“It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization."
Mark Robertson: “It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization." © Cara Chancellor/TNC

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Former Executive Director Calls His Time at TNC "The Honor of a Lifetime"

In his 34 years with The Nature Conservancy Mark Robertson built a legacy that has shaped conservation in South Carolina and beyond.

Columbia, SC

“Mark is a visionary conservation leader and also an old school naturalist—a rare combination these days,” says Michael Lipford, director of the Southern U.S. Division of The Nature Conservancy and Mark’s former supervisor. “You’ll never see him as excited as when he has spotted a rare bird, plant or habitat. More than that, he is gifted in sharing that excitement with those around him.

Mark’s career began with The Nature Conservancy in 1985, when he signed on as an aquatic ecologist at TNC’s Virginia Coast Reserve. There, he helped develop the organization’s first ecosystem-scale conservation plans, which sought to protect an entire group of plants, animals, land and water together, versus as individual species. It was a move that would influence the future of conservation planning at TNC.

Mark Robertson:
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson:
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson

In 1987, Mark moved to the Florida Keys to launch TNC’s program there, and one of the organization’s first marine conservation programs overall. He had a lead role in passing congressional legislation to create the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects the only tropical coral reef ecosystem in North America.

Mark left the tropics in 1999 to become state director for the South Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. He moved quickly to increase incentives for private land conservation in the state, including successfully advocating for a state-income tax credit for landowners who donate land or conservation easements in 2000 and helping to launch the South Carolina Conservation Bank in 2002. Since 2004, the Bank has helped protect 287,000 acres statewide.

In 2007, Mark led The Nature Conservancy to partner with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Conservation Fund to complete the largest conservation purchase in state history: 38,000 acres from International Paper.

Most recently, Mark spearheaded the largest conservation campaign in South Carolina’s history: $60 million, wrapping up in October 2020. It’s a strong foundation that will prepare TNC to meet urgent future challenges, including helping nature and people adapt to climate change, provide food and water sustainably, protect critical lands and waters and build healthy cities.

“It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the South Carolina Chapter for 20 years,” says Mark. “I’ve been so inspired every day by the supporters who make our work possible, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for The Nature Conservancy.”

Mark Robertson:
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson:
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson: It’s been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to work for this organization for 34 years and to head the SC Chapter for 20 years. © © Courtesy Mark Robertson

The Mark Robertson Conservation Endowment Fund

In honor of Mark Robertson’s impact on conservation, past Board Chair Kay Grinnell has established the Mark Robertson Conservation Endowment Fund. The fund will provide sustainable income to address future conservation challenges in perpetuity.

Please help us continue Mark’s legacy by making a gift to the endowment today. Contact Director of Philanthropy Elizabeth Foster at efoster@tnc.org or 843-800-1274 for more information, or send a gift to her attention at 1417 Stuart Engals Blvd., Suite 100, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 29464.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.