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.
Thank you to those who attended this year’s Wildlife Conservation Awards Dinner. With your support, we raised over $318,000 to support Defenders’ mission to save wildlife and their habitats.
Legacy Award – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. Representative Deb Haaland presented U.S. Senator Tom Udall with the Defenders of Wildlife Legacy Award for his lifelong advocacy for native species and wild places in his home state of New Mexico and nationwide. Representing New Mexico, 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.
“Senator Udall has served New Mexico with integrity, compassion and passion, working tirelessly to protect our natural resources and move our state and the country forward for three decades….Senator Udall has been an unequivocal environmental champion. As ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, he has led opposition to anti-Endangered Species Act, anti-wildlife, and other anti-environmental policy riders. He has also fought to increase funding for public lands and wildlife programs and to address the devastating impacts of climate change.” - U.S. Representative Deb Haaland
Spirit of Defenders Award for Public Service – Joel Clement
Denise Joines presented the Spirit of Defenders Award for Public Service to Joel Clement for his outspoken advocacy for independent science in policymaking, work to expose political interference in science and for his commitment to furthering climate change research. Joel 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.
“As new and evolving challenges continue to face wildlife and wild spaces, leaders like Joel—who are willing to stand up and speak out about what they both know and believe—show us the path forward.”– Denise Joines, Wilburforce Foundation
Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Advocacy – Marianna Treviño Wright
Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg presented the Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Advocacy to Marianna Treviño Wright for her outspoken advocacy against the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. As 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.
“Since July 2017, when the U.S. government showed up illegally and unannounced on our property to prepare for building a border wall through the National Butterfly Center, Marianna has stepped up even more, becoming a central figure in the struggle to save the critical border environment – home to ocelots and Mexican Bluewings – from the lunacy of the dangerously deranged ideas and actions of the Trump administration. She is committed and effective.” – Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, North American Butterfly Association
Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Partnerships – Hilary Anderson
Lisa Volgenau presented the Spirit of Defenders Award for Conservation Partnerships to Hilary Anderson for her expertise in and commitment to creative animal husbandry, wildlife ecology and coexistence, as well as her advocacy for the sustained recovery of wolves and other apex predators on private lands. Hilary is a leading expert in the development and implementation of coexistence measures—tools and practices that keep wildlife and livestock safe. Alongside her husband, Hilary manages family ranching operations in western Montana; some of the most predator-abundant areas in the lower 48 states. Beginning in 2013, she organized the first range-rider program in the region, taking a unique and proactive approach to managing livestock on a landscape rich with wolves and grizzly bears. Working across multiple ranches in multiple communities, her proactive approach has come to represent the working model for the idea that humans, predators and other wildlife can share landscapes. Hilary shares what she has learned in coexistence seminars and training courses for ranchers across the West.
“Hilary is a fierce and effective advocate for the idea that non-lethal coexistence is not only achievable but a more effective, sustainable and profitable approach to ranching.” – Lisa Volgenau, The Volgenau Foundation
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!