Over the past two decades, Roger Schlickeisen, ’63, made his mark leading one of the nation’s largest—and most effective—environmental organizations. Under his leadership, Defenders of Wildlife grew from 62,000 members to more than 1 million, fought to protect animals and bring species such as the gray wolf back into natural habitats.
Leadership came naturally to Schlickeisen. He served in the ASUW student government and was senior class president. On his first day of class, he met someone who went on to become renowned for his own efforts to save the environment: Rep. Norm Dicks, ’63. The two remain friends.
Schlickeisen—who retired in October after 20 years as president and CEO—joined Defenders of Wildlife at a time when environmental protection had become a hot political issue. To fight a groundswell of anti-environmental legislation, he created the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund in 2001.
That fund spent more than $1.5 million in the 2006 midterm elections to oust California Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, identified by environmental groups as the environment’s biggest enemy in Congress. The Fund also worked to illuminate the “anti-environmental” positions of 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin.
Though he is retired, Schlickeisen plans to work on conservation issues with a focus on African wildlife. His life’s work has been rewarding but also high stakes. “You can’t restore extinct species or destroyed ecosystems,” he says. “You can’t repair a tattered web of life.”—Jon Marmor is managing editor of Columns