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by Nikita Mendonca, staff writer


According to Grady Timmons, communications director for the Hawai‘i Nature Conservancy, TNC is the leading international conservation organization working to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. However, Timmons explained, to become what it is today, the Conservancy had to overcome many obstacles.

The Nature Conservancy grew from the merger of two early 20th century environmental organizations, the Ecological Society of America and the Ecologists Union.

The ESA’s mission was to solve the Earth’s environmental issues through unifying the science of ecology, encouraging research in all ecological fields, supporting communication between ecologists, and acquiring data. The Nature Conservancy actively meets the same goals through the acquisition, study, and preservation of whole natural environments.

In 1915, ESA members raised questions about the ESAs mission statement: Should the ESA exist only to support ecologists and publish research, or should it also pursue an agenda to preserve natural areas?

In 1917, about 158 scientists from the activist wing within the ESA created the Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions, which was chaired by Victor Shelford, the ESA’s first president. Members of the committee wanted to actively preserve the wilderness.

The Committee published the book Naturalist’s Guide to the Americas in 1926, an endeavor to record all the known pieces of natural land left in North and Central America. Despite its efforts, though, the committee did not last. It was dissolved in 1946 and, according to Robert L. Burgess, author of The Ecological Society of America, absorbed into the ESA’s organizational structure.
In 1946, the scientists from the disbanded committee gathered together to form the Ecologists Union. The group wanted to take direct action to save threatened natural areas. Four years later, the Ecologists Union changed its name to The Nature Conservancy.

“Their mission was always to actively protect the land,” Timmons explained. “I guess they felt that the name Nature Conservancy was more representative of their mission.”

In 1955, the Nature Conservancy acquired its first 60 acres of land along with the Mianus River Gorge on the New York/Connecticut border. Today it protects more than 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide, in addition to operating more than 100 marine conservation projects globally.




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