Mark Van Putten, J.D.
 President & Founder

Mark Van Putten, J.D., has thirty years of experience in natural resources conservation and nonprofit management at the international, national, regional and local level.

Mark spent over twenty years on the staff of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the largest membership-based conservation organization in the United States. For seven years Mark served as NWF's President and CEO. Previously, Mark spent fifteen years as the founding director of NWF's Great Lakes regional office - NWF's largest - and as the founding director of the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Michigan School of Law.

Mark is recognized as a visionary leader with proven strategic thinking and planning skills and has a concrete record of turning long-term goals into ongoing organizational reality. Among environmental policy makers, Mark has gained national respect as a leader in advocating common-sense conservation solutions. ... Van Putten résumé ...


As Chief Executive Officer of Americas largest conservation education and advocacy organization, Mark was responsible for programs offered to over four million members and supporters, a nationwide network of state affiliates, an annual budget exceeding $100 million, a 28-member Board of Directors, and nearly 600 full-time employees based in eleven different locations. He managed diverse revenue streams totaling more than $100 million, including direct-mail catalog sales, direct-mail membership fundraising, Internet marketing, film and television production and philanthropic support from foundations, individual donors and corporations. Mark's achievements as NWF CEO include:

  • Developed and successfully implemented five-year plan for restoring NWF to financial health, eliminating a $21 million accumulated operating deficit
  • Established rigorous, ongoing strategic planning process, which resulted in clear multi-year organization goals being set to drive annual program planning and budgeting
  • Eliminated excess capacity, sold under-performing real estate assets and constructed new state-of-the-art, award-winning, 100,000 sq. ft., $19 million headquarters building, which was completed ahead of schedule and under budget
  • Transformed NWFs membership program by changing business model from marketing magazine subscriptions to building members affinity for NWFs conservation mission, increasing membership revenue to over $3 million/net/year
  • Integrated NWFs award-winning childrens publications Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, and Wild Animal Baby into NWFs curricula-development, teacher training and education programs
  • Resolved operational problems of Board of Directors through the most significant changes to NWFs bylaws and Board procedures in NWFs history
  • Developed NWFs Internet strategy, including acquisition of eNature.com (provider of on-line, nature field guides), and piloted successful on-line membership recruitment/retention model
  • Overhauled governance and financial relationship between NWF and National Wildlife Productions (NWFs film and television production subsidiary) and served as Chair of NWP Board of Directors during production of four IMAX films and television series
  • Built grassroots network of conservation activists, which was successfully deployed to achieve national legislative victories, including approval of the plan for restoring the Everglades, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, reforming wasteful and environmentally damaging practices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and increasing funding for state fish and wildlife programs
  • Doubled foundation grants to NWF and launched the first major donor initiative in NWFs history, personally recruiting 35 members for the Presidents Council of $10,000+/year donors
  • Represented NWF at the highest levels of international and national policymaking
  • Testified frequently before congressional committees and worked well with congressional and administration leaders of both political parties, enhancing NWFs reputation for nonpartisan, common-sense conservation solutions
  • Represented NWF with national television, radio and print media

Mark is an acclaimed public speaker on a diverse array of environmental issues. Among his featured presentations (copies of which are available upon request) are:

