Born in Champaign, Illinois, John M. Kauffmann grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. He graduated cum laude from Princeton University with the class of 1945. From 1944 to 1946, he served as a diplomatic courier in Africa and Europe. After the war, he wrote articles for the Washington Star and the National Geographic, to include an August 1959 cover story focusing on California’s giant sequoias. He then joined the National Park Service (NPS) and would become a widely respected conservationist. For a number of years he was based in NPS headquarters in Washington, D.C. He then served as a park planner, assisting in the establishment of new park units, to include Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
In 1972 the NPS transferred Kauffmann to Anchorage, Alaska, to study areas that were being considered for designation as national parks, monuments, and reserves. His work contributed to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which permanently conserved more than 100 million acres and his home in Anchorage became a meeting place for conservationists and students. He played a key role in creation of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, establishing a high bar for wilderness areas. His efforts were instrumental in shaping the park’s mission of maintaining the wild and undeveloped character and environmental integrity of the area and provide opportunities for visitor recreation.
In 1973 he published Flow East: A Look at our North Atlantic Rivers, which celebrated rivers and those who worked to conserve them. After retiring from the NPS, he moved to Maine to co-publish the Bar Harbor Times. In 1992 he published a second book called Alaska’s Brooks Range: the Ultimate Mountains.
Kauffmann was an active member of a number of boards and organizations, to include The Wilderness Society, the National Parks and Conservation Association, and Washington’s Cosmos Club, and he was a contributor to the National Park Trust. He passed away in 2014 at age 91.