Jan Vandersloot dies at 64; leading Orange County environmental activist

Jan Vandersloot, a leading Orange County environmental activist whose causes included the preservation of the Bolsa Chica wetlands, has died. He was 64.

Vandersloot died Wednesday at his home in Newport Beach, said his son, Jon, who found his father in his home office. "He gave everything he had 'til his last breath," Jon Vandersloot said. The cause of death has not been determined.

Vandersloot, a dermatologist with a practice in Huntington Beach, was one of the founders of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which was formed in 1992 to preserve the Bolsa Chica wetlands by acquiring and restoring the area. He also was a board member and a founder of the Ocean Outfall Group, which has pushed the Orange County Sanitation District to clean up waste water pumped offshore in Huntington Beach and has expanded its efforts to other counties in the state.

Vandersloot had attended a meeting of the state Coastal Commission on Wednesday. "He was the heart and soul of the environmental movement in Orange County," said Larry Porter, a board member of the Ocean Outfall Group. "He was one of those magnificent fellows who was so much bigger than life. It's a huge loss, incalculable."

Vandersloot said his environmental efforts in Orange County started after one of his patients told him about the fight to preserve Bolsa Chica. "I drove by the wetlands, went to a meeting and I was hooked," he told the Orange County Register in 2003. "There is no such thing as protected land. People are very aggressive about developing. If they go unchecked, there will not be any nature left."

Vandersloot was born Feb. 14, 1945, in San Diego, but his family soon moved to New Jersey. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in biological science. He went to medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern and did his residency at Stanford. Vandersloot also served in the Navy, stationed in Long Beach, his son said. He moved to Orange County in the 1980s.

"He was really good at a dispassionate, factually based argument," said Marcia Hanscom, an environmental activist and managing director of the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network, who frequently worked with Vandersloot over the years. "He had a lot of things where he lost, but he was more successful than most because of his style."

Hanscom said Vandersloot worked on many other issues, including preserving park land surrounding upper Newport Bay and "every other wild area remaining on a mostly developed Orange County coastline."

In addition to his son, Vandersloot is survived by his wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Tiffany. Services are pending.


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