Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Endangered Wolf Center Lives!

It's that place that some of you might have heard about years ago. It's the Marlin Perkins thing, the Wolf Sanctuary, the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center of last year, now renamed the Endangered Wolf Center. The renaming is part of an important re-branding strategy as we seek to rise it up out of the ashes. It has been a tough couple years.

You might have seen us popping up on Facebook. Or showing up in some unconventional places with volunteers reaching out to the community. Some of you might be connected to the people responsible for making the place sustainable. You might be connected by Facebook, friends, family. Connectors.

Yes, we need to broadcast that which we have been lacking, a bunch of new members with new connectors, new people to get involved, a new appeal to all sorts of people, coast to coast. We need to spread the word about the work that we do out there. Each week we average 30 new members. This is inspiring.

It's the place where they do "stuff" with the wolves--a St. Louis institution for years, a very special place that seems to have given folks the impression of being well endowed, well funded through the years. This perhaps due to a connection to Washington University and the Zoo. While both are supportive of our cause and provide us with wonderful resources along own way, we are on our own when it comes to funding and fundraising. And it ain't easy. We need St. Louis to step up.

Hey, I don't mean this in a bad way. I just mean that most people who have lived in St. Louis, have heard of and/or have memories that it exists; many people from Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, other groups centered on Eco-focused interests or animal preservation. Many of these same people perhaps don't know of our challenge to keep the place open. That's all.

My guess is that very few people actually know the significance of the center for the region and for the World--that without the good work being done, the Mexican Grey Wolf would have expired--that without the continued sustainability of the center today, the same result will occur. This is some pretty heavy stuff, the danger of losing the EWC and the resulting extinction of the species. We have already saved the Wolves once, this due to our accreditation and support from the Fish and Wildlife Services.

Honestly? With out the work being done at the EWC, the Mexican Grey Wolf would have long ago been extinct. We currently house 10% of the entire Mexican Grey Wolf population at the EWC. The wolves, owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, are part of a Species Survival Plan.

The Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) captive management program is an essential component of Mexican wolf recovery. Specifically, the purpose of the SSP is to re-establish the Mexican wolf in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research. The Endangered Wolf Center is chosen by accreditation through the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA). We are one of only a few who work on the preservation of DNA, the scientific data and collection important information to the sustainability of the species that results in the breeding and releasing of these animals in to the wild.

So now that you know what's up with all this stuff, lets talk about things that St. Louis has to hang our hat on. Lets speak candidly about our community and the things that we represent as a region, as a "people" in our community--the things that make our city special--that which sets us apart. Lets make a list, but not include, say, professional ball sports.

First some facts, the Endangered Wolf Center sits modestly on a small parcel of land owned by Washington University off of Beaumont Rd in St. Louis MO, it is at Tyson Research Center, in Eureka. It is Washington University, who has been our ever patient partner, our land manager, who five years ago politely asked that we move to another location so that they might use the land for specific university endeavor. This was way fair enough. Washington University and the 63 acres that the center currently occupies, has graciously been home to the Endangered Wolf Center for 39 years. The request to move marked the end of an era, and a new journey for the Wolves, the volunteers, the benefactors and the custodians. An era what would soon become and extremely challenging time.

The Crisis Short story.
New land was purchased, a beautiful track south of the Legends off of FF in Farmington MO, a wooded location dotted with springs, ponds and caves in northwestern Jefferson County.

At the time, the Executive director leveraged heavily the scientific possibilities of the location, and the board approved the purchase of the land that would become the new home for the wolves, a perfect center for scientific research on a very significant piece of land with multiple possibilities. But the move would never happen.

It's best explained as a series of unfortunate events, the perfect storm, a combination of hip shooting decisions on behalf of a group of people with best intentions in mind, the continued survival of the wolves and a dream vision project. Decisions were made without fiscal scrutiny, and without warning, the recession of 2009 was upon us. No, it has not been just one event causing the crisis at the EWC, and not the fault of any one individual.

There were many things that left the EWC in crisis; core benefactors were dropping off, many of the original group of grassroots donors and sources of revenue stopped giving, those taken for granted, those close to Marlin Perkins and wife Carol, those supporters, so important for all of those years, a lot of them disappeared. The recession hit, development opportunities dwindled and the board found themselves in severe conflict. Folks, it has been a tough couple of years.

But we are still here! And by God, there is much to celebrate. A new strategy and a strategic plan based on core values for one. A new mission and purpose contrived from the principals that got the center off the ground 39 years ago!

Lets talk positively here for a second.

After any crisis, change occurs. A zero basing important to embarking on a new path. The Endangered Wolf Center found the need to change gears, to reduce its staff to what makes sense economically, to change out board members, to move away from the center of influences keeping us from creating a strategic plan for recovery. We needed new relationships, better accountability from a business perspective, increased awareness and testimony from those agencies relying on us. And Testimonies we have, wonderful endorsements from The Fish and Wildlife, The SSP, the USDA, the BBB and every other agency wanting to evaluate our proficiency. A sustainable plan of attack was needed and we are in the process of rolling it out today! We have a bright future, if we believe. We need you to believe too.

I hadn't planned on becoming a board member when my wife Janie and I decided to support the Gala event in 2009. Me? I suppose my skills in connecting the dots helps. Who would have thought? I am a promoter, a brand guy and a perspective guy, little else. I was called upon to lend a hand, to put things in to perspective, to help make some tough decisions, to help raise money, help rally some energy towards what has now become a personal mission to respond to what might could be a huge loss to our community.

And now it seems I am chosen to lead the center out of this crisis.

So this blog entry is to share with you the story behind the crisis, and the corresponding plan to re-emerge as an institution worthy of being embraced by our community. I need your help, and encourage the community to get behind this, for the wolves and for the EWC's continued institutional significance to our community.

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