WWF mourns passing of "towering figure" in conservation Russell Train

Posted on 18 September 2012

WWF is mourning the passing of leading conservation pioneer Russell Train, the founder of WWF-US
 WWF is mourning the passing of leading conservation pioneer Russell Train, the founder of WWF-US.  Mr Train,  also noted for his role in establishing some of the basic elements of environmental regulation in the US as an early head of the US Environment Protection Agency, died Monday aged 92.

“Russ Train was a towering figure in conservation for more than half a century," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International..

"He played critical roles in establishing legal protections for wildlife and wild places, both in the U.S. and internationally. He brought an extraordinary spirit to everything he did – wise, warm, and tirelessly dedicated. Russ inspired many of us in WWF, and I have no doubt that his remarkable life will be an inspiration to conservationists everywhere for generations to come. We will miss him.” 

Travels to Africa strengthened a passion and respect for wildlife, and Train founded the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation and became a founding director of WWF in 1961.  Train was the first chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of the President from 1970 to 1973, before becoming Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1973 to 1977.  

While at the CEQ and EPA, Train oversaw the creation and implementation of much of the legislation that would become the basis for environmental policy in the United States, from clean air and water laws to the Toxic Substance Control Act. His visionary leadership brought new attention to land use concerns, delivered innovative international agreements on endangered species and pollution control, and helped bring the issue of the environment to the broad attention of the American public.

Train then served as President and Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund from 1978 to 1990  and was also appointed chair of  The Conservation Foundation in 1985, continuing in that position when the two institutions merged formally as WWF-US in 1990.  Under his guidance, WWF-U.S. grew from a small primarily grant making organization into a global conservation force with over 1 million members.

WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts described Russell Train as "a true national treasure and an inspiration to all of us who embrace conservation as their life’s work."  

"On behalf of WWF and our 5 million members and 6,000 employees around the world, we send our love to Russ’s dear wife Aileen, his partner in an adventure that spanned five decades, and to their children Nancy, Emily, Bowdoin and Errol. Those of us fortunate enough to know Russ Train loved him, and all for which he stood, beyond measure," said Roberts.

"Russ always led by example. He defied convention, and he did so with a seamless combination of charm, humor and intelligence that was its own easy, familiar form of magic. His usual pinstriped elegance gave way to seersucker in the summer, but he always spoke plainly and clearly about the dangers facing our planet and the imperative that we act.

"Undoubtedly Russ would prefer that we not spend a lot of time mourning his passing. He would want us to redouble our efforts to save the animals and places we care about, to solve the problems of climate change and resource scarcity and to build leadership capacity in those countries where it’s needed most

"So we will honor him not only by continuing to pursue the finest form of conservation in the years ahead, but also by ensuring that the Education For Nature program created in his name continues to train the next generation of conservationists."

Russ will be well remembered and forever missed. His legacy of service, courage and charm will endure, and we will strive always to make him proud."

Russell Train received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 in recognition of his work in conservation.

Russell Train was one of the most influential and well-known leaders in conservation.