I came to the work of conserving nature in the South Caucasus—as with most things in my life—through a combination of the forces of circumstance, curiosity and calling. Circumstance saw my life move eastward over a long journey from its middle-west/western American beginnings. Curiosity and calling, I think, were rooted in my first experiences as a teenager in America’s great national parks, of which I had visited more than a dozen by the age of twenty-one.
When I was ready to embark on a second career, and presented with the prospect of supporting national parks in the Caucasus, something clicked. Within a few weeks on the job I saw firsthand that, unbeknownst to me—and to most of us—a wilderness as magnificent and diverse as America’s West exists on Europe’s eastern rim.
The Caucasus wilderness is surrounded by a myriad of fascinating and ancient cultures. As struggling, newly independent states in the post-Soviet space, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia each has a unique story and is worthy of support and encouragement. And while the region’s politics are complex, the environment is a rare field of nascent cooperation.
As we have built our organization over more than five years now, we have taken important first steps to support the preservation—and as appropriate, the development—of this magnificent wilderness. You will glean from these pages, however, that most of the work is still in front of us.
Fortunately, the combination of circumstance, curiosity and calling that led me here has long since bloomed into passion. I look forward to continuing to address the challenges for the benefit of the region and its future, but also for the rest of Europe, Central Asia and beyond. Please accept my personal welcome to the wild and wonderful world of Caucasus nature!