” brought her to Taos in the fall of 2005, where she worked for nonprofit orga-nizations and in spring 2006, began work for the BLM. Dean said he immediately felt a “fan-tastic connection” to Howitt.

“Both of us loved birds, and we appreciated nomadic life-styles,” Dean said, describing Howitt’s duties in both conser-vation and wildland firefight-ing.

He said Howitt often talked about her future and “how she could make a larger impact for conservation.”

Said Dean, “She will be greatly missed, and this world is left at a loss with her passing.

kshank@taosnews.com