The History of World Land Trust

John Burton

World Land Trust (WLT) was founded in 1989 by conservationists John Burton, who served as Chief Executive until 2019, and Gerard Bertrand, who remains today as our Honorary President.

Programme for Belize

Formerly known as ‘World Wide Land Conservation Trust’ between 1994 and 1996, we were first founded under the name of ‘Programme for Belize’. Our goal was a pioneering one: raising funds to purchase land for the express purpose of conservation.

John Burton receiving a cheque

The supporters of our first project, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, saved 110,000 acres of threatened tropical rainforest in Belize.

Our US partner also provided a generous $10,000 start-up donation, which allowed our founder John Burton to establish the Trust’s first office in the United Kingdom.

Danjugan Island

Our second project came in 1993, when we were alerted to the dangers posed by tourism development on Danjugan Island, a place of high conservation importance in the Philippines.

The Trust raised enough funds to allow Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. to purchase the entire island, which they fully protect and manage to this day.

Dr. Catherine Barnard

WLT moved to its current office in Halesworth, Suffolk in 1995.

John Burton and his wife Viv managed the Trust for three decades until both stepped down in 2019, when Dr Catherine Barnard became our current CEO.


WLT logo White

Since its inception in 1989, World Land Trust has gone on to support local conservation partners in more than 30 countries, raising funds to protect some of the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats.

Here are just a few examples of the countries, partners and reserves that we have supported with our fundraising campaigns over the years:

ArgentinaFundación Biodiversidad- ArgentinaEl Pantanoso, Emerald Green CorridorBig Cat Appeal (2014)
ArmeniaFoundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural AssetsCaucasus Wildlife RefugeBig Cat Appeal (2014)
BelizeProgramme for BelizeRio BravoProgramme for Belize (1989)
BelizeCorozal Sustainable Future InitiativeNorth-eastern Biological CorridorJungles for Jaguars (2018)
BoliviaAsociación ArmoníaBarba AzulBlue-throated Macaw (2017)
BrazilReserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu (REGUA)REGUAOlympic Forest Appeal (2016)
CameroonERuDeFDeng Deng National ParkA Future for Gorillas
ColombiaFundación Biodiversa ColombiaEl SilencioSaving the Barbacoas (2020)
EcuadorFundación JocotocoBuenaventura, Jorupe, Narupa, Río Canandé, Tapichalaca, YanacochaSaving Ecuador’s Chocó Forest (2020)
Blue-throated Hillstar (2019)
Amazonian Andes (2018)
EcuadorFundación EcoMingaLlanganates-Sangay Biological CorridorForests in the Sky (2015)
GuatemalaFoundation for Eco- development And ConservationLaguna Brava, Laguna Grande Sarstun, Sierra Santa Cruz, Tapon Creek, Yal Unin Yul WitzGuardians of Nimla Ha’ (2021) Treasure Chest Appeal (2017)
IndiaWildlife Trust of IndiaGaro Hills, Mudahalli Corridor, Tirunelli-Kudrakote CorridorElephant Corridor Appeal (2016) Big Cat Appeal (2014)
KenyaNature KenyaKikuyu Escarpment, Leleshwa Reserve, Mount Kenya, Nandi HillsDakatcha Woodland (2019)
Malaysian BorneoHutanKeruak Corridor, Kretam-Kulamba, PangiSaving Borneo’s Orangutan Corridors (2021)
Borneo Rainforest Appeal (2013)
MexicoGrupo Ecológico Sierra GordaSierra Gorda Biosphere ReserveSaving Mexico’s Ancient Forests (2018)
TanzaniaTanzania Forest Conservation GroupRondo PlateauSaving Tanzania’s Costal Forests (2021)
VietnamViet NatureKhe Nuoc Trong, Bac Huong HoaScorched Earth to Forest Haven (2019)