NWF View: April/May 1999

04-01-1999 // Mark Van Putten

All the acts of government are of slight importance to conservation, Aldo Leopold told us, compared to the acts and thoughts of individual citizens. Leopold is known today as a great hero of conservation, but he was primarily an ordinary citizen who had a passion for the natural world and cared enough to use his special skills to make a difference. Such is the case with all true conservation heroes past and present--people like John Muir, Rachel Carson and others whose names we have yet to learn.

Just four years ago, a dozen students at Minnesota´s New Country School discovered badly deformed frogs during a hike in the Ney Woods and sparked a mass effort (including an NWF campaign) to find the cause and a solution to the growing problem of amphibian deformities. Though their names are not well known, these students share with other, more-celebrated conservation heroes that concern for and ethical commitment to nature is essential to protecting the wildlife and wild places of our world.

In this issue, we pay tribute to several individuals whose outstanding contributions to conservation are being recognized with an NWF National Conservation Achievement Award at this year´s NWF Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas.

Among the recipients are the New Country School students whose concern and tenacity may help to solve the mystery of amphibian deformities in time to address any human-caused factors. Others include: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist David Mech, whose work on wolves has helped change public attitudes and allowed this most misunderstood predator to regain a foothold in the wild; Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker, whose insightful articles are building new understanding of conservation issues throughout the West; and the Seattle-based Earth Ministry, a leader in the new movement building on the moral and spiritual commitment of faith communities to care for the Earth.

Our most prestigious award, Conservationist of the Year, is being presented to Sylvia Earle, whose lifetime of achievement as a marine biologist, author, lecturer and scientific consultant have made all of us better aware of the fragility of the oceans and their link to the health and survival of people and wildlife worldwide. Yet, even as we salute Earle and our other award winners as model citizen-conservationists, we must remember that the vast majority of conservation heroes will remain unknown and unsung.

Each of us who understands our role as part of the land community and who acts to preserve the integrity of that community is a conservation hero. It is the ordinary citizen-activists and volunteers who live and act on the conservation ethic who make possible the successes of the National Wildlife Federation in maintaining and restoring the wild in our world. It is they who are quietly safeguarding wildlife, wild places and natural resources in countless places.

The National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates exist to give these ordinary people the knowledge and the means to do extraordinary things. Though few will be recognized as an Aldo Leopold or a Sylvia Earle, these quiet heroes and their more celebrated colleagues are together shaping a brighter future for people and wildlife everywhere.

Indeed, saving the wild begins with the heroism in each of us.

Mark Van Putten
President & Chief Executive Officer
National Wildlife Federation

 

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