Defenders of Wildlife

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Defenders of Wildlife
Focusprotection of all native animals and plants
Area served
United States
Methodadvocacy, education, litigation

Defenders of Wildlife is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization based in the United States. Its mission is to protect all native animals and plants throughout North America in their natural communities.[1]


Defenders of Wildlife is a major national conservation organization dedicated to conserving wildlife, protecting wildlife habitat and safeguarding biodiversity. Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife was originally called Defenders of Fur Bearers, with its primary mission to preserve wild animals. Although its mission has broadened to include wildlife habitat and biodiversity, protecting wild animals--especially large carnivores--remains a central part of its mission.

The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with field offices located in Alaska, California, the Northwest, the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, the Southeast and the Southwest.

The current president and CEO is Jamie Rappaport Clark, who has been with Defenders since 2004 and took on her current role in 2011. Clark holds a B.S. in wildlife biology from Towson University and a M.S. in wildlife ecology from the University of Maryland. Prior to her time at Defenders, she worked more than 20 years in conservation positions for the federal government, including serving as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is recognized as a leading national expert on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and under her leadership at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she secured the passage of the landmark National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.


Defenders' aim is to conserve the full range of vulnerable North American biodiversity, from plants and pollinators to predators. The organization operates from the premise that in order for diverse wildlife populations in North America to be secure and thriving, they must be sustained by a transnational network of healthy lands and waters, including public and private lands, rivers and coastal waters, core natural areas and working landscapes.[2]

These goals are sought through grassroots efforts at the state and local level; developing programs that protect and restore key species and habitats; working with state, national and international policy makers to secure laws and policies that protect animals and their habitats; and, by taking a leading role in establishing legal safeguards for native wildlife and fighting efforts in the courts to roll back environmental protections.

Conservation approach[edit]

Defenders of Wildlife focuses on three core methods to achieve its conservation goals:

  1. Prevent species and their habitats from becoming imperiled.
  2. Protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.
  3. Restore the health of once-vulnerable species and their habitats.[2]

Areas of work[edit]

  • Protecting Imperiled Species – Defenders is dedicated to preventing species from going extinct in the face of rising threats. The most powerful tools for accomplishing the protection and recovery of imperiled and at-risk species is through influencing local, state and federal policy and laws, most especially the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the organization has identified "key species" that play a broader role in their ecosystems and serve as ambassador wildlife species. Those include: wolves, bees, bats, sea turtles, Sonoran pronghorn, sharks, mussels, black-footed ferrets, desert tortoises, grizzly bears, parrots, wolverines, gopher tortoises, amphibians, whales, migratory shorebirds, jaguar, bison, freshwater fish, sea otters, Florida panthers, manatees, polar bears, California condors, and sage-grouse.
  • Endangered Species Act – the organization is a leading voice on the Endangered Species Act and the protection and defense of threatened and endangered species in North America. The organization launched the Center for Conservation Innovation in 2017. As part of its leadership on the ESA, the organization launched the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI) as a new initiative to improve endangered species conservation in the United States that uses data, technology and interdisciplinary approaches to pioneer innovative solutions to conservation problems. It is the largest searchable database of ESA documents, ESAdocs Search, spanning nearly 14,000 documents and growing.[3]
  • Defending Habitat – the organization works to protect important wildlife habitat and is especially focused on protecting public lands designated for the primary protection of wildlife conservation – the National Wildlife Refuge System. However, Defenders also works on other federal public lands and waters as well as with private lands owners where imperiled wildlife habitat could be affected. Specifically, the organization has identified "featured landscapes" of special importance for wildlife conservation: southern Alaska, the Arctic, Cascadia, the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave, Sky Islands, the Northern Rockies, the Sagebrush Sea, the Northern Plains, the Southern Rockies, the Southern Appalachians, the Florida Panhandle, the Greater Everglades, Eastern Carolinas and New England.
  • Promoting Coexistence – a major focus of the organization is their focus on coexistence efforts to mitigate conflict between people, livestock and predators where their paths intersect. They have done pioneering work especially with wolves and bears to dispel intolerance, limit negative interactions, reduce depredations of livestock and promote nonlethal tools, strategies and solutions for dealing with wildlife.
  • Combating Climate Change – Climate change is the single biggest threat to wildlife facing the planet today and it is already having devastating effects on ecosystems and wildlife populations. Defenders works with wildlife and natural resource managers to address the impacts of climate change and to develop adaptive strategies to incorporate into conservation plans.
  • Advocating for International Species – the organization works internationally to combat the illegal wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking.

Related organizations[edit]

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is a 501 (c)(4) that works to influence policy at the federal level, persuading elected officials to protect our natural heritage and holding our leaders accountable.

The action fund is affiliated with Defenders of Wildlife and shares the same conservation vision to secure thriving, diverse wildlife populations in North America, sustained by a network of healthy lands and waters.

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund fulfills its part of this shared vision through hard-hitting accountability campaigns, petition drives and grassroots advocacy.

Defenders Action Fund complies with all disclosure laws and voluntarily discloses large political contributions.


Defenders of Wildlife was listed as one of the best wildlife charities in 2006 by the magazine Reader's Digest.[4]

Defenders of Wildlife has been vetted as part of GlobalGiving's rigorous due diligence process and earned their badge of "Partner Organization".[5]

President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark was awarded Audubon Society's prestigious Rachel Carson Award for her lifetime commitment to protecting endangered and threatened species and their habitats.[6]


  1. ^ "Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities".
  2. ^ a b "Defenders of Wildlife Strategic Plan 2013-2023" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Defenders of Wildlife Launches Center for Conservation Innovation".
  4. ^ "Best Wildlife Charities - Reader's Digest". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Charity Navigator – Defenders of Wildlife".
  6. ^ "The Rachel Carson Award Honorees".

External links[edit]