Andy is the Vice President for Conservation Action at the National Wildlife Federation and the interim Executive Director of the NWF Action Fund, the national political arm of NWF. He oversees the conservation work of NWF’s seven regional offices and the partnerships with affiliated conservation organizations in 49 states.
Prior to heading up NWF’s Conservation Action nationally, Andy was the Regional Executive Director of NWF’s Great Lakes office. In this role, he co-chaired (and co-founded) the 115-organization Healing Our Waters Coalition. Under his leadership, NWF and Healing Our Waters have helped to win an unprecedented $1.6 billion in federal funding for Great Lakes restoration and new state and federal laws to protect Great Lakes water supplies.
Prior to joining NWF in 1998, Andy was the senior attorney for the Midwest office of the National Environmental Law Center and the Program Director for the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in Michigan. He got his undergraduate degree at Harvard College and his law degrees at Boalt Hall (University of California, Berkeley) and Georgetown University Law Center.
Andy Buchsbaum will be on the panel at our event, Explore the Outdoors: St. Louis. In order to get to know Andy a little better prior to the event, we asked a few questions.
What first sparked your interest in conservation?
I grew up just outside Chicago. I spent every minute I could outside – but as you can imagine, we didn’t have a lot of wilderness to play in. The highlight of every summer was when my mom and dad packed up the station wagon with tents, sleeping bags, my sister and me and took us camping all over the U.S. and Canada – from Glacier Park to Maine. We saw mountains, oceans, and deserts, and encountered bears, foxes, otters, eagles, and countless other wildlife. Living the rest of the year near a city like Chicago, the contrast was pretty stark – and I knew that I wanted to make sure that wild places stayed wild.
What has been your most rewarding experience at NWF?
Since I took on this national role a year ago, hands down it’s been getting to know the state affiliate conservation leaders all over the country, seeing your great work, and learning about all the fantastic places you all are conserving.
In the decade before that, when I worked as the Great Lakes director for NWF, I’d say my most rewarding experience was helping to bring everybody in the Great Lake region – businesses, sportsmen, environmental organizations, cities, scientists, and public official from both parties – together to fight for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. That unity allowed us to win the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – over $2.2 Billion in federal funding for over 1,000 restoration projects in the Great Lakes, with more coming every year. It may be they only non-defense program in the country where the Obama Administration proposes funding at one level, and the U.S. House and Senate members from both parties vote to increase it.
What hopes for the future of conservation do you have?
It’s hard to know where to start. From my experience and what I’ve seen, when people work together for land, for rivers and lakes, for wildlife – the sky is the limit. Whether it’s billions of dollars for needed conservation projects, local habitat restoration projects, scientific management of wildlife by wildlife professionals or treating deer like the wild animals they are, if people work together then conservation is not just possible, it’s easy. But our governments (state and federal) in my lifetime have never been in a more polarized, negative, divided place than they are now. My hope is that by working together, our Federation – the state affiliates, the national organization, and our millions of supporters – can raise a grassroots army that will prove to all that conservation is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s not a conservative or liberal issue, it’s not an issue at all – it’s an American value. And our elected officials need to treat it that way.
What advice do you have for the next generation of conservationists?
Get outside! Conservation starts with love of the outdoors. Hunt, fish, hike, bird, swim, paddle. Once you care about the places you enjoy, conservation must follow.
What is your favorite way to spend time outdoors?
That’s a really hard question to answer – how to choose just one? Generally, my favorite time outdoors is whatever I’m doing now. But a few highlights of the past year:
Standing hip-deep in Idaho’s Salmon River, putting the fly in just the right place, mind cleared and eyes fixed on the fly, just as a fish hits it – there’s nothing better!
Paddling through the salt marshes on Cape Cod, high sea grass making the walls of a maze, hundreds of sea birds wheeling overhead, a green heron sitting right off the bow of my kayak;
Peddling over dirt roads through rolling farm country outside my hometown of Ann Arbor, feeling the miles go by under my feet;
Sitting on the back patio, burgers sizzling on the grill, sipping a beer, feeling the warm breeze and watching the sun come streaming through the trees.
To hear more from Andy Buchsbaum, join us at Explore the Outdoors: St. Louis. The evening banquet will feature Andy Buchsbaum in addition to Dr. Peter Raven, President Emeritus at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Brandon Butler, Executive Director from the Conservation Federation of Missouri during the panel discussion. Registration is required, and can be done here.