- Former director of the National Wildlife Federation
- Warns of the dangers posed by global warming
- Opposes U.S. oil drilling in Alaska
See also: National Wildlife Federation
The environmentalist Mark Van Putten founded the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Office in 1982 and served as its director for 15 years. In that capacity, Van Putten established the Environmental Law Project at the University of Michigan, where he taught from 1982-96. In 1996 he became NWF's president/CEO, a position he held until September 2004.
During Van Putten's tenure at the helm of NWF, he led the Federation's efforts to strengthen the Endangered Species Recovery Act by demanding (in 1997) that the government issue an ever-increasing number of environmental regulations. Specifically, he suggested that “all federal agencies” needed to be held accountable for the protection of endangered species.
In August 2000, Van Putten and a number of other environmental and human-rights activists met with Mexican president-elect Vicente Fox in Washington, DC. Subsequent to that meeting, Van Putten tacitly aligned himself and NWF with opponents of immigration control when he stated that “the environment is a natural place to see President-elect Fox's vision of a borderless future become a reality, because it is common ground we share without borders.” “From the skyways that Monarch butterflies and scores of migratory bird species have followed for millennia,” Van Putten elaborated, “to an atmosphere that is warming from our common contributions of greenhouse gases, we already share an environment that by its very nature is borderless.”
During his time with NWF, Van Putten also worked to prevent the exploration and development of oil reserves in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). “Oil rigs do not belong in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge,” he said in 2002.
Further, Van Putten led the fight to expose the alleged dangers of global warming and its effect on fish and migratory birds. “Imagine Baltimore without the Baltimore oriole,” he said in 2002. “Left unchecked, global warming could cause the birds we love to watch and even celebrate on state emblems, to disappear from places they've lived for eons.” That same year, Van Putten called global warming “a disaster in the making” that “will change America's most unique wild places and wildlife forever.”
In 2003 Van Putten founded the group ConservationStrategy LLC, which “advises foundations, not-for-profit organizations and universities interested in building sustainable and effective conservation and environmental programs.” The following year, he resigned as NWF's president/CEO and was succeeded by Lawrence Schweiger.
In 2005 Van Putten accused the George W. Bush administration of pursuing policies that “have a strong anti-environment bent.” Declaring, moreover, that “a new face of environmentalism is emerging,” the former NWF leader suggested that nonwhites were more committed than white people to protecting the natural world. He stated not only that “members of the Congressional Black Caucus have [historically] been among the most reliable pro-environment votes” in Congress, but also that “in recent environmental referenda and bond issues in southwestern states, the percentage of Hispanic American voting for land, water, and environmental protection has been greater than that of whites.”
In addition to his work with NWF and ConservationStrategy LLC, Van Putten has been a board member with the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Container Recycling Institute, the Energy Future Coalition, the Environmental Education and Training Institute of North America, the Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, the Huron River Watershed Council, the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Productions, the Potomac Conservancy, the Stewardship Project, the University of Michigan Water Center, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
In 2011 Van Putten became a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he led a new project evaluating public outreach strategies for “addressing climate change, global biodiversity loss, and other critical environmental issues.”
Van Putten has also worked extensively with federal and state government agencies over the years. Most notably, he has been a member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Initiative Advisory Committee, the EPA's Pretreatment Implementation Task Force, the Michigan Council on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Trade Representative's Trade & Environment Policy Advisory Council.