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
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
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.