International League of Conservation Writers

Writing to inspire the love of nature and a passion for its protection

Members List
Membership Application
Book Reviews
Blog •


Wilderness in America


The International League of Conservation Writers is a forum to bring writers together from around the world who are writing to promote wilderness, nature, conservation, or using other means to protect and restore the natural areas, habitats, animals, and plants of our planet. ILCW will present periodic writing awards to authors who excel in this field.


ILCW Members Are Eligible to Use  David R. Brower Office for Conservation Writing

Come write, do research, and be near wild and protected areas in Colorado while working in the David R. Brower Office of Conservation Writing. Sit at the same desk used by Dave Brower. There is no cost to use the office.
If interested apply here.

  “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we aredoing to ourselves
and to one another.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Book Review

Mark Hendricks
Natural Wonders of Assateague Island
2017, Schiffer
Hardback, 144 pages The cover sold me.

Whatever followed in the ensuing pages most likely would be riveting, and Mark Hendricks does not disappoint. As much as writers love to use words to create lasting images in readers' minds, Mr. Hendricks, a photographer, has captured the flora and fauna of Assateague Island National Seashore in a wonderful photo collection to be left visibly out for family and friends to enjoy.

Gracing the cover are three ponies, their manes swept here and there by the coastal breezes, that are indelibly linked to the national seashore that spans parts of Maryland and Virginia. Though the seashore's ponies are not native -- local lore has them surviving a shipwreck, or perhaps brought to the islands in the 17th century by their owners to graze -- they are an unofficial symbol of the national seashore.

Mr. Hendricks teases us into his book with these three ponies, and once inside it's easy to get figuratively lost in the landscape of Assateague. Here's an osprey overhead, carrying nesting materials, that the author photographed from his kayak. There's the 142-foot tall Assateague Light that dates to 1867, still sending its warning beacon out to sea.

Turn page after page and you'll encounter Royal terns caught, as it seems, in mid-conversation, a Snowy owl, delicate blackberry bush and the unusual barometer earthstar fungus that unfurls its leaves when rain and humidity arrive. These are the images that help define Assateague Island National Seashore ... and help reinforce that key aspect of the National Park Service mission to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein..." not only within Assateague, but throughout the National Park System.

Spend a weekend or a week at Assateague, and you might come away thinking you experienced the seashore. Mr. Hendricks' book might convince you otherwise after you explore the images he presents to us. Prickly pear cactus at Asseateague? Yucca, which he captured in bloom. Blue grosbeaks and blue crabs. Fiddler crabs in battle, a solitary semipalmated plover strolling the beach in search of a meal. A red fox trotting through a landscape turned white by a winter storm.

The author also includes conservation messages in text sidebars, such as why we have to be aware of piping plovers. He explains the presence of Snowy owls, a species normally found in Canada but relatively rarely seen in coastal Virginia/Maryland, telling us that an overpopulation of the snowy white birds in their normal haunts "forces many to winter farther south than normal, where food and space is plentiful. Assateague Island, with vast numbers of prey sources and wide-open beach, provides excellent habitat for the visiting owl."

And he introduces us to perhaps the most famous of the seashore's horses, Charcoal, reportedly the only black stallion on the Maryland side of the seashore. In today's wired world, where reading attention seems to focus on 140-character bites or poorly spelled texts, Natural Wonders of Assateague is both a quick exploration of the national seashore and one that sparks the curiosity, to visit as well as to read more about this magical spot in the National Park System.
--Kurt Repanshek, National Parks Traveler

ILCW Member News

The Urban Birder Happenings

David Lindo, (ILCW member UK) is the Urban Birder. He is working on a book for Kosmos, the largest natural history publisher in Germany. His book will be published next spring and it will be in German. He also has room available for the following three birding tours: Extremadura, Spain, Estonia Autumn Migration Tour and later in the winter Northern Serbia Long-eared Owl Tour.

