The Nature Conservancy has taken the direct path to preservation
by purchasing endangered habitats and unusual environments that
can't wait for the bureaucratic process or, in some cases, enlightenment.
They steward the land, protecting and restoring its original ecosystem
until there is a public program or policy in place to assume the
Their sense of environmental urgency has been
fortunate for the world. But being ahead of your time is also
one of the most interesting public relations challenges. In the
Central Sierras where I lived in the foothills between Yosemite
and Kings Canyon, for instance, the general populace mistrusted
TNC and feared if anyone knew that there was still pennyroyal
thistle growing in the region, your own land rights were at risk.
It was not the case, of course, but TNC was aware of the misconceptions.
California's Nature Conservancy Preserves
We worked with the communications team in San
Francisco and Washington, D.C. to pilot a public education program
highlighting the purpose of each major preserve. A book was already
on the market identifying these and inviting hikers and nature
lovers to come explore the preserves, so the second stage was
a strategic extension of the message with interpretative signage
Georgia Hodges, who was membership coordinator
then, and I researched the available outdoor signage materials
for durability and eco-friendly components, and while she arranged
for custom constructed pedestals and worked with the local stewards
to determine best placements, I designed the layouts and feature
content. It didn't stop there, with desk jobs. Georgia pulled
the team together one last time outside a warehouse in the city
and we hand-glued the signs to their metal pedestals. I really
wanted to go along with the installation team heading out onto
the backroads the next day, but I had a little North Beach office
to keep afloat and a couple of kids who were beginning to think
their family mealtimes were what was really endangered.
Perhaps the most spectacular of all the preserves
is Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Channel Islands off the
Santa Barbara coast. Often referred to as the "Galapagos
of North America," these lands have been relatively untouched.
Of the thousands of species at home there, the poster child is
definitely the Island Kit Fox, a kitten-sized creature under seige.
Read more about The Nature Conservancy's vision and history
and get out into the wild again one of these weekends yourself.