TPL Founder Honored

SAN FRANCISCO, 4/28/2005: Huey D. Johnson,environmental leader and founder of national conservationorganizations headquartered in the Bay Area has been named recipientof The National Arbor Day Foundation’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award.

Johnson founded the Trust for Public Land in 1972 and served as its first president until 1976.

The Olmsted Award is given to those whose life’s workexemplifies commitment to tree planting and conservation inimprovement of America’s communities and landscapes. Johnson, 72, aresident of Mill Valley, Calif., has championed conservation fornearly 50 years.

Johnson began his environmental career at The NatureConservancy in 1963. His persistence and persuasion raised awarenessof the Conservancy’s land-saving mission as he acquiredenvironmentally important lands throughout the West — many in theBay Area.

Concerned that The Nature Conservancy’s focus on endangeredspecies left other important landscapes vulnerable to destruction,Johnson founded and headed The Trust for Public Land. Founded in1972, TPL today is one of the nation’s largest conservationorganizations. Its “land for people” mission extends to protectingurban parks, community gardens, and a diversity of natural landscapeswhere public recreation is welcome.

In 1976 then Governor Jerry Brown tapped Johnson to beCalifornia’s Secretary of Resources. Johnson’s leadership of theagency, at times controversial, reflected the new environmentalsensibility of the times. He brought in young staffers intent onpromoting solar and wind farms, saving salmon, growing chemical-freefood, and planting urban forests.

During his five years as Resources Secretary, Johnsonpublished and began implementing a “Green Century Plan,” a 100-yearmanagement plan for the state’s natural resources. Early successesinclude urban water and energy conservation, improved forest policy,including increased tree planning in cities as well as private lands,doubling salmon numbers in the sea around San Francisco, increasingacres of parkland and preserving 1,200 miles of wild rivers.

The plan became the basis for the Resource Renewal Institute,which Johnson founded in 1982 as a think tank exploring approaches tosustainability such as “green plans” — long-term, integratedresource management plans increasingly in use around the world.

The Resource Renewal Institute also has served as a launch padfor several environmental organizations, including the GreenbeltMovement International, a tree-planting organization founded by 2004Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and Defense of Place, anorganization that advises citizens groups when parks, naturepreserves, wildlife refuges and other land dedicated for conservationare threatened with sale or development.

Johnson credits Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac,” acollection of essays published in 1949, as the inspiration that hasguided his life’s work. Leopold, a scientist, forester and teacher,coined the term “land ethic,” an ecological philosophy of therelationship between people and the land.

“My goal is to make Americans aware of the vast landscapesthey own and the need to protect them. We, the people, must notforfeit our shared heritage to expedience or ‘progress.’ There aresimply too few untrammeled places left as it is,” Johnson said.

In 2001, Johnson was awarded the Sasakawa Prize by the UnitedNations. His book “Green Plans” is popular among resource managersseeking models of sustainability. And he frequently consults withinternational leaders, recently traveling to China, Russia, Norway,Belgium and the Netherlands at the invitation of governments andenvironmental leaders.

The Frederick Law Olmsted Award is named for the renowned 19thcentury landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park,much of Golden Gate and Yosemite Parks as well as park designs thatshaped numerous American cities.

The Olmsted award is made annually in recognition of NationalArbor Day, a tree-planter’s holiday first celebrated in 1872. TheNational Arbor Day Foundation promotes tree planting, conservation,and environmental stewardship around the world. The foundation willhost an award ceremony on April 30 in Lincoln, Neb., where Arbor Daywas founded 133 years ago.