ILCW Member Writings

A Tree Falls in Borneo

The Global Effects of Tropical Deforestation

By Kaelyn Lynch (ILCW member, USA)
Previously published by The Eco Guide Oil palm

As I stood on the viewpoint, the scene elicited all the expected emotions—anger, sadness, and hopelessness. The one I hadn’t quite anticipated was shock. I felt I had adequately prepared myself for my work with a forest conservation organization, having sifted through paper after paper citing the devastating statistics: “6 football fields a minute,” “56 percent of lowland forests lost.” Yet, no statistic could impress upon me the magnitude of the loss of Borneo’s forests as deeply as seeing it with my own eyes.

Just north of the city of Sangatta in the Indonesia province of East Kalimantan, I gazed out over an area recently cleared to for PT. Kaltim Prima Coal, in an effort to create one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world. Splinters of wood scattered over the brown, barren landscape like a handful of toothpicks were the only remnants of the forest’s former glory.

During my time spent in Borneo learning about the complex economic, social, and political landscape of forest conservation, that image of that cleared land always stuck with me. Seeing it for myself had made an impact that no photo or string of numbers could. What bothered me was how few people would have the same opportunity. Those who have the power to make a difference, consumers back home in North America, may never feel the importance of their choices the same way I did that day.

With so many concerns with our own lives and countries on a daily basis, frankly, it is difficult to care about events occurring on the other side of the world. However, each tree felled has the power to affect our lives significantly—even those that fall on the opposite side of the world.

Deforestation refers to the permanent loss of forest cover and its transformation into another land use. Forests can also be significantly degraded or disrupted, while not all together destroyed, which can result in a permanent loss of biodiversity. Forests destruction occurs primarily to make way for agriculture (including monoculture such as palm oil), population growth, or for the benefit other industries, such as logging and mining. Each year, the world loses approximately 13 million hectares of forest a year to these activities, which adds up to an area roughly the size of Greece.1

Deforestation is not only a “foreign” concept; since 1600, 90% of the virgin forest that once covered the lower 48 United States has been destroyed. However, in present day, the tropical forests are those disappearing most rapidly.2

In recent years, Borneo, the mythical island in Southeast Asia famous for its orangutans and tales of headhunters, has become one of the worst victims of rampant deforestation. It lost about 17 million hectares of forest between 1973 and 2010, a decrease of about 23%.3 Indonesia, whose provinces encompass the largest part of Borneo (with regions also owned by Malaysia and Brunei), was recently named as the country with the highest deforestation rate in the world, doubling that of historic offender Brazil.4 If current plans for further concessions of forested areas to industry stand, it is estimated that only 11% of Borneo’s original forest cover will remain by 2020.5

The local level is where deforestation has the most immediate effect. With some 70% of the world’s known terrestrial plant and animal species residing in forests, loss of habitat for several species is a major effect of deforestation.6 This is particularly devastating for animals such as the orangutan, which are endemic to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and require large ranges to survive. Trees add water back to the atmosphere through transpiration, and the loss of forest disrupts rainfall and makes regions permanently drier. With this drier climate comes a greater susceptibility to fires, which cause further destruction of habitats, and more frequent droughts.

Local communities that rely on forests for their livelihoods feel its loss most severely. The forest acts as a sort of sponge, soaking up rainfall brought by storms while anchoring soil, regulating destructive flood and drought cycles that can occur when forests are cleared. When forest cover is lost, runoff rapidly flows into streams, subjecting villages and agricultural fields to flooding. Without trees as an anchor, dangerous mudslides become pervasive during the rainy season. During the dry season, these areas are exposed to months-long droughts that wreak havoc on agricultural activities.

The consequences of deforestation do not end in the regions where it is most prevalent, but instead cause ripples that spread infinitely outward. Some of these most immediate, and visible, effects were recently seen in Southeast Asia. Global attention turned towards the burning of Indonesia’s forests on Borneo and Sumatra as the the resulting blanket of smog covered parts of Singapore and Malaysia. This has spurned widespread criticism of the “slash and burn” agriculture used to clear peat lands for palm oil plantations, highlighted by the ironic hashtag, “terima kasih Indonesia,” or “thank you Indonesia,” on social media. Along with cancelling numerous flights, outdoor activities, and school days, the smog has raised serious health concerns for citizens of the countries beneath the blanket.7

In addition to affecting rainfall locally, a recent study points to the ability of deforestation to change rainfall patterns in areas far afield. The results suggest that deforestation in the Amazon, for example, can reduce rainfall in the mid-western United States and even as far as northeast China, while the felling of trees in Central Africa increases rainfall in the northeastern US and Saudi Arabia. Much like steam rising from boiling water and spreading into other rooms, with trees gone, masses of warm air rise up to the atmosphere and flow outwards, moving from the tropics to temperate areas, changing their climates.

