In 2000, Dr. Michael Fay—botanist and primatologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society—completed a MegaTransect across more than 2,000 miles of Africa’s Congo Basin. At that time he met with leaders of several major conservation organizations and asked them to support the establishment of protected areas and national parks in the Congo Basin. Several of these NGOs committed their support, conditional upon matching support from U.S. Government grants.
When Dr. Fay experienced difficulty securing this support, he sought the help of his long-time friend and conservation volunteer, David Barron, who had been working in Africa for many years on issues of democracy and development and who was active in developing a private wildlife reserve in South Africa.
David gathered together a number of the most important Democratic and Republican Members of the U.S. Congress to meet over dinner with Dr. Fay and several U.S. agency leaders to discuss what would become the historic Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP). With the support of David’s friend, the President of Gabon Omar Bongo, and with a $53 million pledge from Secretary of State Colin Powell and other members of the Bush Administration, 13 new national parks were formed in Gabon and eventually many others throughout the six countries of in the Congo Basin. This partnership has resulted in tens of millions of acres dedicated to national parks and protected areas, with an even greater land area around the parks dedicated to sustainable development that will support the parks and forests and their magnificent wildlife.
This project was such a great success, that many of the same key Members of Congress came back together over dinner in September 2001 on Capitol Hill and decided to launch an International Conservation Caucus (ICC) in the U.S. House of Representatives to work in a bipartisan fashion on other conservation challenges and opportunities. After studying several other highly successful caucuses, the ICC Co-Chairs determined that one of the keys to their success was a supporting “brain trust.” At the request of those Co-Chairs, David worked to bring together major conservation NGOs—first Conservation International then The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wildlife Fund—to support educational programs for the ICC. This partnership gave birth to the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), which under the leadership of David and some of the current ICCF management team, grew to include many other international conservation NGOs and multinational corporations as partners.
-- David Barron
During this time, David also worked to support the launch of a new Senate ICC and to recruit members from both sides of the aisle for the House and Senate ICCs. The ICC now comprises one-third of the U.S. Congress and is fully bipartisan. The ICCF now includes more than 50 corporate and NGO partners to support the ICC, making this the most successful caucus foundation in recent history.
As the ICC grew and became more and more effective, caucus leaders identified a need to reach out to their counterparts in parliaments around the world to encourage cooperation on conservation issues, influence their understanding and approach to these issues, and consequently increase the impact of U.S. international conservation programs. The ICC once again turned to David Barron, and the concept of the Conservation Council of Nations (CCN), a collaboration of member nations working together on conservation issues, was born. David turned his attention to recruiting member nations, and the CCN has grown to include 46 country partners. Through the CCN, multiparty parliamentary caucuses are being built in countries around the world.
He continued to work closely with ICCF to build the Oceans Caucus Foundation to support the caucus and to recruit Members of Congress to bring about a bipartisan, balanced approach to oceans issues that includes a brain trust of corporate and NGO partners with oceans expertise. During the course of building the CCN, a number of countries have approached ICCF with requests to support their national conservation initiatives, and thus the International Conservation Corps (ConsCorps) was born. Through the ConsCorps, U.S. agencies, multilateral institutions, and ICCF/CCN/OCF partners will provide their land and ocean conservation expertise, in the form of volunteer teams of experts, to interested nations. David is currently devoting the majority of his time and efforts to developing programs with partnering agencies and institutions and seeking other support to enable these teams to travel abroad to share their conservation know-how.