By Andrew Brown
The Nature Conservancy is not an environmental advocacy group.
“Someone called me an environmentalist the other day, and that is kind of a bad word. I am a conservationist,” said Rebecca Landewe, the Nature Conservancy’s Current River project manager.
The conservancy has offices in every state and 30 other countries.
“One thing the Nature Conservancy prides itself on is working with other organizations,” Landewe said, as she stood on the gravel covered bank of the Jacks Fork River, the Current River’s largest tributary.
The conservancy works with landowners, recreationists, environmental organizations and government agencies.
“We try to bridge those gaps and find common ground,” Landewe said. “Landowners may not want to work with the government, but maybe they will talk to me.”
The conservancy utilizes tools like conservation easements – additions to property deeds that put in place legally binding conservation measures for the land.
“We are trying to find those individual landowners who are interested in conservation,” Landewe said.
The conservancy pushed for a law two years ago that improved conservation easements in Missouri. The law was passed after four years of failure, simply because the name on the bill was changed.
“Now we’ve got a very strong act on the books,” said Steve Mahfood, a Nature Conservancy advisor and former secretary of the Missouri Department of Natural Resoruces.
“By doing all of this work, there is a recognition that they have to be more politically active,” Mahfood said.
But Mahfood said the conservancy needs to rely on science.
“We have done a lousy job in Missouri talking about the science we’ve done,” he said. “Science makes the difference in these discussions.”
Landewe said that it is not always easy to convince people to work with the conservancy.
“They ask, ‘why does the conservancy care about the Jacks Fork River,’” she said.
“There are species that exist here that appear nowhere else on earth,” Landewe said. “It’s incredibly unique from a biological standpoint. That’s why we’re here, not just because it’s pretty.”
“To think that our actions are outside the fence and the environment is inside the fence, that’s not going to work down the road,” she said.