Skip links

ED Report March 2022

By Chris Morrill, Executive Director

For the last ten years, we at CalWild have done what we do best through challenging times. We are so thankful for everything we’ve been able to accomplish including public lands bills, national monuments, and significant protections through public agency planning.

In the summer of 2021, CalWild initiated its first strategic planning process in over a decade. There are so many assumptions we’ve lived with for many years that are now being challenged in profound ways. First and foremost are the serious and myriad of issues stemming from our climate crisis. Second is our growing political partisanship and dysfunction especially at the federal level. Finally, we are living through the broadest racial reckoning in decades.

In order to process all of this, CalWild Board and Staff conducted dozens of interviews with partners and funders. We spoke with CalWild members about what matters to them most about our work and wild places in California. Then, we spent a long retreat to digest and analyze it all.

Our strategic plan points us in a number of exciting directions.

We will continue to focus on our programs on the areas we know best: protection campaigns and engaging in public land agency planning. Over the last 20 years, these are the systems and structures that have proved most useful for CalWild; therefore, until the formula changes, we’ll continue to empower local public lands lovers to protect the places they love. We’ll mostly try to be better at it.

In addition to the programmatic growth areas outlined in this graphic and blog from this month’s newsletter, we dove deep into what we need to do as an organization. The first is we need to grow our cadre of implementers. Many of you who have tracked us for years are familiar with the great work of our Policy Director Ryan Henson and Wild Rivers Director Steve Evans. Like many groups our size, we have unfortunately relied too heavily on seasoned staff like them for everything. This inability to create a team with age and experience balance isn’t good for CalWild or our conservation community. As we look to continue to build the organization, we will be looking to grow our impact on the ground in ways similar to our last two hires, Andrea Iniguez and André Sanchez.

A second area in which we want to improve is our storytelling. Our supporters tend to inherently know the beauty, mystic, and wonder of California’s wild places. This is great and has created an important community to move our work forward over many years. However, as we look to grow, we can’t simply rely on our existing methods, but need to think about how these stories and qualities translate to the issues of today. Our hope is to invest in that area with additional specialized communications support.

Finally, I wanted to share that we can only reach these goals if we have the necessary funding to do so. While we’ve increased our support from foundations and corporate partners, the real growth in the last few years has been through our individual donors. After this process, we believe even more strongly that our capacity to reach the lofty goals set out in our strategic plan will require doubling down on our commitment to our donors of today and growing out with the donors of tomorrow. So, we offer an immense thank you to those who have helped us reach this point. We hope you believe in the vision we’ve laid out and will join us in the next chapter of our history by tackling these daunting challenges head on with audacity and optimism.

Please let me know your thoughts, comments, and questions by emailing me at