By Megan Kehoe

The Bulletin

Dan Cecchini Jr. leads a double life.

During the day, he’s the chief information officer for Central Oregon Community College. He oversees the technology at COCC, spending much of his day immersed in a sterile world of computer systems and data information.

But after work, on weekends and on holidays, Cecchini gets as far away as possible from computers and becomes someone else entirely.

He’s a jet-setting falcon expert, and when he isn’t in the field, setting one of his four birds to hunt, he’s visiting places such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and, just last week, South Korea, where he gave a presentation about falconry and sustainability at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to a group of environmental dignitaries from around the world.

“I was pretty nervous pulling everything together in that short amount of time for this big conference,” Cecchini, of Bend, said. “But I think it helped falconry get some great exposure at such a global level.”

Cecchini spent last week in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a mountainous region where the 12th meeting of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity was held. About 3,500 people from 194 countries attended the conference. Cecchini, who has an educational background in computer science and biology, attended the convention as a representative of the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey (IAF).

Cecchini, 58, grew up in Michigan and has been the president of the Oregon Falconers Association and the North American Falconers Association, and is now a board member with the IAF. He moved to Central Oregon nine years ago, drawn to the region for its plentiful sage grouse and falconry opportunities.

During this time of year, he can often be found out near Brothers, hunting sage grouse, pheasants and ducks with his four falcons. He is a master falconer and has over 40 years of experience in the field.

His interest in the sport has spread to the rest of his family: Both his wife and son are falconers as well.

Cecchini’s side career as a falconry expert has taken him all over the world. At the beginning of this year, he traveled to Qatar for the annual general meeting of IAF and gave a presentation about the negative impacts of commercial wind farms on raptors and game species. This July, the IAF once again came calling: Cecchini was asked by the organization’s president to attend the United Nations convention in South Korea.

Cecchini, along with two other members of the organization from Japan and South Korea, gave a presentation Oct. 15 to an audience of South Korean reporters, UN environmental dignitaries and environmental ministers from several countries. The subject of the presentation centered on falconry as an example of sustainability, because in some countries, the sport has given landowners an incentive to better preserve their land.

In the past, Cecchini said, the UN’s view on environmentalism and sustainability centered on preservation through the establishment of protected, off-limits preserves. Recently, though, the notion of environmentalism and sustainability through incentive has become a popular philosophy with world leaders, Cecchini said.

Instead of declaring wildlife preserves off-limits, which in many places in the world has led to poaching and degradation of such areas, Cecchini said philosophy is shifting to the idea of protecting these areas not through keeping people out, but by bringing people in and giving them incentives to care for the land.

“It’s sort of like with the Deschutes River,” Cecchini said. “There’s an interest in keeping it healthy because people like to fish there and use it for recreation. But if you were to close the river off and tell people it’s illegal to fish there, then the incentive to protect the area isn’t there anymore. People would think ‘Why would I spend money protecting the fish if I can’t fish there?’”

Falconry fits into this concept because falconers, especially in the United Kingdom, have been contributing to this kind of sustainability for years. In his presentation, Cecchini explained that in England, falconry is practiced on the moors, where heather is abundant. Falconers will rent private land on the moors for hunting, which provides an incentive for the landowners to protect and keep the land the way it is.

Because heather acts as a carbon sink, a natural absorber of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, keeping the area as moor land is beneficial to the environment.

“Without the incentive, the landowners might just say ‘To heck with it’ and turn it into farmland,’” Cecchini said.

This was the first time that representatives from the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey presented at the convention.

“We’re hoping it gave great global exposure to falconry as a green hunting sport, and that it will help us make more connections to sustainable groups around the world.”

Cecchini’s travels through falconry will continue next year; he plans to attend conferences in Argentina and possibly in Ireland.

Now that he’s home again, Cecchini is back at work, spending his days in his office in Central Oregon Community College’s Pioneer Hall. But his office walls serve as a reminder of Cecchini’s other life. They’re covered with photos of his falcons, his travels, and the friends he’s made during his journeys as a falconry expert

“For me, falconry is bigger than just a hobby,” Cecchini said. “It’s my passion.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, .