In another man’s biography, Beebe’s backcountry exploits might warrant some celebrity. In his they warrant footnotes. “People ask me what’s your specialty,” he says. “I say, bushwacking in the institutional environment.”
Beebe ’74 M.F.S. has been bushwacking for some time now. In the early 1980s, soon after graduating from F&ES, he developed The Nature Conservancy’s international program (Yale “teed me up to work for TNC” he says). In 1987, in search of a more nimble organization, he and fellow Yale alum Peter Seligmann
co-founded Conservation International (CI) to pursue the same goal, global biodiversity conservation, through more innovative means. (One of CI's first actions was to complete the world's first “debt for nature swap,” buying foreign debt from Bolivia in exchange for the creation of a three million acre nature reserve). Four years later Beebe founded Ecotrust, a conservation organization focused on conserving the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest while promoting rural economies. All told, Beebe’s assorted efforts have led to the conservation of millions of acres of pristine and biologically rich lands, from the pine-ringed buttes of Montana to the flooded forests of Amazonia.
On Oct. 11, he will receive an F&ES Distinguished Alumni Award. Next year the Audubon Society will present him with one of conservation’s most prestigious awards, the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership, for his lifetime of work
Though his early international years must form the backbone of any narrative about Beebe (these years occupy half the pages of his conservation guide and memoir, Cache
) it is his last venture, Ecotrust, which defines him best. This is true for two reasons. The first is obvious. Ecotrust is devoted to a region that Beebe put on the conservation world’s map: the temperate rainforests of North America. In the 1980s, when global conservation was really taking off, the world only had eyes for the tropics. “People hadn’t really thought about the temperate forests.”