The Wildlife Trusts’ CEO Stephanie Hilborne announces departure


Thursday 13 June, 2019


Stephanie Hilborne OBE has announced she is stepping down as Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts in October. It is a role that she has held for 15 years, leading The Wildlife Trust movement and championing its beliefs and vision.

Under Hilborne’s leadership The Wildlife Trusts successfully campaigned for the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. This, and subsequent lobbying has led to ninety-one Marine Conservation Zones being designated around England’s coasts and some real and lasting protection for marine wildlife.


On her arrival in 2004 from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Hilborne was aware of mounting ambition in the movement, not least the vision to restore 40,000 hectares of upland Wales and vast tracts of the Cambridgeshire fens.  In 2006, she launched The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for nature's recovery – Living Landscapes – in Westminster, with all the Trusts and 140 MPs. This called for landscape-scale change and led to the Labour Government commissioning a new Government Review in 2009.  The Lawton Review Making Space for Nature made an uncontested case for a new approach to nature conservation calling for much larger areas of wildlife habitats. Seeking legislation to implement this, Hilborne led the lobbying for a Natural Environment White Paper which was published by the coalition Government in 2011.

Celebrating the movement’s centenary in 2012, Hilborne moved the focus onto the value of nature to society.  The Wildlife Trusts published ground-breaking research into the health and wellbeing benefits of contact with the natural world*. Passionate about the mental health benefits of nature, Hilborne has brought societal and environmental recovery together in the latest campaign, Wilder Future, through the concept of a Nature Recovery Network, and has been at the forefront of calls to have this enshrined in law through the imminent Westminster Environment Act.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, says:

“The Wildlife Trusts movement is a remarkable phenomenon. It started with the vision of one brilliant man, Charles Rothschild, in 1912, and became a movement after the war as part of a wider uprising of social conscience.  The Wildlife Trusts believe that we are part of nature, not separate from it, and that everyone deserves the chance to experience the joy of wildlife in their daily lives and so do I.  I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be so central to this amazing movement of dedicated people who care so passionately about wildlife and future generations.  Never has the world been more conscious of the scale of the ecological crisis, and never has our movement had so much relevance, as a new generation takes up the helm.  I wish all my friends in the movement well as they go from strength to strength.”

Peta Foxall, Chair of The Wildlife Trusts said:

“Stephanie is leaving The Wildlife Trusts in good heart, having strengthened its unity, collective governance and central team, and increased its external influence over the past 15 years. The movement has grown its impact in this time, delivering outstanding programmes ranging from large scale habitat restoration to ecotherapy.  The policy and legislative changes that The Wildlife Trusts have contributed to during Stephanie’s tenure will lead to real gains for wildlife. She has helped achieve a significant shift in understanding of our relationship with the natural world, as people now recognise the benefits of being closer to nature.  Stephanie has embodied the spirit of our movement in her inclusive approach; we will miss her and are very grateful for her lasting legacy.”

Hilborne leaves The Wildlife Trusts to become CEO of Women in Sport

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