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Nature's Keepers: The Remarkable Story of How the Nature Conservancy Became the Largest Environmental Group in the World Hardcover – March 18, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This generally admiring portrait of the Nature Conservancy, the organization that preserves genetic material and uniquely functioning ecological systems, emphasizes the inner workings of the organization, focusing on nine personalities within its ranks. Journalist Birchard outlines the history of the group from its birth pangs in 1950 to the 2003 natural-gas scandal that led to a series of stories in the Washington Post. Most of the profiles are of upper management, including ecologist Robert Jenkins, who changed the conservancy's directive to a qualitative, rather than a quantitative approach; president Patrick Noonan, who made corporate America an environmental partner; and Gregory Low, who encouraged the organization to work on "landscape-scale" operations. The narrative isn't entirely linear, as many of those profiled overlapped in service; manager John Sawhill, for example, is profiled in two separate places within the book. Ultimately, Birchard, by combining interviews, meeting minutes, speech transcripts, and reports, does a remarkable job of providing a coherent picture of "the largest environmental organization in the world." Rebecca Maksel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Nature’s Keepers is a remarkable book about a remarkable organizationand a ripping yarn about groups and people who make a difference against all odds. Beyond that, it is a matchless tale of a half century of organizational growth and renewal—replete with missteps and subsequent vaults upward. Told as a series of nine fast-paced sagas of extraordinary leaders, it holds lessons of the utmost importance for every variety of reader."
--Tom Peters
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787971588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787971588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #636,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

BILL BIRCHARD is an author, blogger, and book consultant. He has written a dozen books for his own and other author's bylines, including a New York Times bestseller. His most recent books for his own byline are Merchants of Virtue (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2011) and Stairway to Earth (Birchard Books, 2011). Other books include Nature's Keepers (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and, with David Nichol M.D., The One-Minute Meditator (Perseus, 2001). See also billbirchard.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on January 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book about business strategy in a non-profit corporation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The book begins and ends with a scandal, a series of articles by the Washington Post that uncovered failures of governance in this non-profit organization. These revelations came after a series of scandals concerning corporate governance in companies such as Enron, and the Nature Conservancy very much needed to keep its image distinct from those kinds of businesses.

When evaluating this book, it's important to keep in mind what Berchard intends it to be (a book about strategy) as well as what it might have been (a history of the Nature Conservancy). In light of some of the other reviews, I think it's also important to remember whether we like the book or not is a separate question from whether we like the Nature Conservancy or not.

Berchard does not intend this book to be a history of the Nature Conservancy, and it isn't. However, it presents selected strategic challenges of the organization in chronological order, so it looks as if it might be a history. There is much left out, in particular, the events between strategic challenges. These make up most of the growth of the organization. I wish Berchard had given us more of that history, since the supposed success of TNC's leadership must be evident in that growth - the proof of the pudding is in the eating, after all. Even so, Berchard has done enough research into TNC's files, and conducted enough interviews, so that this book would be a useful source for someone else who wanted to write a history of the organization.

Berchard *does* intend this book to be about business strategy, even if the business is a non-profit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Hamblin on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
He gets it. Birchard did a remarkable job distilling what and who made the Conservancy tick at every stage of its development. He captures the genius and passion of stars like Noonan and Jenkins. The dramatic struggles in the formative years were news to me, even though I worked at The Conservancy for 20 years. Others have tried before to penetrate this extremely complicated enterprise and capture the essence of the organization but nothing I have seen captures the pearls of organizational development like this book. Recommended reading for every charity's staff and board. I hoped the book had room to show how much fun we had- such as the hilarious story of the Aggassiz Glacier, a ficitious land project that staff almost got through the Board of Governors. Maybe in the next book. And I thank the author for re-inforcing my own pride in having worked so hard on the Conservancy's mission.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Birchard seemingly spares little, including the 2003 gut punch from the Washington Post, in this overview of the development of The Nature Conservancy. He also details how Conservancy President Steven McCormick dealt with that.

That was one of several gut-wrenching management, organizational and philosophical changes The Nature Conservancy has gone through since its founding, Birchard notes. He details all of them, and how TNC has come out on the right side of all of them, so far.

Because of TNC's work, it's a good look at how conservation is changing in general today, and a primer for how TNC and similar organizations can continue to best guide this change.

This may also be a decent primer for staffers at other nonprofit organization, from smaller through larger, and whether at local, regional, state or national offices. As Birchard points out, TNC's pains have, in many cases, been growth pains. Other organizations can learn valuable lessons from TNC actions.

That said, there are things that got left on the cutting room floor. Was Jack Sawhill too abrupt in the changes he forced? Would TNC had been better if he hadn't run off a number of people? One can never know that for sure, but on this and similar issues, Birchard could have made analytical guesstimates or something. The items the Post noted... was more blood spilled on the floor in state chapter self-defense than Birchard tells us?

Beyond conservation, he also doesn't explain how TNC work always benefits the general public. What TNC sites are open to recreation uses, such as hiking, for example? To someone with a less than in-depth knowledge of environmentalism, how well has TNC marketed itself, or not?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Greco on April 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
You don't need to be an environmentalist to love this book. The Nature Conservancy is not only the world's largest environmental organizations but one of the most effective. Having worked at other environemtal groups, watching the Conservancy's tremendous growth over the years, I was just amazed and wondered what they were doing to achieve such success. Now Nature's Keepers explains it all. What I really liked was that it was a real honest appraisal about the organization including the mistakes it made and the troubles it faced. It is a great lesson about how to face and overcome challenges to ultimately make your organization stronger.
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