Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Polar Bear Politics and the WWF

Norway sent eight people to a recent polar bear conference. The WWF sent 10.


On her excellent blog, Polar Bear Science, zoologist Susan Crockford has been reporting on a recent, three-day meeting called the International Forum on Conservation of Polar Bears. You can see the participant list here.

Ninety-three individuals at that meeting were government representatives. The Canadian delegation included 21 people. Greenland sent five, Norway eight, the US 12. Russia was over-represented with 47 delegates, due in part to the fact that the meeting took place in Moscow and travel expenses weren’t a concern.

As Crockford points out, a number of professional activists were also present. Of the 20 individuals identified as such on the participant list, fully half of them were from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Among these was Jim Leape, the Harvard-educated lawyer who heads the WWF, another lawyer named Alexander Shestakov, and communications officer Susan Novotny.

I’m increasingly uneasy about the role that large activist organizations now play in our society. It’s one thing to compete with everyone else for the attention of politicians and journalists. It’s another matter entirely for the employees of these entities to be granted a level of access to government officials and decision-making bodies that is well beyond the reach of private citizens.

Crockford provides an account of some of the things that went on at the Moscow meeting. See Furor over a tweet from the Moscow polar bear forum and WWF and cohorts barred from Moscow polar bear forum.


Last year, I discussed the exceedingly close relationship Leape has with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. First he worked for the WWF for a decade. Then he spent four years employed by the Packard Foundation deciding where its money should go. In 2005, he returned to the WWF as head honcho.

During the five years that followed, this foundation awarded the WWF 32 separate grants – amounting to nearly $17 million. I enumerated the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 grants here.

Further info is now available on the Packard Foundation’s website. This is what has happened since then:

2011 total grant money to the WWF: $1,009,214 

2012 total: $3,025,000

2013 total: $910,000

All told, this single foundation has directed a gusher worth $21.6 million at the WWF over the past eight years. Wow.



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