George Snyder, a newspaperman, conservationist and outdoorsman whose endeavors reflected his Native American heritage and his spiritual connection to nature, died Thursday. He was 68.

Snyder was a 33-year resident of Occidental and a striking character: a tall, black man who typically wore cowboy duds and a broad smile.

He was battling pancreatic cancer when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors honored him last fall with a Gold Resolution recognizing his decades of commitment to the preservation of wild and open spaces and protection of the environment.

He had served for 10 years on the county Fish and Wildlife Commission and contributed to the founding of the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, LandPaths and the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation.

Snyder told the board and the family members and friends present in the supervisors' chambers last September, "A lot of people have made a lot of money in this county, and some of it has been hard on nature. We're all hard on nature.

"But many of us also have other riches that we find in working with Mother Earth and the natural world."

Caryl Hart, the county's director of regional parks and a close friend of Snyder and his wife, Sara Peyton, praised him as "one of these rare people who had such a depth of knowledge about the outdoors and the natural world, and who was also such a family man. He managed to be both."

Friend and fellow retired journalist Bob Klose of Sebastopol said, "If you were active in the North Bay the past 30 years or so and didn't know George Snyder, you weren't paying attention."

Snyder was born in New Orleans in 1944 and grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was proud of his ancestry, which included Scots-Irish, African American, Chinese, Cherokee and Choctaw.

He studied at Michigan State University and became a journalist, working most of his career on the news staff of The San Francisco Chronicle.

On and off the job, Snyder was a source of information, insight and inspiration to advocates of preserving open spaces and encouraging people to get out and enjoy them.

Craig Anderson, the director of Santa Rosa-based LandPaths, said he regarded Snyder as a keeper of the hearth, someone the land-stewardship organization could look to for wisdom and guidance.

Anderson added, "As a musician, I have to say George had the most beautiful voice."

In addition to his wife of 33 years in Occidental, Snyder is survived by his children, Tobias Snyder of San Francisco, Samuel Snyder of Carlsbad, Jesse Snyder of New York City and Cree Welch Snyder Schmidt of Beder, Denmark; brothers Edd Snyder and Andre Snyder, both of Michigan, and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Occidental.

Snyder's family suggests memorial contributions to the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, 2300 County Center Dr., Suite 120A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.