“Lift up other voices, as well as our own.”
Inspiration for Work
Mary Van Kerrebrook built on her legal training to champion Texas conservation efforts, starting with the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas affiliate, the Texas Conservation Alliance. There she assisted in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit that stopped clear cutting within the areas of Texas National Forests used by the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Through this long and hard-fought battle, she learned that law is an important tool in the conservation arsenal—but that lawsuits alone are not enough. Today, she continues to serve on the Texas Conservation Alliance board.
Mary also founded the Katy Prairie Conservancy. This land trust now protects 20,000 acres of the Katy Prairie near Houston. Serving many years as the Conservancy’s Board Chair and seeing its transformation from an improbable vision into reality, Mary believes in Margaret Mead’s adage that small groups of committed citizens can sometimes transform the world.
Mary founded and heads a boutique law practice in Houston. As a young lawyer rising through the ranks of a male dominated field, she remembers getting the implicit (and sometimes explicit) message that women could not manage law practices and client relationships. She started her own firm anyway, and has successfully practiced there for over 15 years.
Insights from the Women in Conservation Leadership Summit
Today, Mary serves on the National Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors. Her participation in the 2017 National Wildlife Federation Women in Conservation Leadership Summit inspired her to push beyond her comfort zone. Listening to other women tell their stories encouraged her to step up and question how she could move into more of a leadership role. The Women in Conservation Leadership Summit inspired Mary to run for Central Region Vice-Chair of the National Wildlife Federation Board. Her campaign was a success and she loves this new post.
Advice to Other Women in Conservation
Mary encourages women to pick their battles and not fear them once picked. She also wants to remind women that we are part of a larger movement working to change the face of conservation. She believes that women have both the opportunity and the obligation to help lift up other voices, as well as our own.