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 TNC’s 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 industrial development and commercial fishing. 

TNC is part 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.


Franz Weber Foundation

From 1990 until 2015, Franz Weber Foundation (FFW) managed the Fazao-Malfakassa National Park in Togo, which was, according to an in-depth investigation by Duke University, ‘established by forcing the local communities off their land and without taking into consideration their point of view’. That same study cited convincing evidence from reports published in 1990, confirming that competition for land use was already ‘creating conflict between the local communities and park managers’. In 2015 Togo refused to renew FFW’s contract because, the report says, ‘local communities were still excluded from the management of the natural resources of their land’ and FFW had ‘failed to fulfil its contract’. Franz Weber Foundation plays a major role within CITES because it funds and manages from Switzerland the African Elephant Coalition (AEC), which represents 32 African range states, some of which have barely any elephants and others none at all. Contrary to the wishes of the range states in Southern Africa, which manage most of the world’s wild elephant populations, the AEC at CITES’ CoPs repeatedly tables proposals to put all of the world’s elephants in appendix I. And the AEC uses its voting power to keep in place prohibitions on ivory sales and all other trade in elephant-related derivatives, including skins and hair, which Southern African nations wish to legalise.