Bill Stanley, Agnes S. Andreae Director of Conservation and Assistant State Director in Ohio
Conservation is more than saving places and species.
Today’s conservationist is protecting the environment at a whole new level – from preserving specific places of biologic diversity to influencing government action to determining where to make financial investments that provide lasting results for a sustainable planet.
Agnes S. Andreae Director of Conservation and Assistant State Director in Ohio Bill Stanley answers questions about the future of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio.
nature.org: When did you first become interested in protecting the natural world?
Bill Stanley: Well, I grew up playing in woods and creeks, so in some ways it started as far back as I can remember. Watching parts of nature be lost to housing or destroyed by pollution had an impact on me at a young age.
nature.org: What makes Ohio's natural areas special?
Bill Stanley: I think the people of Ohio are a huge part of what makes these natural areas so special. In my travels, I don't think I've met people who have a warmer appreciation for where they live - and for good reason. The forests in the southern part of the state, including the Edge of Appalachia preserve, are very important. If we do our jobs well they will serve as a welcoming mat for more southern forest species pushed north by climate change. And Ohio’s freshwater resources harbor amazing biodiversity. Freshwater mussels are a highlight, but my personal favorite is the Hellbender salamander.
nature.org: What do you see as the biggest obstacles to conservation in this state?
Bill Stanley: Doing conservation work in Ohio is a challenge. First, only about five percent of Ohio lands are public. The Conservancy has experience doing great conservation work on private lands, but it is more complex than setting aside public areas for nature. Also, Ohio has lost about 90% of its wetlands and many of its rivers do not meet water-quality standards. Finally, there are new, globally significant threats to Ohio, like invasive species and climate change.
nature.org: How are today's big threats, like invasive species and climate change, different from those of the past?
Bill Stanley: We’ve seen them coming for some time, but only now are we really starting to feel their effects. I've worked on climate change for over a decade, including directing the Conservancy’s climate change program for several years. The challenge is that the impacts are local, but the causes are multi-faceted and can occur on the other side of the world. Smokestacks located all over the planet are belching out CO2 that is causing climate disruption and sea level rise. Invasive zebra mussels move slowly under their own power but still found their way to the Great Lakes from Europe. We can't be everywhere at once, but to solve these kinds of challenges we need a concerted global effort, and policy offers the most promise.
nature.org: How can we balance human demand with conservation?
Bill Stanley: Thankfully these are not always at odds. For example, forests can be managed to provide timber and income and still maintain biodiversity. The Conservancy has played a role here, showing how forests can be managed sustainably, both economically and ecologically. On climate change, too, there are opportunities within the tension of development versus global warming. For example, green technologies offer promise of a cleaner, but still prosperous future.
nature.org: What's your vision of a healthy Ohio, one that supports both people and nature?
Bill Stanley: My vision is an Ohio where people are energized leaders of an emerging green economy and nature is valued in its own right, as well as recognized for its direct contributions to human health and welfare. What this means for nature would be larger, more intact forested ecosystems, reduced freshwater and air pollution, restored hydrology to streams and rivers, and contained global threats. What this means for people are new jobs in clean energy and transportation technologies, renewed appreciation for natural experiences and support for them, and cleaner air and water.
nature.org: What gives you hope about the future of conservation, both in Ohio and around the world?
Bill Stanley: Working on climate change I have seen the thoughts of political leaders, and the general public, move significantly over the last decade. At the beginning there was a great deal of skepticism. That was followed by acknowledgment of the problem but no support for any solution. Before a bump in the road, we were really talking about solutions. Global environmental challenges have given us new appreciation that the future of people and the future of conservation are strongly connected.
View other Faces of Conservation.January 29, 2013
Bill Stanley is the Agnes S. Andreae Director of Conservation in Ohio. Prior to this role, he worked on climate change at the Conservancy for nearly 11 years, including research and studies on projects in the U.S., Belize, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. He also has worked extensively on climate change policy, drafting proposed climate change legislation and engaging in policy discussions internationally. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry.