Saving threatened habitats worldwide

What inspires our new CEO

27 July, 2016 - 14:23 -- Debbie Pain
Debbie Pain in Carrifran

I'd like to say hello to all World Land Trust supporters at the end of my first week with WLT. As a supporter and donor to WLT for many years I have felt a part of the World Land Trust family for a long time. However, I never imagined that I would be in the position to take over from John as CEO, and it is a real privilege to do so. The last week has been fascinating and busy, and has only added to my commitment to the Trust and the conservation work that the WLT partnership delivers.

The last couple of months of tying up loose ends in my previous job as Director of Conservation with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust were extremely busy, but between leaving Slimbridge and arriving in Halesworth, I did manage to find the time to snatch a couple of days holiday and went walking with my husband in the Scottish Borders near Moffat.

Inspired by British reforestation efforts

While there we visited Carrifran Wildwood and two other inspirational landscape-scale reforestation projects overseen by the Borders Forest Trust. Most of the Borders landscape is deforested and overgrazed, but the Carrifran project’s ambition is to recreate a 1,500 acre wooded valley, with rich wildlife diversity similar to that found thousands of years ago. The project has involved the planting of hundreds of thousands of native trees since the year 2000, with a big input from volunteers. Walking through this landscape 16 years on fills me with hope for the future.

Following a few weeks of unprecedented political turmoil including the Brexit vote, which most conservationists fear will be damaging for our natural environment, visiting Carrifran was just the antidote I needed. The dedicated volunteers that have worked on this project have committed time and energy to helping recreate something that they will never fully benefit from in their lifetimes; a truly selfless act and one that is being replicated in many unrelated projects by committed people across the world.

Restoration and protection

Habitat restoration can be costlier, more difficult and time consuming than protecting intact habitats. But so much of our landscape in the UK has been changed and its natural value eroded that restoration is often the only option. This also applies to some of the projects that WLT supports around the world, where habitat restoration is sometimes needed to help create corridors for wildlife and join up or extend fragmented and threatened habitats.

However, many of the projects that we support enable our partners to purchase or acquire the management rights to land with threatened but intact habitat of high value for wildlife. A good example is where WLT is joining with long time conservation partner Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) to purchase and protect 221 acres of highly threatened Atlantic Forest, adjacent to other forest reserves, to create the Olympic Forest Reserve. We still have a way to go to reach our target, so please help us if you can!

Working with local partners and communities to recreate wildlife corridors and to save some of the most valuable wildlife sites on earth is an incredibly effective way of making a real difference to the natural legacy that we will leave for future generations.  I love wildlife and wild places. They fill me with curiosity and bring me immense joy. I want to contribute to leaving a world where future generations can experience this - and I know that our many supporters do too. That’s why I’m so committed to the WLT approach and so delighted to join the staff.

Last note

I would like to finish this blog though on a different topic. As I’ve been sitting here I’ve just become aware that on 21 July Dr Luc Hoffman, one of the fathers of the conservation movement, died aged 93.

Among many great conservation achievements Luc was a founding member of WWF, he established the MAVA foundation for conservation, and he set up the "Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat" research centre in the Camargue in southern France. That is where I first met him when I worked there from 1988-92.

He was a humble and remarkable man that did so much to help our natural world. Our sympathies are with his family and friends and his passing will be widely mourned. Perhaps more important though is to celebrate the many achievements of this talented and deeply committed man. Thank you Luc Hoffman for the inspiration you’ve provided and the difference you’ve made.


Submitted by Lee Durrell on

Hi Debbie. Great to 'meet' you. Thank you for your lovely words about Luc Hoffman, an important conservationist and an inspirational man.

Submitted by Philipp Heeb on

Hi Debbie, Congratulations for that new position ! I recently became aware of the important work being done by the WLT. I'm sure you will continue their mission in the best way. Cheers

Submitted by ben tagg on

Hello Debbie, sounds like you're in at the deep end :) Good luck with the job. I'm a big believer in the WTM model of conservation (though don't feel as well informed as I should of how it all works in practise). Krds Ben

Submitted by Monica Gilbertson on

Debbie, you may not remember me from WWTC but I remember you from my time at Slimbridge and wish you well in your new post at WLT. Monica

Hi Debbie. It is great that a long-term supporter of WLT is now at the helm. John was a tour-du-force and will be a difficult act to follow. However from what I have heard, you are perfect for the job. All the best, hope our paths will cross one day. Allan.

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