In Memoriam of Luis “Doc” Contreras
On Jun 25, 2021, Arkansas, Southern forests, and the planet lost one of their true heroes. Luis “Doc” Contreras was a climate champion, a creative campaigner, a spirited activist, and a lover of humanity and every dog he ever met. He passed away in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at the age of 71.
I first met Doc, who held a PhD from Georgia Tech for Statistical Engineering, when he called me out of the blue to talk about a gigantic paper mill that a foreign company with a bad reputation wanted to build in Arkansas. Of course, the state government invited them in and threw lots of money at them to make sure they built the first new paper mill in the South in decades.
It was a fight against impossible odds and no one was stepping up to try and stop it – except of course Doc.
Every time the company applied for a new permit or the state spent more money to entice the company, Doc was there with evidence and passion and a never ending fountain of spirit to oppose this mill. Every time the Governor or Representative Bruce Westerman, the only professional forester in Congress, came out to cheer for the facility, Doc was there with a funny, insightful, and logical response.
He wrote countless letters and editorials for the local paper in Eureka Springs, he spent countless hours doing research on permits, money trails, corporate malfeasance, alternative solutions, and climate impacts to show why this was a bad thing for the people and forests of the state.
Doc was a lone voice in the wilderness. Nothing ever shook him or made him quit.
Doc’s tireless work was rewarded when the company, who had spent years trying to make it happen, finally gave up. The forests and people of Arkansas breathed a sigh of relief. At that point he could’ve rode off into the sunset, but not Doc. Instead he turned his sights on the many pellet mills proposed for the state. From Zilkha to Highland Pellets to the latest proposal from Drax, he never quit. He was the best kind of activist, and I absolutely loved working with him.
Zilkha disappeared, Highland struggled to make its business profitable, and Drax was just starting to get nervous. I spoke to Doc about three days before his passing, and he was as passionate as ever. He had made inroads with the agencies and had a strategy to stop this big, bad British company. I believe his plan can still work as long as we can all channel our inner Doc and fight for our forests, frontline communities, and our planet.
The entire Dogwood Alliance staff mourns the loss of one of our own.
Our hearts are with his wife Crystal, his nine rescue dogs, and his extended family. It was such an honor and a privilege to work with Doc. He was a real treasure for Arkansas and will be sorely missed. His spirit and passion live on in every single climate activist, lover of forests, and all who laugh in the face of insurmountable odds. You’ll be missed Doc.