National Ecological Foundation Gifts Assets To Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Tony Campbell and Mitchell Parks of the NEF present a check to TWF CEO Mike Butler and CDO Kendall McCarter. The gift includes approximately $1.4 million in cash and a piece of real estate, together totaling approximately $2 million.
Tony Campbell and Mitchell Parks of the NEF present a check to TWF CEO Mike Butler and CDO Kendall McCarter. The gift includes approximately $1.4 million in cash and a piece of real estate, together totaling approximately $2 million.

When conservationist J. Clark Akers decided to take on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1963 over the channelization of the Obion and Forked Deer rivers, he had no idea that it would be a 30-year fight. Mr. Akers and his small group of cohorts formed the National Ecological Foundation (NEF), ultimately prevailed in saving 15,000 acres of West Tennessee wetlands and later established the state’s first wetlands mitigation bank. Now that non-profit organization has dissolved its charter, and is donating approximately $2 million in assets to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF), a statewide non-profit conservation organization.

“The Ecological Foundation was created in the early 1970s primarily around that lawsuit, with the basic mission of wetlands preservation,” said Tony Campbell, who has served as NEF’s executive director for the last 20 years of its history. “In 1995 we had the opportunity to establish the state’s first wetlands mitigation bank, and we’ve worked closely with the Tennessee Wildlife Federation through all of it. We are longtime supporters of the Federation and have admired their conservation efforts which includes wetlands mitigation, so it made sense to fold our work into theirs moving forward.”

The Federation was a plaintiff in the West Tennessee rivers lawsuit, which challenged the Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge and channelize the two rivers, drain the tributaries and wipe out miles of bottomland forest. It was a precedent-setting case, and one of the state’s first major environmental lawsuits. The momentum behind wetlands preservation soon led to the establishment of mitigation banks, which allowed developers to buy credits for projects that disturbed wetlands. Those funds were used to acquire other wetlands, under a no-net-loss concept. Since then, thousands of acres of critical habitat have been saved as a result.

TWF Chief Development Officer Kendall McCarter applauds Mr. Akers and Mr. Campbell for their lifelong commitment to wetlands, and pledges the Federation’s continued commitment to Tennessee’s wildlife and wild places. 

“This gift represents the largest in our organization’s history, and will establish our first endowment. The J. Clark Akers and Anthony T. Campbell Endowment Fund will work to advance our mission, which is leading the conservation, sound management and wise use of Tennessee’s great outdoors,” McCarter said. “We stand as champions for wildlife, habitat and the people who love them, from the wetlands to the mountains to the lakes and rivers that make Tennessee such an incredibly rich and diverse place to enjoy. Mr. Akers and Mr. Campbell have left quite a legacy with this gift, and it will give the Federation a long term financial future to do even more critical work.”

Since 1946, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation leads the conservation, sound management, and wise use of Tennessee's Great Outdoors. Over the course of 70 years, TWF has led the development of our state’s wildlife policy, advanced landmark legislation on air and water quality and other conservation initiatives, helped restore numerous species, and introduced thousands of kids to the Great Outdoors. To learn more, visit

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