Conservation loses a champion

10 May 2011 | News story

IUCN is deeply saddened by the loss of one of nature conservation’s leading lights. Dr Kenton R. Miller, a former IUCN Director General and globally-recognized leader in protected area management, passed away yesterday.

Kenton Miller served as IUCN Director General from 1983 to 1988 and recently finished a third term as Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). He also recently retired as Vice President for Conservation and Development following 15 years of service at the World Resources Institute (WRI).

As mentor to many conservation leaders around the world, Kenton Miller was recognized particularly for his energetic promotion of innovation and learning related to planning and managing national parks and other protected areas. Most recently he sought to raise awareness among park professionals of the growing challenges facing protected areas from climate, social, economic, and institutional changes taking place worldwide.

“The protected area community, from the field to international forums will cherish the memory of this quiet and persuasive conservationist,” said Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme. “Without ever compromising on matters of principle, Kenton attracted communities, governments and specialists to do better—his bottom line was that protected areas would be a permanent legacy for the planet.”

As an officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and with support from the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund (RBF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr Miller headed FAO’s Latin American Programme on Wildland Management. He developed and taught graduate programmes in parks and wildland management at CATIE (Costa Rica) and the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources. Experience in protected areas policy, planning and capacity building led to opportunities to consult in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Antarctica.

As a fluent Spanish speaker himself, Kenton Miller did much to enhance IUCN's appeal to Members in Latin America and to promote Spanish as an official language.

Dr Miller played a significant role in the design and implementation of three IUCN World Parks Congresses (1982, 1992 and 2003). Under the auspices of the World Resources Institute, he led the international cooperative effort to prepare the Global Biodiversity Strategy, contributed to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, and played a significant role in the development of the Global Convention for the Conservation of Biological Diversity.

During his career, Miller was awarded the prestigious Schubert Environmental Prize (Germany), two honorary doctorates, the Order of the Golden Ark (Netherlands), and received extensive recognition of his contribution to world conservation. The WCPA Kenton Miller Award for Innovation in Protected Areas Management is presented annually, and will continue to inspire protected area managers to confront seemingly impossible challenges and become conservation leaders in their own right.

“Kenton was a hero in many circles and totally devoted to conservation, said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “The global conservation community has lost one of its greatest champions.”

Dr Miller is survived by his wife Susan, three children and two grandchildren.