Global Wildlife Conservation has welcomed Reagan Steppe as comptroller, managing the financial operations of GWC, including oversight of investments, cash flow, budgeting, accounting and financial reporting. Reagan began and spent much of her career in finance at Prudential Capital Group before continuing on to manage real estate investments and work in business development both for financial institutions and a technology start-up. Reagan and her family have managed to explore the western half of the United States together, including visits to 20 states and at least seven National Parks in the last four years.
We had a chance to catch up with Reagan in the first weeks of her new job:
Q. What about GWC’s mission drew you to the organization?
A. Henry David Thoreau said: “All good things are wild and free” and I have experienced the truth of that statement in my life. I grew up in rural parts of Mississippi and Texas that allowed me to experience the outdoors daily. My father is a passionate outdoorsman (in fact, he was the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Forest Conservationist of the Year in 2003) and taught me, by example, about land preservation and the joy found in nature. In college and beyond I spent many years in cities, which was exciting and different. However, when I had children, I wanted them to have some of the same experiences I had with the freedom to roam and explore.
We began a series of epic family road trips in the west, exploring National Parks and discovering the joy of camping, the freedom and peace of life without electronics and schedules. I came to realize how fortunate we are in the United States to have our National Park system and began to understand the importance of biodiversity on a global level. The work GWC is doing around the world focusing on the species that are the most threatened with extinction and preserving wildlands that are their home is critical for future generations, enabling them to discover the joys of being “wild and free,” as well as sustaining the natural resources that will enable all life on Earth to flourish.
Q. Why are you committed to GWC’s mission?
A. Once I became a mother, I was forced to think about many things differently, including the future of our planet. It broadened my perspective of both the world and time. I care about how my actions impact future generations and the state of the world my children and their children will inherit. I feel compelled to do what I can to help provide an even brighter future for those generations. I believe the world and everything in it was created with intention and that we have a responsibility to be a good steward of all that we, as humans, have been entrusted.
Q. How did you develop your passion for wildlife conservation?
A. While I think many people’s passion for conservation starts with a passion for animals, mine began with a concern for people and a desire to improve the quality of life and end the cycle of poverty for people around the world. As I began to understand the issues surrounding those living in poverty, I discovered that conservation is not only about saving species and wildlands but about how all of creation is connected and dependent upon each other to thrive.
Q. What will your primary role be in supporting wildlife conservation at GWC?
A. I am the comptroller, which means I manage accounting, preparing financial statements, overseeing the investments of our endowments and budgeting. While I’m not on the front lines doing field work (which certainly sounds a lot more exciting!), making sure our teams have the financial support they need is critical. I hope to fulfill my responsibilities in a way that makes their lives easier and their work more effective. We have an obligation to our donors, as well, to leverage our resources to enable maximum impact around the world, and good financial practices are key to that mission. Responsible management of scarce resources allotted to conservation is a challenge that I look forward to tackling.
Q. What most excites you about this new role?
A. Prior to this, I hadn’t worked in the non-profit sector except on the volunteer side. I feel so fortunate to have a new career in a field where I am able to make a difference, to be doing a small part of the work of preserving our planet. It’s a luxury at this point in my career to be learning every day. With science and conservation, the data is endless and new things are being discovered daily, which I find engaging and stimulating.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the work GWC does?
A. I think there is so much potential when we engage local communities in actively participating in conservation and management of natural resources. For example, when our Biodiversity Assessment Teams go into a new region, they are meeting with the indigenous people, determining which plants and species of animals are important for food, construction, medicine and income generation and assessing what that means for both people and biodiversity. Many of our programs include an education component and this comprehensive approach to conservation is the only way to have a lasting impact, which excites me.