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National Ecological Foundation Draws to an End, Assets Gifted to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Tony Campbell signs the check

Tony Campbell signs the check passing funds to the Federation

Funds will Establish the Federation’s First-ever Endowment

When conservationist J. Clark Akers decided to take on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1963 over the channelization of the Obion and Forked Deer rivers, he had no idea that it would be a 30-year fight. Akers and his small group of cohorts formed the National Ecological Foundation (NEF), ultimately prevailed in saving 15,000 acres of West Tennessee wetlands and later established the state’s first wetlands mitigation bank. Now that non-profit organization has dissolved its charter, and has donated approximately $2 million in assets to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF), a statewide non-profit conservation organization.

“The Ecological Foundation was created in the early 1970s primarily around that lawsuit, with the basic mission of wetlands preservation,” said Tony Campbell, who has served as NEF’s executive director for the last 20 years of its history. “In 1995 we had the opportunity to establish the state’s first wetlands mitigation bank, and we’ve worked closely with the Tennessee Wildlife Federation through all of it. We are longtime supporters of the Federation and have admired their conservation efforts which includes wetlands mitigation, so it made sense to fold our work into theirs moving forward.”

The Federation was a plaintiff in the West Tennessee rivers lawsuit, which challenged the Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge and channelize the two rivers, drain the tributaries and wipe out miles of bottomland forest. It was a precedent-setting case, and one of the state’s first major environmental lawsuits. The momentum behind wetlands preservation soon led to the establishment of mitigation banks, which allowed developers to buy credits for projects that disturbed wetlands. Those funds were used to acquire other wetlands, under a no-net-loss concept. Since then, thousands of acres of critical habitat have been saved as a result.

TWF Chief Development Officer Kendall McCarter applauds Akers and Campbell for their lifelong commitment to wetlands, and pledges the Federation’s continued commitment to Tennessee’s wildlife and wild places.

“This gift represents the largest in our organization’s history, and will establish our first endowment. The J. Clark Akers and Anthony T. Campbell Endowment Fund will work to advance our mission, which is leading the conservation, sound management and wise use of Tennessee’s great outdoors,” McCarter said. “We stand as champions for wildlife, habitat and the people who love them, from the wetlands to the mountains to the lakes and rivers that make Tennessee such an incredibly rich and diverse place to enjoy. Mr. Akers and Mr. Campbell have left quite a legacy with this gift, and it will give the Federation a long term financial future to do even more critical work.”
Since 1946, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation leads the conservation, sound management, and wise use of Tennessee’s Great Outdoors. Over the course of 70 years, TWF has led the development of our state’s wildlife policy, advanced landmark legislation on air and water quality and other conservation initiatives, helped restore numerous species, and introduced thousands of kids to the Great Outdoors.

Clark Akers, Dr. Greer Ricketson, Tony Campbell and Dr. Edward Thackston pose for pictures during the National Wildlife Federation’s 1980 annual convention in Miami. Akers received one of the whooping crane statuettes for his success in stopping the West Tennessee Tributaries Project. Thackston accepted the other “Connie” for the Tennessee Conservation League as outstanding NWF affiliate for 1979.

Clark Akers, Dr. Greer Ricketson, Tony Campbell and Dr. Edward Thackston pose for pictures during the National Wildlife Federation’s 1980 annual convention in Miami. Akers received one of the whooping crane statuettes for his success in stopping the West Tennessee Tributaries Project. Thackston accepted the other “Connie” for the Tennessee Conservation League as outstanding NWF affiliate for 1979.

Click here for more information on the channelization of the Obion River lawsuit.

As the Tennessee Conservation League’s first employee — and the executive director of the organization for 23 years — Tony Campbell set the groundwork for what would become the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

As the Tennessee Conservation League’s first employee — and the executive director of the organization for 23 years — Tony Campbell set the groundwork for what would become the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

Click here for more information on Tony Campbell, the Federation’s first CEO.

1 reply
  1. Forrest M. Butler
    Forrest M. Butler says:

    For more years that I care to remember, I’ve been blessed in having a friend in Tony Campbell. For a time I served on the Board of Directors of the old Tennessee Conservation League, now the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. During those days Tony was my mentor and always my friend. On at least one occasion, while I was one of four vice presidents of the League, I tested that friendship by firing off a letter to a very powerful legislator, who will remain unnamed, that was caught shooting over a baited dove field and as a result, wanted to punish the state game and fish boys by putting their budget and administration under a cabinet position, the Dept of Agriculture as I remember. Such a move would have silenced the autonomy of the wildlife agency forever. While I don’t have a copy of the letter I wrote, I’m pretty sure it was far stronger that it needed to be. In any event, my friend Tony took an a–chewing from the legislator. The only thing he ever said to me was please don’t ever do that again without running it past me.
    Through the years he was gracious enough to offer our son a job at the League. During the ensuing years, Tony mentored our son in the art of compromise, diplomacy and tact, all of which has paid handsome dividends to Michael. Today, he’s the CEO of that Federation and I am forever grateful for Tony for mentoring our son and partnering with him in building the TWF into a first class, well rounded organization. As icing on the cake, Tony continued to be an encouragement to the Federation and is, in my mind, much of the reason the National Ecological Foundation as gifted the TWF is a sizable and significant financial gift.
    I have fond memories of the TCL and the board meetings I was a part of for so many years. Tony Campbell has been a big part of my life and I admire him in so many ways. He had the right stuff then and he has the right stuff now. I am blessed to be able to call him friend.
    Forrest M. (Mike) Butler
    Jackson, TN 38305

    Reply

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