Dr. Ira N. Gabrielson, 87, and internationally known authority on conservation, died of heart complications Wednesday at Doctors Hospital.
He was the first director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after serving as a chief of the old Bureau of Biological Survey of the Agriculture Department. He was former president, and at the time of his death, board chairman of the Wildlife Management Institute.
He was a founder and former chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
Referred to by many as "Mr. Conservation" and known by his colleagues as "Dr. Gabe," he was chosen in 1975 by the American Forestry Association to be one of a select group for the National Hall of Conservation, which includes Rachel Carson, President Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold.
Dr. Gabrielson's interest in preserving wildlife began while he was still a farm boy in Iowa, and remained with him throughout his life, expanding into the whole field of conservation, long before that became a popular topic.
Born in Sioux Rapids, he graduated from Morningside College there in 1912. He taught biology briefly at Marshall High School in Iowa, and then joined the Bureau of Biological Survey as an assistant in economic ornithology.
For 20 years, he supervised a wide range of wildlife management and research programs, mainly in the West, before coming to Washington in 1935 as chief of the bureau's division of woldlife research.
When Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries were consolidated into the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940, Dr. Gabrielson was made director, a position he held until 1946.
During that period he was deputy coordinator of fisheries and a U.S. delegate to the International Whaling Conference. He was responsible for adding millions of acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
He retired from the federal government in 1946 to become president of the Wildlief Management Institute, serving in that capacity until 1970, when he became chairman of the board.
Dr. Gabrielson helped found the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1948. He helped organize the World Wildlife Fund (United States) in 1961, and was its president for many years. He was a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund (International) and of the North American Wildlife Foundation.
While he was deeply involved in conservation on a national and worldwide basis, Dr. Gabrielson, who lived in Northern Virginia, also found time to take a leading role in local conservation matters.
Her served as chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority from 1959 to 1976, and had been chairman emeritus since then.
In 1966, he was named by the governor to the Virginia Outdoor Study Commission, which drafted a plan to conserve and develop the state's natural resources for outdoor recreation.
The plan, which revitalized parks, conservation and recreation efforts, is still in effect. Dr. Gabrielson served as the commission's vice chairman until 1974.
He was the author of four books and coauthor of six more on birds and conservation. He had traveled on expeditions to the South Pole and on bird trips to the Andes, the Amazon, Europe, the Mediterranean and Alaska.
Dr. Gabrielson had received honorary degrees from Oregon State University, Middlebury College and Colby College. He held the Interior Department's Distinguished Service Award and the Audubon Conservation Award.
He was a member of the Society of Systematic Zoology, the American Ornithologists Union, the Ecology Society of America, the Audubon Society, the Izaak Walton League, the Washington Academy of Sciences and the Cosmos Club.
He is survived by his wife, Clara Speer Gabrielson, of the home in Oakton; a daughter, Jean Holmes, of LaFeria, Tex.; a brother, Rush Gabrielson, of Crystal Lake, Iowa, and seven grandchildren. Three daughters preceded him in death.
The family suggest that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Wildlife Management Institute, where a memorial fund has been established in his name.