Biologist Mike Phillips to Visit ACES

ACES Staff

March 11, 2024

Biologist Mike Phillips to Visit ACES

Michael K. Phillips is the Executive Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund. 

Mike has served in this capacity and as advisor to the Turner Biodiversity Divisions since he co-founded both with Ted Turner in June 1997. Since inception, both efforts have stood as the most significant private effort in the work to redress the extinction crisis through reintroduction projects on behalf of imperiled species. 

Prior to working with Turner, Mike worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service starting in 1981. During this time, Mike served as the leader of historic efforts to restore red wolves to the southeastern United States and gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park. He also conducted important research on the impacts of oil and gas development on grizzly bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, predation costs for gray wolves in Alaska, black bear movements in northeastern North Carolina, and dingo ecology in Australia. 

Photo Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park via Flickr.

Mike is a leader working to restore gray wolves to the Southern Rockies Ecoregion of western Colorado. From 2014 through 2020 he founded and led the successful citizen-initiated ballot measure to establish a state law that mandated reintroductions begin by December 2023.  It was the first time in history that direct democracy – voting by the people – had been used to secure a restoration mandate for an endangered species.

From 2006-2012, Mike served in the Montana House of Representatives and then the Montana Senate from 2012-2020. His legislative work focused on climate change and energy policy, and he was responsible for passing the nation’s most comprehensive legislation on geologic sequestration of carbon. This led to an invitation from the White House in 2009 to work directly with the Obama Administration and the US Senate on comprehensive green energy and climate change legislation.

Photo courtesy of Mike Phillips.

Throughout his career as a conservation biologist, Mike has focused on the recovery of imperiled species, integration of private land in conservation efforts, and socio-political aspects of natural resource use and management as well as written hundreds of project reports and over 70 publications including peer-reviewed technical articles, book chapters, conference proceedings, government reports, popular articles, and two books and he is also an accomplished public speaker.

Mike was nominated in 2014 by Dr. E. O. Wilson for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize and in 2021 he received the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by The Wildlife Society. Mike has received several awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and non-governmental conservation organizations for his historic and unwavering efforts to restore imperiled species.

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