Flying D Ranch, southwestern Montana.
Every year tens of thousands of species and attendant ecological actions, fine-tuned by time and place, disappear at the hand of man. These losses strip away the redundancy and certainty of nature and diminish the lives of millions of people. If these trends continue, the world will become a dismal place indeed, with silent springs and hot summers and little left to excite the senses except the weeds. Without doubt, the extinction crisis looms as one of humanity’s most pressing problems.
In response to this crisis, Ted Turner, his family, and Mike Phillips established the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) and Turner Biodiversity Divisions (TBD) in June 1997. TESF focuses on species protected under federal and state endangered species laws, whereas TBD considers species that are at slightly less risk. These companion efforts are dedicated to saving biological diversity by ensuring the persistence of imperiled species and their habitats with an emphasis on private land. Both organizations work on diverse ecological issues aimed at restoring individual species as well as functional ecosystems. Our activities are guided by the principles of conservation biology, and we endeavor to contribute to the distribution of reliable scientific and policy information.
We work closely with our sister organizations, Turner Enterprises, Inc. and the Turner Foundation. The former is a for-profit endeavor that aims to manage Turner Ranches in an economically viable and ecologically sensitive manner while conserving native species. The latter is a private, grant-making charity that is dedicated to preventing damage to the natural systems – water, air, and land – on which all life depends.
TESF and TBD invite collaboration, and work closely with state and federal agencies, universities, and private organizations. We operate on the belief that wrapping many minds around a problem is a certain route to success. Whether managing an extant population or restoring an extirpated one, our goal is population persistence with little or no human intervention. We believe that persistent populations of native species are indicative of a healthy landscape and a high degree of ecosystem integrity.
The Fund and the Divisions have achieved much and both are widely recognized as effective forces in conservation, but more can be done! This work will be challenging because private stewardship of biodiversity is an evolving yet essential approach to conservation. The problems involved are complex, and effective solutions require broad-based sociopolitical, biological, geographical, and fiscal considerations. Many of our projects will be controversial, slow to succeed, and fraught with uncertainty. Some may fail. The difficulty will come not because we were ill-prepared or did not work hard but rather because restoration is complex and an imprecise process. But this will not diminish our substantial resolve. We believe that real solutions to the extinction crisis will come through the genius and determination of individuals. And we intend to contribute by establishing a new measure for conserving the wondrous diversity of life on Earth.
Imperiled Rio Grande cutthroat trout.