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Partnering in the Plan to Save the World

By Ryan Boggs
Chief Program Officer

A formal and structured business plan to save the world.

That’s what I realized was really taking shape after being immersed for six days at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress. Being that LightHawk is a new member of IUCN, we didn’t quite know what to expect at our first Congress. At first glance, it seemed only to be huge conservation trade show.

Formed in 1948, IUCN works in 160 countries, affiliates with 1,200 member organizations and involves 11,000 scientists and experts. As the world’s largest conservation network, and nature’s voice in the United Nations, IUCN creates leading biodiversity strategies, running hundreds of conservation projects around the world. 

And although we knew that membership in IUCN would greatly add to our standing on the global conservation stage, we were still figuring out how it could fold into our daily work. With our focus on partnerships and the concept of people being an integral part of conservation on my mind, I began to put the puzzle together.

Throughout the convention and the Congress, IUCN members had been meeting, sharing, and developing relationships and partnerships that would result in the implementation of the IUCN Programme 2017-2020. This document describes the threats to our natural world as well as strategies to abate those threats.

I realized that many of the traditional strategies to protect nature are mere Band-Aids on a much larger wound.

I realized that many of the traditional strategies to protect nature are mere Band-Aids on a much larger wound. It does no good to create a protected area if the people who live in and around it can only eat if they break the law and hunt or farm inside those areas.

Until we find ways to make the protection of nature economically feasible, protected areas will fail in delivering the full benefit we expect. People may be the root of the problem, but they must be an integral part of the solution or it is doomed to fail.

One of the sentiments echoed at the Congress was that ‘Partnerships are the future of conservation.’ I would add that large scale networks are going to be essential as well.

At LightHawk, the future is here. As a conservation organization whose model is based exclusively on partnerships to do our work, we have embraced the philosophy that the conservation community is stronger when we partner for a cause than when we work alone. 

With more than 145 unique organizations on flights last year alone, we live the partnership ethic central to IUCN’s conservation strategy each and every day. As the threats to our natural world increase in scale and speed, none of us are big enough to handle them on our own. The combination of each of our organization’s specialties will be needed.

In 2014, LightHawk created a strategic plan that called for us to add to the way that we work. In the past, we had done outreach to conservation organizations all across the US and Mexico, telling them what they could do with a LightHawk flight.

Our new plan calls for us to find conservation efforts to protect places of continental significance. As we have developed our work in this direction, we have chosen to help protect places that will have a real and profound benefit to nature and the people who live there.

The Delaware River where we work to protect the drinking water for one in six Americans.The protection of the Delaware River Watershed will not only protect the critters that live in the waters, but will also provide clean drinking water to one out of every six people in the United States.

Projects like this are what the IUCN Programme 2017-2020 calls for; real conservation at a large enough scale to make an impact, and finding ways to bring human welfare as a driver to the solution.

And I’m proud that LightHawk can be a partner in the plan to save the world.