  • Commencement Speaker, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (2013)
  • Keynote Speaker, "The Challenge of Environmental Citizenship," Ouachita University (2010)
  • Keynote Speaker, "A Purposeful Journey: The Quest for Sustainability at the Modern American University," Rutgers University, Barbara Munson Goff Memorial Lecture (2008) ... testimonial ...
  • Panel Speaker, "Confronting the Global Water Crisis," Environmental Film Festival, Washington, D.C. (2008)
  • Panel Speaker, "Water, Sanitation & Health: New Models, Visions & Linkages," Interaction Forum 2008 (2008)
  • Keynote Speaker, "What Do NGOs Want? Challenges Facing 21st Century Environmental Groups," University of Michigan's Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (2007)
  • Panel Speaker, "Restoring A Shared Resource," Council on Foundations Annual Meeting (2007)
  • Panel Speaker, "The Road to Riches: Transportation Funding and State Wildlife Action Plans," North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (2007)
  • Featured Presenter, "Engineering the Earth" A Conservationist's View," University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering (2005)
  • Panel Speaker, "Hope and Healing for the Environment and Our Communities," Summit 2005: Diverse Partners for Environmental Progress (2005)
  • Panel Speaker, "Strategies for Restoring the Great Lakes," Council of Michigan Foundations (2005)
  • Panel Speaker, "Seven 'Secrets' for Organizational Diversity," University of Michigan's National Summit on Diversity in the Environmental Field (2005)
  • Panel Speaker, "Environmentalism and Market-based Strategies," Philanthropy Roundtable (2005)
  • Featured Presenter, "Seven 'Secrets' for Organizational Diversity," Environmental Diversity Working Group (2005)
  • Featured Speaker, "The Future of Environmentalism," Arizona State University (2005)
  • Symposium Presenter, "What Does the Future Hold for Environmental Science and Policy?," American Association for Advancement of Science (2005)
  • Presenter & Host Committee Member, "Celebration of the Dingell-Johnson Act," honoring Congressman John D. Dingell and Senator Edwin Johnson (2004)
  • Featured Presenter, "Clean Water for Posterity and Prosperity," The Aspen Institute (2004)
  • Keynote Speaker, 100th Anniversary Celebration Banquet, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (2003)
  • Keynote Speaker, "The Exhilarating Task of Conservation," National Wildlife Federation Annual Meeting (2003)
  • Panel Speaker, "Integrating International Trade and Environmental Protection," Commission on Globalization (Mexico City 2002)
  • Panel Presentation, "Bridging the Great Divide," "Mosaic in Motion" Conference on Racial Diversity and the Environmental Movement (2002)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Scientists As Undertakers," University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point (2002)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Water for the Americas in the 21st Century," Water for the Americas Hemispheric Summit (Mexico City 2002)
  • Commencement Speaker, "Living in a World of Wounds," University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment (2002)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Conservation: Now More Than Ever," National Wildlife Federation Annual Meeting (2002)
  • Keynote Speaker, "A New Water Ethic For A New Century," World Water & Environmental Resources Congress (2001)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Finding Common Ground," National Tribal Environmental Council Annual Meeting (2001)
  • Keynote Speaker, "America's Geography of Hope," Virginia Environmental Assembly (2001)
  • Keynote Speaker, "The Grass Roots Voice: From an Echo to a Roar," National Wildlife Federation Annual Meeting (2001)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Extending the Leopold Legacy Into the 21st Century," U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Conference, "A Legacy for Public Land Managers"
  • Keynote Speaker, "A Conservation Century," Annual Meeting of the National Wildlife Federation (2000)
  • Keynote Speaker, "The World Trade Organization and the Battle in Seattle," Natural Resources Council of America, National Press Club (2000)
  • Plenary presentation, "Making Trade Work For The Environment," Trade & Environment Session for World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting (1999)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Confidence and Hope through Conservation," Annual Meeting of the National Wildlife Federation (1999)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Keeping the Wild Alive: The Endangered Species Act at 25," National Press Club Newsmaker's Luncheon (1998)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Conservation Successes of the Past, Challenges for the Future," International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Annual Meeting (1998)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Making a Place for Wildlife in our Modern World," Annual Meeting of the National Wildlife Federation (1998)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Knowledge and Passion: The Keys to Resource Management," North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (1997)
  • Keynote Speaker, "Why Me?," Everglades Coalition Annual Meeting (1997)
  • Keynote/Banquet Speaker, annual meetings of Alabama Wildlife Federation, Conservation Council for Hawaii, Delaware Nature Society, Florida Wildlife Federation, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Montana Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Conservation League, Texas Committee on Natural Resources, Virgin Islands Conservation Society

Mark's conservation service has also included board memberships with:

  • Environmental Grantmakers Association
  • Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute
  • University of Michigan Water Center
  • Visiting Committee of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment (Past Board Chair)
  • Audubon Naturalist Society (Conservation Committee Chair)
  • National Wildlife Productions (Board Chair)
  • Potomac Conservancy (Conservation Committee Chair)
  • Stewardship Project (Board Chair)
  • Container Recycling Institute
  • Environmental Education and Training Institute of North America
  • Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited
  • Energy Future Coalition advisory board
  • Huron River Watershed Council
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council. 
Mark's government experience has included membership on the U.S. Trade Representative's Trade & Environment Policy Advisory Council, U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Initiative Advisory Committee, U.S. EPA's Pretreatment Implementation Task Force and the Michigan Council on Environmental Quality. 
On the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Clean Water Act, Mark was named one of thirty nationwide "Clean Water Heroes."