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Conservation Group Leader in Turmoil Prepares for Exit

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife

Jamie Rappaport Clark, the leader of the environmental organization Defenders of Wildlife, situated in Washington, D.C., declared on Monday that she would be leaving her position at the end of the year.

The announcement follows a turbulent few years for Clark and the nonprofit, including complaints from both current and former staff members that Clark had created a “culture of fear” in which employees feared they might be fired without cause and that challenging the organization’s leadership was not accepted. These complaints were covered by POLITICO’s E&E News.

The organization’s goal is to safeguard animals and ecosystems. It has experienced significant staff turnover and an ongoing conflict between management and an employee union that was founded in 2021. The group laid off employees earlier this year, claiming the “economic and social climate.”

The company stated in a statement that Clark, who has been the group’s leader for 12 years, will stay in her position while the board of directors looks for a replacement.

“At this point in my life, I feel that I can have a greater impact on wildlife by applying my passion, knowledge, and expertise in a different way,” Clark stated in a statement. “I have dedicated my career to conservation.” “I’m excited to devote more of my time and efforts to urgent conservation issues that affect critically endangered species and significant landscapes, as well as to assisting in the development of the next generation of wildlife conservationists.”

By profession, Clark is a biologist and served as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service under President Clinton after Rodger Schlickeisen left the position in 2011, she became the organization’s president and CEO. She had initially joined Defenders of Wildlife in 2004.

The group’s board chair, Mark Caylor, referred to Clark as “an icon in the conservation movement” and expressed how much she will be missed.

Defenders established a Center for Conservation Innovation under her direction, the group stated, and increased its field presence in the Northwest, Southeast, Texas, and New Mexico.

Clark has been one of the highest-paid executives of major environmental organizations, according to an examination of nonprofit tax returns conducted by E&E News. Clark made $599,128 in 2021, according to the group’s most recent tax return that is available to the public. This amount includes her salary, bonus, and other benefits.

On behalf of the staff union’s negotiating committee, Defenders employee Ted Weber remarked, “We wish Jamie all the best in her future endeavors and look forward to building a collaborative relationship with her successor.”

What are the defenders of wildlife?

Defenders of Wildlife is a national conservation group dedicated to biodiversity preservation, wildlife habitat protection, and wildlife conservation. Defenders of Wildlife, formerly known as Defenders of Fur Bearers, was established in 1947 with the goal of protecting wild animals. The organization’s primary objective is still to conserve wild animals, especially large predators, even if its work has expanded to encompass biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

Defenders of Wildlife strives to save and restore threatened species and their habitats throughout North America via grassroots efforts, legal action, and advocacy on Capitol Hill. By working together, we can make sure that the wild areas and animals that we all like survive.

The group has field offices in Seattle and Asheville, North Carolina; Sacramento, Denver; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Asheville, North Carolina. Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C. Jamie Rappaport Clark, the organization’s current president and CEO, joined Defenders in 2004 and assumed her present position in 2011.

Some of the organization’s areas of work include:

Defenders strive to keep endangered species from becoming extinct in the face of growing threats. They achieve this by trying to change laws and policies at the municipal, state, and federal levels, particularly the Endangered Species Act. The group has specifically designated “key species” that act as ambassador animal species and contribute more broadly to their ecosystems. These consist of the following: amphibians, whales, migratory shorebirds, jaguars, bison, freshwater fish, sea otters, Florida panthers, manatees, polar bears, California condors, black-footed ferrets, sharks, mussels, and desert tortoises.

Endangered Species Act: In 2017, the Center for Conservation Innovation was established by the organization. The organization established the Center for Protection Innovation (CCI) to enhance the protection of endangered species in the United States as part of its leadership on the ESA. CCI employs data, technology, and multidisciplinary methods to pioneer novel solutions to conservation challenges. With around 14,000 papers, it produced ESAdocs Search, the biggest searchable database of ESA documents.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is one of the public properties designated for the main protection of wildlife conservation, and the organization aims to conserve this vital wildlife habitat. Defenders, however, also work with owners of private property where there may be a risk to endangered species habitat, as well as on other federal public lands and waters. Southern Alaska, the Arctic, Cascadia, the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave, the Sky Islands, the Northern Rockies, the Sagebrush Sea, the Northern Plains, the Southern Appalachians, the Florida Panhandle, the Greater Everglades, the Eastern Carolinas, and New England are the “featured landscapes” that the organization has specifically designated as being of special importance for wildlife conservation.

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