United States, Born 1940
William K. Reilly, one of the most influential conservationists in the United States, has championed progressive environmental policies for 40 years. His skill in mediating opposing factions, coupled with his commitment to preserve our natural systems, has gone far to help ensure better use of the world’s resources.
Reilly credits his father with instilling in him an interest in land, history and justice. “Conserving, planning, developing land requires reconciling nature with culture. It is my passion,” he says. Equipped with a law degree from Harvard (1965) and a Master’s in urban planning from Columbia University (1971), Reilly held a series of senior, environment-related positions. While president of the World Wildlife Fund U.S. (WWF) from 1985 to 1989, he innovated “debt for nature” deals. “Conservation must work for the people,” he adds. “If human needs are not met, the system of protection will not endure.”
In 1989, Reilly became head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where he administered 18,000 employees and an annual budget of US$7 billion. Over four years, he strengthened the role of science at the EPA and initiated pollution reforms, including a strong new Clean Air Act, among other accomplishments. In 1992, he led the U.S. delegation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Currently, as president and founding partner of Aqua International Partners, which finances water improvements in developing countries, Reilly fulfils his interest in worldwide environmental concerns. He also serves on the boards of three leading companies, as chairman of the WWF, a trustee of the National Geographic Society and as co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy.
Published in 2006