Meet Byron Bishop


Photos courtesy of Byron Bishop

Three lessons Byron Bishop learned during the eight years he spent helping to build Expedia, the internet travel giant he co-founded:

New problems require new solutions.
You have to be willing to take bigger risks to solve bigger problems.
The solutions that are most enduring are the ones that work for all stakeholders.

Now he’s bringing those lessons to bear in his new role as chair of the Washington Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy.

Byron’s experience with the Conservancy runs deep. He served on the Washington Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2010 before joining the Leadership Council in 2010. He rejoined the Board in July 2012 and during his tenure has served on several leadership committees.

New ways of conservation

The Conservancy has more than 60 years of experience in traditional conservation—buying land to preserve it. Now, as the world changes, we’re confronting the challenges of climate change and a growing demand for nature’s resources to support a growing population. These challenges require new ways of doing conservation, and Byron is passionate about supporting the organization as it develops new ways of operating.

“Climate change hangs over everything we do,” he says. “We talk about ‘restoration,’ but that assumes that things will be as they were in some distant past. What we have to do now is set up ecosystems so they can be healthy in a changing environment. We almost need a different word.”

Love for the outdoors

Byron’s commitment to the natural world is rooted in his childhood experiences. Summer weekends running loose with a close friend in the Breitenbush area of the Willamette National Forest exposed him to working forests. Family trips to the big national parks of the West—Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake—showed the vision of untouched nature on a big scale.

Today he shares that love with his family. He and his wife Sheila have three children, the youngest just off to college. The family enjoys hiking, skiing and snowboarding, scuba diving and paddling. Byron himself is a part-time ski instructor and dive master.

Why the Conservancy

The Conservancy’s grounding in science for its decision-making as well as its combination of on-the-ground work locally in Washington with global reach (we’re now in more than 60 countries) drew Byron’s commitment.

“We’re facing some big challenges,” he said. “We need to find new ownership structures and new sources of funding such as impact investing for traditional conservation. In the Central Cascades and in the Olympic Rainforest, we have to figure out how forests can become healthier and still remain an asset for local communities, both for recreation and for economic benefit. It’s like having your cake and eating it too—get good conservation while maintaining a working and recreational forest.

“In addition, we’re moving into both the marine and urban environments. We’ve established a strong program to restore floodplains; now we must take the lessons we’ve learned there and tackle stormwater, the biggest source of pollution in Puget Sound. We have to figure out what applies and what doesn’t apply as we go into these new areas.

“The Nature Conservancy, because of its grounding in science, and its local and global expertise, is the conservation organization that can have the biggest impact.”

Read a blog post by Byron Bishop on a trip to the Washington Coast to meet partners and see our work up close.