An Introduction: Kent W. Wommack, Executive Director
I am excited to have joined the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation as Executive Director, and I look forward to getting to know better the many people and organizations that Liz, Art and the Foundation have supported over the years.
I come into this role after a long career at The Nature Conservancy, where I led and managed field programs in Maine, Australia and Canada, and advised TNC’s international country programs on innovative conservation and fundraising strategies. Through these experiences, I have developed a deep appreciation for the enormous challenges as well as the many opportunities for making conservation work well, whether in Africa, Latin America, Asia or North America.
For the past ten years I have also served on the board of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation in Maine, which shares many of LCAOF’s values and qualities. Among the similarities are a focus on community-based conservation, a desire to be strategic partners to grantees, and a willingness to take risks and to innovate in pursuit of our goals. These qualities are deeply embedded in LCAOF’s culture, along with a commitment to rigorous analysis and on-the-ground results.
In the late 1980s, Liz and Art were well ahead of their time in envisioning the need for wildlife habitat beyond national parks and protected areas. Few recognized back then the critical role that local communities must play in the protection of large landscapes, and the importance of addressing people’s needs and aspirations alongside those of nature. Their generosity helped launch many innovative and successful projects from East Africa to India, and Southeast Asia to the Americas. Whether in Madagascar or their beloved Montana, they recognized a universal truth – that people and nature must find a way to thrive in harmony if either is to survive in the future.
Despite great strides forward, the threats to many of these landscapes and species remain, and in some cases are today even more complicated and urgent. In the coming year I look forward to getting to know the partners, landscapes and issues the Foundation is currently involved with, and to evaluate how we can best deploy LCAOF’s resources and people to carry forward Liz and Art’s commitment to leave the world they loved a better and more sustainable place.
I am grateful to my predecessor Jim Murtaugh, as well as to the Foundation’s Advisory Board and Trustees, for their devotion to conservation and LCAOF over so many years. In collaboration with non-profit partners and local communities, we look forward to doing great things together in the years ahead, for the benefit of both people and wildlife.