Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.
Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is the premier U.S.-based national conservation organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitats in North America.
Defenders’ approach is direct and straightforward – We protect and restore imperiled species throughout North America by transforming policies and institutions and by promoting innovative solutions. We speak with one voice informed by scientific, legal and policy expertise, hands-on wildlife management experience and effective advocacy.
Our team has the experience and knowledge to engage in any arena to protect wildlife-Congress, the courts, federal and state agencies, academia and public debate-and does so tirelessly and effectively. Our field offices give us a grounding in the ecosystems and communities where we work, allowing us to engage the public, build support for conservation and develop practical solutions that will stand the test of time. Fueled by the commitment of our members, partners and supporters, we are building a powerful, enduring voice for wildlife conservation.
Our Conservation Vision
Defenders of Wildlife envisions a future where diverse wildlife populations in North America are secure and thriving, sustained by a network of healthy lands and waters.
Diverse wildlife populations. Our conservation efforts are targeted at the full range of vulnerable North American biodiversity, from plants to pollinators to predators. While we do not set geographic boundaries on our work, we primarily focus on species of North America, including migratory and transboundary species that move freely across the borders or through the waters of the United States, Mexico and Canada. We recognize that we cannot protect any species without simultaneously protecting the habitats and other species on which it relies.
Secure and thriving. We are working for the day when vulnerable North American species rebound to the point that they are secure-no longer threatened with rapid decline or extinction-and thriving in robust, well-distributed populations.
Network of healthy lands and waters. Wildlife has the greatest chance of being secure and thriving if it is supported by a transnational network of public and private lands, rivers and coastal waters, core natural areas and working landscapes.
Our Strategic Plan
To help attain our vision, Defenders’ strategic plan provides a framework for setting objectives and allocating resources across the organization. This strategic approach prioritizes long-term solutions with measurable results to help ensure that Defenders is an effective voice for wildlife conservation. Clearly defining our vision and focusing our resources will help us to better ensure that North America’s spectacular wild animals and habitats will be here for the next generation.
Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization based in the United States. It works to protect all native animals and plants throughout North America in their natural communities.
Defenders of Wildlife is a national conservation organization that works to conserve wildlife, protect wildlife habitat and safeguard biodiversity. Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife was originally called Defenders of Fur Bearers, and worked to preserve wild animals. Although its work has broadened to include wildlife habitat and biodiversity, protecting wild animals—especially large carnivores—remains a central goal.
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 an expert on the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (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.
"Eye on Palin" campaign
In 2009, Defenders of Wildlife announced a new media campaign named "Eye on Palin". The campaign focused on what the group termed the "extreme anti-conservation policies" of the Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, in particular, her support of the aerial hunting of wolves. In response to it, Governor Palin put out a statement calling Defenders of Wildlife an "extreme fringe group" defending her "predator control program". She attacked the non-profit group for allegedly "twisting the truth in an effort to raise funds from innocent and hard-pressed Americans".
Defenders of Wildlife headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Protecting Imperiled Species – Defenders works to prevent species from going extinct in the face of rising threats. They do this by working to influence local, state and federal policy and laws, 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 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) to improve endangered species conservation in the United States that uses data, technology and interdisciplinary approaches to pioneer innovative solutions to conservation problems. It created the largest searchable database of ESA documents, ESAdocs Search, containing nearly 14,000 documents.
Defending Habitat – the organization works to protect important wildlife habitat with particular focus 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 worked 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 – 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.
Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is a 501 (c)(4) that works to influence elected federal officials to protect natural heritage and hold leaders accountable. The action fund is affiliated with Defenders of Wildlife and shares the same conservation goals. It conducts accountability campaigns, petition drives and grassroots advocacy. The action fund voluntarily discloses its large political contributions.
Awards and recognition
Defenders of Wildlife was listed as one of the best wildlife charities in 2006 by the magazine Reader's Digest.
Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(3) Defined as: Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Donations to this organization are tax deductible.