Growing into The Nature Conservancy
By Monica Thornton
Recently, I was named the Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, one of the world’s largest conservation organizations. We have been operating in this state for over 50 years and in that time, we have protected more than 400,000 acres of land, safeguarded countless waterways that traverse those lands, and stewarded our envied 100-mile coast. There is not a corner of the state that our work does not touch. We have helped protect vulnerable species such as the gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, and eastern indigo snake. We have been leaders in revitalizing our treasured longleaf pine forests and advocated for transformational conservation legislation like the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA).
As one might expect, stepping up to lead such an accomplished, mission critical organization can feel overwhelming. It has been two months since my first day and the breadth and scope of our work can only be described as astounding. Luckily, I am not doing it alone, and the progress we are making to conserve our treasured natural resources is only possible thanks to our expert scientists and staff, our devoted board, generous donors, committed supporters, and our incredible conservation partners. We are connected by a shared dedication to nature and it has been a source of joy to see our impact on people and nature firsthand.
The Nature Conservancy in Georgia employs an expert group of scientists and conservationists who are part of a network that touches every U.S. state and over 70 countries globally striving to protect our natural resources and our planet. Together, we are pursuing an ambitious set of goals which will help harmonize people and nature by 2030, including conserving nearly 10 billion acres of ocean, 1.6 billion acres of land, and more than 620,000 miles of rivers. Achieving those goals will take all of us working together, from the local to the global level, and that work is happening right here in Georgia.
Our work will help us fulfill TNCs global goals but make no mistake, our priority is on meeting the needs of the people, plants, and animals in our own backyard. We have a rich variety of ecosystems in Georgia, from our mountains to our coasts, and from our forests to our swamps. I am eager to plant my feet in every ecosystem to accelerate the work that must be done. Humanity’s future hangs in the balance and I am prepared to be a force of nature, for nature.
However, organizations like ours are only one piece of the puzzle. All of us have a responsibility to Mother Nature and there are small things we can do every day to meet the environmental challenges ahead of us. We can buy more sustainable products, donate our time or money, write our legislators, or even just talk to our friends and family about how to be a better ally to the world around us. Big changes begin with small actions.
As the new leader of this storied institution in Georgia, I am confident that there is no limit to what we can accomplish if we work together.
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