The Wyss Foundation, a charitable organization that supports land conservation in the American West, announced Lani Chang ’22 MEM, Kyle Lemle ’22 MF and Helia Bidad ’22 JD are amongst this year’s recipients. They will receive tuition, internships, and post-graduate support as part of the program.
Wyss Scholars represent the next generation of leaders in western land conservation, working for nonprofit organizations like The Nature Conservancy and for governmental organizations like the the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.
“It is a critical moment for conservation in the West,” said Indy Burke, Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the Yale School of the Environment (YSE). “The challenges facing our Western landscapes — rapidly growing human populations, mega-droughts, crucial habitat loss for migratory wildlife, wildfire, energy development, and more — require bold new thinking from a diverse generation of environmental leaders. Thanks to the generous support of the Wyss Foundation, these three talented students will be equipped with the tools to develop equitable and sustainable solutions to these longstanding conservation issues.”
Chang has continued focusing on the American West at YSE, understanding how to better integrate stakeholder engagement, improving local and indigenous knowledge, and developing creative science communication to achieve fair and lasting outcomes.
“Witnessing the conflicts and inequities within the conservation space motivates me to find a balance between stakeholder interests and ways to thoughtfully manage these landscapes to be both resilient and equitable,” says Chang, who is also a research assistant for the Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative (UHPSI), working with ranchers on a collaborative management project in central Montana.
His life’s mission, however, is forestry. Lemle has already managed international and grassroots community forestry projects across the globe, from the pine forests of the Himalayas to the mangroves of Southeast Asia to the urban forest in San Francisco. The ultimate goal, Lemle says, is to “lead large-scale forest protection campaigns in California and up the West Coast, conserving these lands for their critical role in supporting climate mitigation and biodiversity resilience.”
At YSE, Lemle is pursuing a forestry degree to gain technical expertise on the science, policy and financing of forest conservation for climate mitigation. He is also a Climate Fellow and a Kerry Fellow with the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, providing forest and ecosystems policy expertise to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Bidad participated in organizing efforts against a real estate development proposal by the School, which sparked her interest in land conservation in the West. She furthered that interest with the consultancy California Environmental Associates, where she advised nonprofits, land trusts, and family foundations on conservation
“It was there that I became acutely aware of gaps in traditional conservation efforts,” says Bidad. “As a result, my passion for conservation became focused on ensuring that the next generation of conservation strategies are more equitable and considerate of social impacts.”
After graduating, Bidad hopes to work at an environmental law nonprofit like the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she served as a legal intern last summer.