Jim Brett has had a natural resource conservation career for over 48 years. He is recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection as one of the top environmental leaders of Pennsylvania. This is a special honor especially since he is the only living person on this list. He has been a life-long naturalist.
Following a decade of teaching natural history in the public school system he moved on to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary where is developed the education program, established a premiere visitor center and founded the international intern program. The international intern program grew from a fledgling effort in 1976 to an internationally recognized conservation education program under Jim’s leadership. He remained at Hawk Mountain for 26 years, during which time Jim turned the sanctuary from small regional wildlife reserve to an organization of international significance and stature.
Following Jim’s departure from Hawk Mountain, and to help fund his Pennsylvania and global initiatives, he continued to plan and guide excursions throughout the world. Proceeds from these trips, along with donations from generous benefactors, go to a special Jim Brett Global Conservation Education Fund. This fund has supported international interns from Africa, Cuba, the Americas, Europe and Asia. The once simple intern program has now grown into a full fledged grassroots education program that trains young people to be conservation leaders in their own countries. Since 1976, over 155 students from 26 countries have graduated from the program at Hawk Mountain and the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education; many have gone on to hold leadership roles, making a critical difference in land stewardship efforts in their home countries.
Jim left Hawk Mountain in 1996 to become the first Executive Director of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and the Arts, a position he held for three years until he was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge as the Commonwealth’s Senior Conservation Advisor. During his tenure with the Governor he formed the Governor’s Youth Council for Sportsmen’s Concerns and Conservation. Jim continued his conservation work with state government into Governor Rendell’s administration where he served as an assistant to the Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
His crowning achievement has been the founding and formation of the PA Institute for Conservation Education with colleague Michele Richards. The Institute has received recognition from across the Commonwealth for its development of innovative natural history education and stewardship programs offered to a wide and diverse audience. Jim serves as President of the organization and is very active in its leadership, development and educational programs.
He has extensive international experience including leading natural history safaris across the globe which support local conservation initiatives within Pennsylvania, serving on the Board of the African Nature Conservation Trust and life memberships in the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa and a Fellow in the Explorer’s Club. His most recent project in Africa is involved with establishing migratory corridors for elephants between Tanzania and Mozambique. On one of his recent travels to Africa, he discovered the oldest homo sapiens footprints in Africa. What is most poignant about the discovery is that it resulted in the protection of a habitat that supported over a million Lesser Flamingos, a threatened species.
Earlier in the year, Jim was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kutztown University for his conservation education accomplishments through the International Global Wildlife Educational Internship Program as well as his work on wildlife heritage in the Commonwealth.
Jim Brett exemplifies conservation leadership and serves as an extraordinary role model for Pennsylvanians through his great work in environmental education and conservation and through his cultural understanding, in Pennsylvania, nationally and around the world. The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association is honored to recognize someone of Jim’s stature, who demonstrates such tremendous passion for our natural heritage, evident in his everyday actions and his lifetime dedication to conservation.
On behalf of Pennsylvania’s eighty leading conservation organizations, WeConservePA honors Jim Brett with the 2011 Lifetime Leadership Award for his decades of leadership and dedication in conserving our special places and landscapes.