A passionate advocate for preserving the wild beauty of Utah, Jennifer Speers is among the most dedicated supporters of The Nature Conservancy’s international work as well, having traveled with the Conservancy to many countries on four continents. She is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Nature Conservancy’s Utah Chapter and served on the Campaign Committee for the Campaign for a Sustainable Planet. An avid bird watcher, she divides her time between Salt Lake City and her Cottonwood Bend Ranch on the Colorado River near Moab.
“Nature has always been part of my life. I guess conservation is just in my genes—it started with my great-grandfather, who helped to preserve the Palisades in New Jersey, along the Hudson.
I first came out West for the skiing! I went to the University of Utah, and the wide open spaces were so beautiful that I never left. I guess I really got involved with The Nature Conservancy to help them protect the wetlands on the Great Salt Lake. I was asked to join the Board, and then I was part of the committee that helped to design the visitors center at our preserve there. Now we’ve protected something like 4,000 acres on the lake.
Then I got interested in Moab. There was a ranch that the Conservancy wanted to protect, and I wound up buying it, with a conservation easement held by the state. I raise alfalfa there, and we’ve turned a lot of acres into ponds and other habitat for migratory birds. The common mergansers are just coming in now for the winter. I did get one sandhill crane there once for about 10 days—I guess he was a bit lost!
The Colorado River runs for a mile right through my property. Along the riverbank we’re doing a huge removal of tamarisk [a non-native invasive tree]. And next spring we’ll reseed it, and start to get the willow and cottonwood coming back.
What does the Conservancy do best? I think it’s that we play well with others. We collaborate. We work well with the state and county governments here; we fill the middle ground and find the right solution. That’s what draws me in, and I think the Conservancy does that better than anyone else.
So now what needs to be done is more of what we’re already doing—going global. I’ve been to see our work in China and Mongolia, where we are helping the governments to do conservation. They are somewhat new at it. Maybe we can even help them learn from our mistakes a bit so they don’t have to repeat them all. Collaboration again.
For the future, we need to spread the word—let people know that healthy ecosystems are what let us live on this planet. So let’s keep doing the work that we are doing, and move it up a notch.”