Jason Hayes is a hunter and a fisherman, and his first job was as a backwoods ranger in northern Canada. He got into the world of public policy when he was commissioned to write a paper about grizzly bears.
It’s no wonder that he wound up as the Mackinac Center’s director of environmental policy.
But first, why grizzly bears?
“Some environmentalists were calling for shutting down some of the national parks in Canada to humans by arguing that they were endangering grizzly bears,” Hayes said. “But this was advocacy science.”
Hayes was born in Canada and raised in Manitoba, in the central part of the country. His dad was a college professor in education who taught teachers how to teach.
After getting a technical degree in wildland recreation and a bachelor’s of science in natural resource conservation, Hayes went to work in the forestry business in northern British Columbia. After four years, he began to see the reality of public policy up close.
“There was an honest-to-goodness industry versus government fight over the work we were trying to do managing forests,” Hayes said. “And the government was going to win.”
He saw the writing on the wall and left forestry to earn a master’s degree from the University of Calgary in environmental science. After that, he entered the world of policy, working first for the free-market Fraser Institute and then for private companies, focusing on energy policy.
By then, he was married to his wife Tanya. Eventually, they moved to the United States, and Hayes came to the Mackinac Center in 2016.
“My main job is twofold,” he said. “First, to convince people that the purpose of true environmentalism is that we manage our resources for the benefit of humanity and, second, to show why abundant, reliable and affordable energy is important.”
It’s not an easy task. Of the advocates who push for more government and less freedom, few have as much money behind them as environmental groups.
Still, Hayes loves the job. Especially the freedom to work on a variety of topics – everything from energy and electricity to forestry and pipelines.
He and Tanya, who have been married for nearly 25 years, live in Midland, Michigan, with their three children. The two oldest attend Hillsdale College.