November 2, 2015 — Martín von Hildebrand is one of the most extraordinary conservation leaders you may have never heard of. A nationalized Colombian and founder of the non-governmental organization Fundación Gaia Amazonas, von Hildebrand has spent nearly all of his adult life working for indigenous rights and conservation in the Amazon.
At present he’s helping spearhead one of his most ambitious endeavors yet: establishment of the world’s largest ecological corridor, stretching from Colombia across Venezuela and Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. Partnering with indigenous communities, national governments and others in the northern Amazon region, the project — dubbed “The Biological Corridor Andes-Amazon-Atlantic” — aims to safeguard 333 million acres (135 million hectares) of forests. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will present the proposal during the upcoming COP 21 negotiations as a way to address climate change by limiting deforestation. Nearly 80 percent of the corridor already exists as a patchwork of protected areas and indigenous territories, so bringing this project to fruition — as daunting as it might be — isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
For his work on this and other projects across the Amazon, The Swedish Tällberg Foundation recently named von Hildebrand one of five inaugural Tällberg Foundation Global Leaders and a finalist for its Global Leadership Prize, an award that recognizes “effective, courageous, innovative and values-based leadership.” The two winners of the prize will be announced in Stockholm on November 11, 2015. Ensia recently had a chance to speak with von Hildebrand from his office in Colombia.