The WILD Foundation builds leadership capacity for decisions that protect nature at the scale she needs to function on our behalf. Assisting leaders at the local, regional, and national scales from West African deserts to North American federal agencies, WILD is breaking through the social and political barriers that impede collaborative action and forging the relationships that create and sustain collective impact for large-scale wilderness conservation.
The WILD Foundation was born in Africa out of the pioneering conservation work of its founder, Ian Player and his Zulu mentor (Magqubu Ntombela), who led the team that saved the white rhino from extinction in the 1960s. Since relocating to the U.S. over 40 years ago, WILD has forged collective impact for international wilderness protection. Aligning the work of cutting-edge conservation programs with more enduring methods for wide-scale ecological change, WILD initiates its own projects and incubates/supports projects conceived by ecological entrepreneurs, working collaboratively to protect wilderness through the weaving of greater interconnectivity between wilderness, wildlife, and people. Our commitment to ambitious goals tethered to flexible and pragmatic strategies - and implemented through strong partnerships - has earned The WILD Foundation the respect of the international conservation community, especially considering the impact of our accomplishments relative to our lean, but muscular organizational structure. Some of these include:
• The establishment of the World Wilderness Congress in 1977, the longest-running public international conservation project and environmental forum.
• The initiation and support for implementation of the first international governmental agreement on wilderness protection, in 2009 at the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9).
• The introduction of the concept of a World Conservation Bank as part of the 4th World Wilderness Congress (1987) - leading to the formation of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, which has since granted over USD20 billion in conservation funding.
• The protection of the unique desert adapted elephants of Mali (West Africa) - 10% of West Africa's elephants - using community empowerment that proved effective in times of war and peace.
WILD's success is due in large part to its commitment to the power of synergy. Recognizing that most ecological problems are too big to be solved by just one actor, WILD leverages partnerships with stakeholder groups that include (but are not limited to): government at all levels, public and private entities, local and international communities, commercial and nonprofit organizations, and scientific and artistic associations. By mobilizing every sector of society, WILD works outside its own organizational boundaries and pierces the social and political silos that inhibit collaborative problem solving and collective action.
WILD has facilitated seven North American agencies' cooperation on Wilderness and Protected Areas. This effort has resulted in significant gains and coordinated progress for Wilderness and Protected Areas, such as increased recognition of the role these areas provide in a world dealing with climate change, and communicating the relevance of Wilderness and Protected Areas more effectively.
However, I am also aware of another significant, more subtle benefit of this engagement. Bringing each of the agency heads together to spend quality time dealing with issues of significance has resulted in increased understanding, increased friendship, increased coordination among the leaders of these agencies as they deal with a multitude of cross-cutting issues. The impact of positive interpersonal relations at the highest levels of natural resource agencies should not be underestimated.
WILD deserves great credit in all the accomplishments of the cooperation on North American Wilderness and Protected Areas.
Joel D. Holtrop
Forest Service Deputy Chief, retired
The World Wilderness Congress is the longest running international environmental forum in the world and one of WILD's core projects. Here's what others say about it:
Wild10 was an utterly engaging interdisciplinary experience. It was a full and hectic week, spent in the company of the most innovative and informed minds, figuring out new, integrated strategies to facilitate conservation. Each moment… during Wild10 certainly enriched and enhanced my life story. Thank you for strengthening my resolve and replenishing my reserves of wild energy.
Attending the WILD10 congress was an enriching experience from a professional, but also from a human point of view. …We had the opportunity to underline the exceptional value of our joint network of protected areas NATURA2000…. Now it is time to move ahead and ensure the full protection of this incredible network. The vision for a wilder Europe is a great opportunity to explore new ways to protect nature in those special places that would be best managed by "mother nature".
Angelo Salsi, European Commission
I am in my 5th year of an interdisciplinary environmental science PhD program at Stanford… The Congress was a fabulous opportunity for me to be exposed to science, policy, and activism on Wilderness around the world and to think more broadly about what next for me after I complete my degree.
I'm an Italian student that has come to Salamanca looking for inspiration, and I can really say I found it. Thanks for what you do and please, never give up.