Two leading conservationists receive The Wilderness Society’s highest honors

Jun 9, 2011

Philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt receive awards


WASHINGTON, DC (June 9, 2011) – Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt – who created the National Landscape Conservation System – will receive the Ansel Adams Award this evening. On the same evening, Hansjörg Wyss – a prominent philanthropist whose company, Synthes, is being bought by Johnson & Johnson – and the Wyss Foundation will receive the Robert Marshall Award for leadership on land conservation in the American West.

The Ansel Adams Award is presented to a current or former federal official who has shown exceptional commitment to the cause of conservation and the fostering of an American land ethic. This year we honor Bruce Babbitt, who as secretary of the interior during Bill Clinton’s administration, worked to protect scenic and historical areas of America’s public lands. He led the effort to create the 26-million-acre National Landscape Conservation System.

“Bruce guided the Clinton administration in establishing bedrock conservation protection measures,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “While serving as secretary of the interior, he worked with local groups, Congress and the administration to ensure that our iconic lands were protected for perpetuity. Today as a private citizen, he continues to be a leader in the conservation community by working to expand the National Landscape Conservation System that he helped create.”

The Ansel Adams award is named for the celebrated photographer who, until his death, was an outspoken advocate for safeguarding the nation’s natural heritage. Other winners of the Ansel Adams Award include former Congressman Mo Udall (D-NM), Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, President Jimmy Carter, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.

The Robert Marshall Award is presented to a private citizen who has never held federal office but has devoted long-term service to, and had a notable influence on, conservation and the fostering of an American land ethic. Marshall founded The Wilderness Society in 1935 along with A Sand County Almanac author Aldo Leopold, Appalachian Trail creator Benton MacKaye, and five other conservation leaders. Marshall was a prominent thinker and leader in the wilderness movement in the 1920s and 1930s. This year we honor Hansjörg Wyss and the Wyss Foundation for protecting over four million acres through their sponsorship of partnerships between non-governmental organizations and the federal government.

“Hansjörg and the Wyss Foundation have worked tirelessly to protect America’s natural heritage,” Meadows continued. “After experiencing the wild wonders in the American West as a young graduate student, Hansjörg has been steadfastly committed to keeping our public lands pristine for future generations. Hansjörg has supported on-the-ground efforts to protect our wild places, and this award is an acknowledgement of all he has done and the achievements yet to come.”  

Wyss is the 26th winner of the award, joining an elite group that includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner, Terry Tempest Williams, David Brower, former EPA head Russell Peterson, and Mardy Murie.