Every year, Defenders celebrates leaders from across the country who are making a profound, lasting impact for our nation’s wildlife and wild places. This year, our honorees are taking on the biodiversity crisis from all angles. Harnessing their individual skills, experience and methods—on Capitol Hill, in their communities and around the country—this year’s honorees truly embody a love for wildlife and wild lands and inspire us to keep fighting to protect biodiversity.
Legacy Award – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
Representing New Mexico, U.S. Senator Tom Udall is a champion for native species and wild places in his state and nationwide. He has built on the legacy of his father, Stewart Udall—architect of many significant federal conservation initiatives as secretary of the interior under two presidents—to ensure that our natural resources are protected and managed responsibly. He has fought against pernicious wildlife legislation and riders, advocated for bedrock environmental laws like Endangered Species Act and helped keep the National Forest Management Act strong. Sen. Udall is a staunch opponent of the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and has done invaluable work to repeal the Real ID Act, which the Trump administration has used to waive dozens of local, state and federal environmental laws to build the wall. He recently introduced the Wildlife Corridors Act, visionary legislation that would improve habitat connectivity on federal lands and provide funding for linking nonfederal lands across the country.
Spirit of Defenders Award for Public Service – Joel Clement
Joel Clement is an outspoken advocate for independent science in policymaking and works to expose political interference in science. He previously served in the U.S. Department of the Interior, working to help Native Alaskan communities in danger of losing their lands and livelihoods because of climate change. When the Trump administration reassigned him so he could no longer do his climate policy work, he “blew the whistle” in an op-ed published in The Washington Post. He is now a senior fellow with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and for the Arctic Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where he also works to protect vulnerable Arctic communities and their natural resources.
Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Advocacy – Marianna Treviño Wright
Marianna Treviño Wright is the executive director of the National Butterfly Center on the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas. She has been fighting the Trump administration's plans to build a border wall since the day she discovered government contractors on center land—more than nine months before any Congressional vote or appropriation authorizing new construction. A former business-development consultant and native of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), Marianna is now one of the most vocal anti-wall advocates, calling the land-grabbing, habitat-destroying project an assault not only on the National Butterfly Center but on the Constitution, the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife Conservation Corridor and the health, economy, biological diversity and quality of life in South Texas borderlands communities.
Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Partnerships – Hilary Zaranek-Anderson
Hilary Zaranek-Anderson is a leading expert in the development and implementation of coexistence measures—tools and practices that keep wildlife and livestock safe. She and her husband manage a third-generation ranch in one of the most predator-rich areas of the lower 48 states: Tom Miner Basin in Montana. She spearheaded the first range-rider program in the region in 2013, taking a unique and proactive approach to managing livestock on a landscape shared with wolves and grizzly bears—an approach that is now the proven model for nonlethal predator control. Hilary shares what she has learned in coexistence seminars and training courses for ranchers across the West.
Join us to Save Biodiversity!
The exceptional contributions of these honorees remind us of our own unique parts to play in strengthening a movement for wildlife conservation. Whether you have a platform to speak out, habitat to protect, students to teach, politicians to lobby, outdoors to explore, or love to give for the wild, there’s a place for you to make a difference. Thank you for doing your part as a Defender!
To join us in Washington, D.C. in September to celebrate these amazing conservationists, please click here!