Can One Person Save an Endangered Species? See for Yourself.

Laura Huggins,

Release Date
December 13, 2013



Think you’re too small to save the world—even one species at a time? Sometimes big change starts with thinking big and perhaps a little outside the box. Take it from enviropreneur Hank Fischer.
Hank Fischer was concerned about the gray wolf. It was on the endangered species list and extinct in the American West. Efforts to reintroduce it in the region had been unsuccessful, largely because the local population didn’t want hungry wolves killing their livestock. Rather than fight the ranchers in the region, Hank established a fund to compensate them for losses and give them incentives to support the growth of the wolf population. And it worked! Today, the gray wolf isn’t even considered endangered. Hank’s story is just one of many stories of enviropreneurs around the world. Laura Huggins of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) explains how thinking outside the box and innovating can work for the environment as it does for business. Enviropreneurs like Hank have been able to save species. Think about the difference you could make! [article]: Hank Fischer on saving the wolves in Yellowstone Park [article]: Michael Lenox and Jeffrey York break down the economic incentives and personal motivations for environmental entrepreneurship [resource]: Hank Fischer’s book Wolf Wars [resource]: Laura Huggins’ book Environmental Entrepreneurship [article]: Preserving Patagonian Grasslands: Argentina [article]: Creating Water Markets: Bolivia [article]: Protecting the Black Rhino: Kenya [article]: White Rhino Revival: South
Africa [article]: Introducing Catch Shares for Fisheries: Namibia [article]: Growing Green in China [article]: Saving Snow Leopards: Central & South Asia [article]: Converting Wastewater to Energy: Thailand

Can One Person Save an Endangered Species? See for Yourself.
If it were up to you to solve an environmental problem, how would you do it? Everyone has heard of an entrepreneur, but most of you probably haven’t heard of an enviropreneur. Hank Fischer is one of these people. Hank was worried about wolves. The gray wolf was on the endangered species list and extinct in the American West. This was bad for the local ecology. Wolves were needed to keep herds of elk and other animals from becoming overpopulated. So Hank made it his mission to help bring wolves back to their natural habitat.
Federal officials were already working on a plan to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone National Park, but Hank wasn’t sure that plan was going to work very well. Not only was it going to take too long and cost too much, but it made a lot of local people angry. For the benefit of the local ecology, Hank knew that wolf advocates needed to win over private land owners so that wolves could roam beyond the park.
So Hank began meeting with his biggest opponents: the ranchers surrounding Yellowstone. He thought if he could understand their concerns, he could figure out a way to address them. His first gathering was in an old school house in Idaho. Hank describes entering the room and being met by a sea of cowboy hats. When he started his speech, a rancher stood up and interrupted him, bellowing out, “It’s easy for you to be a wolf lover; it doesn’t cost you a dime. It’s the people who own livestock who end up paying for wolves.”
This was really a eureka moment for Hank. He realized that the ranchers’ opposition to wolves was an economic issue. They feared losing livestock to hungry wolves. So if ranchers could be compensated for their losses, their opposition might dwindle. Hank began looking for ways to make that happen. He teamed up with defenders of wildlife to raise private donations for his fund so that he could pay back ranchers when they lost livestock to predation.
Hank also helped develop further incentives for ranchers to tolerate wolves on their land. For example, ranchers who allowed a wolf den on their property are eligible for additional compensation. Through these efforts he was able to start turning a rare species into an asset for landowners rather than a liability. Soon, the newly reentered wolves began to flourish. Hank had become an environmental entrepreneur. By observing the incentives that work, he was able to find a solution that won the voluntary cooperation of local people, and that meant he could help wolves even when the expanse of legal and bureaucratic solutions were failing them.
You may think that this is just one small example. But this really is happening all over the world in Africa, South America, and Asia. The nonprofit I work for, PERC, offers support and ideas to entrepreneurs like these who want to make a real difference for the environment. Don’t you think that if we could inspire more enviropreneurs we can solve some of the greatest environmental challenges? Today, wolves are thriving in the west. Just last year they were removed from the endangered species list. Hank made a difference by thinking beyond the status quo. He found a way to turn opponents into allies. Do you think you could do the same?
I hope you enjoyed this video. To see more from PERC click on one of these videos.