While the term “species loss” brings to mind the plight of endangered animals such as orangutans, the loss of plants with medicinal value as a result of deforestation is often overlooked. Half the medicines at your local drug store owe their origins to tropical forests, and some have an even greater value in treating deadly diseases. Take vincristine, for instance, a drug made from a rainforest plant that allows a child with leukemia and 80 percent chance in remission as opposed to 20 percent in 1960.8 With only one percent of forest plants having been tested for medicinal purposes, a great deal of life saving potential is lost with each hectare of forest cleared.

Perhaps the most pervasive effects of deforestation, however, come from its contribution to global carbon emissions. Each year, deforestation contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than all the cars and trucks on the road combined, accounting for 20 percent of total carbon emissions from human activities. To put this in perspective, the gross amount of carbon from deforestation is equal to the total emissions from Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, all the Scandinavian countries, and Finland.9

Cutting down a tree effectively adds a double dose of carbon to the atmosphere. First, trees take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to energy through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen back into the air. Therefore, cutting down a tree means less carbon absorption. Second, trees are the largest above ground carbon sinks in the world, and when they die, they release this stored carbon. To further amplify the problem, the burning of carbon-rich peat lands (the primary cause of the aforementioned blanket of smog) to make way for palm oil plantations releases huge volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; this activity alone is on track to emit more carbon this year than all of the U.K.

This carbon contribution makes deforestation a significant factor in the world’s changing climate, and a perpetrator of the consequences that come with it. In this way, deforestation has played a role in the rise of extreme weather events, such as the heat wave that killed thousands in India, the drought and water shortage in California, and perhaps the recent flooding in South Carolina. It also aids in global warming, which leads to sea level rise, displacing thousands of people and damaging coastal properties, while turning the streets of Miami into rivers during high tides.

A report released by the US military last year takes these social consequences of deforestation a step further. It points to climate change as a major culprit in regional destabilization due to issues of displacement and food security tied to extreme weather events and rising sea levels. In fact, recent studies claim that water shortages brought on by a massive drought, worsened by a warming climate, contributed to the unrest that lead to Syria’s civil war, an event that has killed over 200,000 people and caused the current refugee crisis, with millions seeking shelter in Europe and North America. With its effect on regional and global climates and potential to destroy freshwater sources, deforestation has an added potential to contribute to future conflicts.

With the scale and rapidity of deforestation, it is easy to become discouraged that progress can be achieved. However, deforestation is driven by industry, and industry driven by consumers, which puts the power of change in the hands of average citizens.

Reducing demand for forest products is the first step in halting the expansion of forest clearing activities. On average, industrialized nations consume 12 times more wood and its products per person than non-industrialized countries; up to 80 percent of plywood products in the US come from Indonesian forests.11 Following the old mantra of, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is a good place to start. Reduce the amount of paper used by printing or writing on both sides of the sheet; reuse old cardboard boxes; buy recycled or repurposed wood products, such as furniture from a local thrift store, instead of new. Finding simple ways to cut wood and wood products from daily life already significantly lessens the strain on forests.

Another major contributor to deforestation that is a part of every day life is palm oil. Palm oil is the cheapest and most important tropical vegetable oil, and as global population grows the demand for this commodity as a source of energy is expected to rise rapidly. In response, Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has vowed to increase palm oil production from 20 million tons annually in 2009 to 40 million by 2020, and has made it clear that its commitment to halting deforestation will not come at an economic expense.12 Due to its devastating effects on the environment, a number of organizations have called for the complete boycott of palm oil. However, such an approach may be both unrealistic and have unintended consequences.

