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Preserving the Wild West

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 mission.

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

California 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 onsite.

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.




Images © The Nature Conservancy