9. Mark Tercek

CEO of the Nature Conservancy

Mark Tercek     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Oversees more conserved land than anyone on earth

Yes, Ted Turner owns two ­million acres in North America. Kris and Doug Tompkins have protected more than two million in Chile. But the world’s largest, wealthiest conservation organization, TNC, has preserved some 119 million acres (count ’em!) in more than 30 countries. Since taking the reins in 2008, Mark Tercek, 54, a former Goldman Sachs managing director who headed its Environmental Strategy Group and Center for Environmental Markets, has weathered a recession that saw TNC’s war chest dip by more than $257 million; spearheaded the conservancy’s expansion into Africa; and cut funding from foundering programs in places like Panama and Guatemala to emphasize big-idea initiatives like an international water fund and a program that gives indigenous people a say in local conservation. He also brought discipline to the organization following a 2003 Washington Post investigation that led to an IRS audit. In meetings, he’s known for repeating (and repeating) his mantra, “Focus like a laser.”

By the Numbers 795,836: acres TNC conserved in 2010;
$204 million: dollars spent on conserved land in 2010; $1.1 billion: current endowment

Second Opinion “Mark is well on his way to transforming the biggest conservation organization into a more global and sustainable enterprise,” says former Treasury secretary and Goldman CEO Henry Paulson, who served as the chairman of TNC’s board of directors from 2004 to 2006. “He’s doing it with bold, ambitious ideas and smart risk-taking. By engaging socioeconomic forces in conservation ­efforts, he’s giving local people a greater stake in saving nature that ultimately sustains them.”

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