Palm oil is found in numerous household products including laundry detergent, toothpaste, and ice cream, but can be difficult to spot. It can fall under a variety of names on labels, from vegetable oil to sodium kernelate, making it frustrating for the average consumer to seek out products that are palm oil free. Additionally, palm oil uses on average nine times less land than other types of vegetable oil; by boycotting it entirely, companies may choose to switch to other oils that will destroy more land.13 Under consumer pressure, companies may stop buying from producers in countries where deforestation occurs, stripping those producers of incentives to use better environmental practices and forcing them to find buyers that don’t care about sustainability.

Perhaps a better solution than an outright ban is to encouraging supporting companies who have made commitments to source only sustainable palm oil. Sustainable palm oil, as defined by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, is harvested on lands that do not contain significant biodiversity of wildlife habitats or other environmental importance and meets certain social, environmental, and economic standards. Major companies, like Baskin Robins, Nestle, and Subway have already made strides to source from sustainable producers.14 For the technologically advanced, apps such as Buycott and Palm Oil Shopping Guide can help consumers shop smarter by allowing them to scan items at the grocery store and stating if it contains palm oil and if so, whether that company has committed to sustainability.

  • These small changes can have a large impact by encouraging industry to move towards more sustainable practices. Slowing deforestation by 50 percent of current levels by 2050 could save approximately 50 billion tons in carbon emissions, or the equivalent of six years of cumulative global fossil fuel emissions.15
  • Given its incredible global impacts, halting forest clearing will improve the lives of millions of individuals around the world. Anyone who has a loved one with cancer, who owns a farm or a house on the beach, who has lost a home to flooding or fire, or who is empathetic to those affected by violent conflict has a reason to help stop deforestation.












Featured Video

When we think about plants, we don't often associate a term like "behavior" with them, but experimental plant ecologist JC Cahill wants to change that. The University of Alberta professor maintains that plants do behave and lead anything but solitary and sedentary lives. What Plants Talk About teaches us all that plants are smarter and much more interactive than we thought!






Past Featured Videos


Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Releases Annual Impact Report
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy of Kenya works to protect and manage the wildlife of its area, educates the surrounding communities about the benefits of conservation and the value of wildlife. Some of the conservation highlights include: 0 rhino poachings for the third year in a row; 12 lion cubs, 14 rhinos, and 77 Grevy’s Zebras born; 186 vet interventions; and 33% increase in Lewa’s buffalo population. In the community they have supported 31 school, have 372 students in the adult literacy programme, have given 426 scholarships to students and have had 3,526 students and teachers visit Lewa for a conservation education experience. For more details download the
2016 Impact Report












. . . . . . .

What is a Random Act of Wildness?

A Random Act of Wildness is about making time to connect with nature around you, or doing something small yourself to help nature. Random Acts of Wildness are all about experiencing, learning about and helping your local wildlife. They can be simple, small, fun and exciting too. You can use our ideas as inspiration or get creative and make up your own..

No matter where you are in the UK, your Wildlife Trust is protecting and standing up for wildlife and wild places in your area. We connect local people to nature on their doorsteps; restore diverse wild places and look after thousands of nature reserves for future generations; and inspire people to take action for wildlife. We believe that everyone can make a positive difference to their local environment and that by working together we can achieve nature’s recovery on land and at sea.

. . . . . . .

US Post Office Unveils
Henry David Thoreau Stamp
©2017 USPS

The U.S. Postal Service is honoring Henry David Thoreau during the bicentennial year of his birth with a Forever Stamp. A first-day-issue stamp dedication ceremony took place Tuesday at the Walden Pond State Reservation Visitors Center in Concord, Mass. Thoreau was born July 12, 1817. The stamp art is an oil-on-panel painting of Thoreau's face based on an 1856 daguerreotype by Benjamin Maxham. On the right side of the stamp is Thoreau's signature of his last name, and below it a branch of sumac leaves. Sam Weber was the stamp artist and art director Greg Breeding the designer. "Thoreau was one of the great thinkers in this country's history on a wide variety of subjects, and the expression on his face in the stamp image captures his introspective and inquisitive nature," said USPS general counsel and executive v-p Thomas J. Marshall. Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., a board member of the Walden Woods Project, said, "Thoreau holds a significant place in the history of our country. The commemorative stamp not only celebrates the 200th anniversary of his birth, but reminds us of his continuing influence regarding 21st century global environmental and social reform challenges. It is fitting that the first-day-of-issue for the Thoreau stamp takes place at Walden Pond--the place that inspired him--and the birthplace of the American conservation movement."

