Conservation Influencers

The Nature Conservancy

USA, Arlington, Virginia

This story began in 1915 with the formation of the Ecologists Union in the USA, which changed its name to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 1950. The next major change came in 1954, when TNC established local chapters and field offices across the USA. Today, TNC is one of the giants among environmental NGOs. Not least because it has assets worth seven billion US dollars and an annual budget of around one billion US dollars to spend on operations.

TNC’s mission, according to its website, is to ‘conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends’. To achieve this end, TNC uses two main instruments. The traditional one is conservation easements, which are voluntary legal agreements that limit land usage in perpetuity. And the novel one, which is gaining in importance, is debt-for-nature swaps, which involve settling or ameliorating an owner’s or sovereign power’s debts, in return for giving TNC ownership or control of a defined area of land or water.

According to TNCs website, it controls, in some form, in excess of ‘125 million acres of land in more than 70 countries’. TNC also claims to be actively involved in more than 100 marine conservation projects. One of these is in the Seychelles, where in 2015 TNC restructured USD21.6m of the nation’s debt that was held by the Paris Club. In return, TNC secured joint territorial authority, in equal measure to the Seychelles’ sovereign power, over a vast marine protection zone, equivalent in size to Germany. This area is now off limits to development and commercial fishing. 

TNC is one of a growing movement among NGOs which campaign to place off limits at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans, in areas known as marine protection zones.


Keith Arnold, Chief of Staff. Jennifer Morris, CEO. Jeffrey Parrish, Global Managing Director for Protect Oceans, Lands and Water. Mike Sweeney, Director and Managing Director of Global Fisheries.


Board of 22 people, chaired by Frances A. Ulmer. Executive Council composed of its Chief of Staff, CEO, Global Managing Director for Protect Oceans, Lands and Water and other key employees.


According to its audited accounts, TNC received one billion two hundred and fifty million US dollars in revenue in 2020, of which nine hundred and eighty million was used for expenses. According to Influence Watch, TNC has been investigated concerning a $1.5 million home loan to the TNC president, and free housing and vehicles provided to employees. In addition it has been suspected of ‘using conservation easements to provide significant tax breaks to wealthy donors seeking to build large homes on land otherwise closed to development’.

About the directory

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.


Wildlife Conservation Society

In 1906, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) put an African man on display in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. In 1918, one of WCS’s founding fathers, Madison Grant, published Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his ‘Bible’. Another leading creator and early leader of WCS, Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr, was also a founder of the American Eugenics Society. His son headed WCS from 1940 to 1968, overseeing a series of major initiatives in Africa. There, WCS became one of the architects of the prohibition movement, which put wildlife for consumptive use and vast regions of land out of bounds to humanity. In 2020, WCS distanced itself in public from the racist views of Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. But it has yet to issue a critical account of the legacy of Fairfield Osborn Jr, even though he led WCS into the modern era while sharing similar politically-inspired ecological goals to his father and Grant. WCS devotes considerable financial resources to influencing outcomes at CITES. WCS’s CEO reportedly earns USD$1,320,978.