By Dave Anderson, CNHP Director and Chief Scientist
We recently had a very special guest visit CNHP! We were visited by Bob Jenkins, who is famous within the world of conservation for inventing much of the methodology used by natural heritage programs, and for starting the network of natural heritage programs, of which CNHP is a part. When he was the Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy, Bob pretty much single-handedly created the network of natural heritage programs and got many of them started as components of state governments (a number of the programs, like CNHP, are instead affiliated with universities). His innovation and determination has led to the creation of an international enterprise that employs thousands of scientists working in 82 programs throughout the Western Hemisphere, and unified by the methods he developed as member programs of NatureServe.
Bob coined the term “element” to collectively recognize species and natural communities as fundamental units of conservation. He was the first person to see a way to prioritize elements based on their rarity, distribution, and qualities of their populations, and use that prioritization as a framework to guide conservation efforts. His work transformed the way that The Nature Conservancy makes decisions about land acquisitions and management.
Bob shared several stories with us about the formation of the Natural Heritage Network. It was great to hear the personal side of his moments of discovery (his “Eureka” moments). Bob had several of these during his career that led to transformative and monumental changes in the way we view conservation. Bob also talked with us about our challenges and successes and how our program is doing. It was such a treat to have one of the conservation community’s greatest thinkers in our midst to ponder these with us. And somehow, having a visit from our founding father was incredibly validating and inspiring. Thank you so much Bob! I hope we will see you again soon.
At the Biodiversity Without Boundaries Conference in Austin Texas in April, NatureServe awarded Bob the first NatureServe Conservation Award for his achievements. He said that of all the awards he’s received, this one meant the most to him. Read more about Bob’s award and the text of his acceptance speech, in which he tells the story of the formation of the network of heritage programs.