. . . . . . .

The Antiquities Act Under Fire

The Antiquities Act was put into effect in 1906 to stop looting of Native American artifacts from archaeological sites. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the act into law and created 18 monuments that included the Grand Canyon. The president of the United States can only make national monuments from land already controlled by the federal government. Congress can convert a national monument into a national park, and has many times in the past. But if the Antiquities Act was rolled back or weakened it would allow extractive industries like oil and gas, mining, and logging to be carried out on once protected land. Who would lose out? The American people would lose, those who would not know these places in their natural state and the animals and other species who live in these natural areas. Source: The New York Times


Calls for Work and Retreats

Alluvian accepts creative nonfiction, science journalism and science narratives, cartoons and art, and/or narrative analysis of data related to sustainability, climate change, the environmental sciences, the human engagement with nature, or other topics about the environment. Authors must be an undergraduate or have graduated with an undergraduate degree within the last 18 months. Accepting submissions for fall issue: Climate Change: And Away We Go! Deadline September 30, 2017.

Futurescape's 2017 writing contest, "Blue Sky Cities," is looking for stories set in the near-future where significant strides have been made in improving air quality and/or climate adaptation.  Stories should blend plot and character with the nuances (positive or negative) of technology, science, politics, and/or policy. No entry fee; prizes range from $500 - $2,000. Deadline is October 13, 2017

The Fourth River has launched Tributaries, a weekly, online publication of "...the brief and the inspiring, that which sustains and takes us through unexpected courses..." Nature or placed based short prose (500 words), one poem, or one piece of visual art can be submitted here.  Each week we will feature a new piece on the front page of our web site.

Thank you to our source: Adrienne Ross Scanlan

. . . . . . .

The Hudson: A River at Risk -- Upcoming Screenings
Jon Bowermaster, ILCW member (USA) and filmmaker has set up a series of screenings about the Hudson River and the environmental dangers it encounters. To see if there is a screening near you (or to schedule one) click here.To see the film trailer click here.


Aug. 28-Sept. 2, 2017
Women River Writing and Sculpting Journey -- Canyonlands National Park, USA

ILCW member Page Lambert (writer) with featured guest, Roxanne Swentzell (sculptor) will journey 6 days and 5 nights down the Colorado River. Attendees will sculpt with their hands, using river clay and materials gathered from the land, and will also sculpt with words. For more information.

Roxanne Swentzell (L) with Page Lambert in front of Swentzell’s sculpture “Mud Woman"






. . . . . . .

April 21--May 2, 2018

Weaving Words and Women: A 12-day Peruvian Adventure
ILCW member Page Lambert will take adventurous women to the high Andes of Peru next April. There will be writing, markets, incredible food, horseback riding opportunities, Inca ruins, and more. For details, click here.




ILCW now on Facebook ILCW members, please check out the ILCW Facebook page and add content.

Tell us what you are working on, what changes you see in the area of conservation (good and bad) in your area, include news from you: have you recently won any awards or accolades? Have you recently published a new book or article or perhaps finished a piece of art, performance piece, photo that glorifies the natural world? This page is for you, please enjoy and generate interest in ILCW and what we do.

ILCW facebook

. . . . . . .

Looking for Creative People Who Appreciate Nature

Do you have a friend or a colleague who is passionate about Nature and believes that we should protect what we have for future generations? ILCW welcomes all creative people (not just writers) who use their talent to bring awareness to the plight of our natural world. Have them apply to be an ILCW member at

. . . . . . .

Do you have news?

Let us know if you have won an award, written a new book, or launched a creative endeavor to bring awareness to conservation. Chances are the ILCW membership is not aware of these things, so be sure and tell us. Send items

. . . . . . .


Home Members List Bios Application Links Reviews Blog Awards Facebook