John Burton handed away at his house in Suffolk on Sunday morning, after his newest battle with most cancers – this one he didn’t win.
I’ve recognized John largely by the World Land Belief with which I’ve been related for over a decade as a council member, a trustee and latterly as chair of trustees. John’s affiliation with WLT is much longer and way more private as he was a co-founder of it with Jerry Bertrand and Viv Burton and its chief for the following 30 years.
It is going to be because the founder and chief of WLT that John will largely be remembered however his lengthy profession and deep affect return a lot additional and embody being the Govt Secretary of Fauna and Flora Worldwide for a dozen years spanning the Seventies and 80s, Chair of TRAFFIC Worldwide within the late Seventies and dealing as a wildlife advisor for Pals of the Earth within the UK in its very early years within the early Seventies. John was Assistant Editor of Animals (now BBC Wildlife journal), once more within the early Seventies and had the identical position for Birds of the World at across the identical time. John was the founding Chair of the Bat Conservation Belief and served on committees of many different organisations such because the British Ornithologists’ Union and London Pure Historical past Society. In actual fact, the extra you look, the extra you discover John’s title popping up all over the place in UK and worldwide conservation at occasions when a few of us had been nonetheless at college and earlier than most of the present movers and shakers of conservation had been born.
However it is going to be, rightly, John’s creation and management of the World Land Belief that can be his most evident legacy. As the present chair of WLT I’ve already declared my curiosity, however John based a gem of an organisation, and its previous, current and future success is rooted in his imaginative and prescient. It’s a easy mannequin: increase cash and provides it to different organisations around the globe to purchase, lease and handle land of excessive conservation (and carbon) worth. A easy and usually efficient mannequin, but it surely solely works in the event you can promote the imaginative and prescient to donors, and discover in-country companions who might be relied upon to do the job of defending that land lengthy into the longer term. In much less certain arms such a easy mannequin may have fallen aside however John, his spouse Viv and the WLT staff delivered, and WLT continues to ship it. The WLT mannequin is sort of just like the unique WWF mannequin – increase cash from the richer elements of the world and spend it shortly and correctly to do essentially the most good wherever wildlife is threatened the world over. I’m glad that WLT continues to be pursuing that imaginative and prescient.
John was opinionated, and I like that in an individual, notably when, as with John, these opinions are based mostly on expertise, data and a set of rules. I vaguely bear in mind he and I disagreeing every now and then, however I actually can’t bear in mind any explicit cases, however I do recall standing in a bar with John a number of occasions having amusing and a chat and pondering ‘We had been having an argument half an hour in the past – how great!’. When John stepped down from the WLT getting on for 3 years in the past he, understandably, discovered it troublesome to chop the ties of three many years and was pissed off, to place it mildly, at a number of the choices made however he was beneficiant in acknowledging that WLT had grown considerably within the final couple of years regardless of the huge shock to the system delivered by covid, within the UK and affecting WLT’s companions, which got here near derailing different conservation organisations whereas WLT had its strongest monetary yr ever.
WLT is John’s most evident identifiable conservation legacy however one may make out a robust case that his affect on many people over many many years, and throughout the globe, added as much as a good better affect. John was an fanatic and a terrific communicator and he introduced many new individuals into nature conservation by his enthusiasm. There are donors, practitioners, younger individuals and previously younger people who find themselves lively in nature conservation now due to John’s private affect on them. And plenty of extra whose views have been nudged and honed, and enthusiasm kindled by interacting with John. He was irritating, curmudgeonly, fascinating and galvanizing , however many people beloved him to bits for that combination. And his interactions with me virtually all the time began and ended with us swapping our observations of wildlife, notably birds, and evaluating notes on nature. He had the view of the large image but additionally an eye fixed on the small stuff, and all the time a love of wildlife.
I visited John and Viv in April, when he was unwell, drained however cogent, and once more final Saturday, with Chris Packham, when John discovered speech very troublesome. Every was an uplifting event, spending time with him and Viv, speaking about previous occasions and the longer term, and all the time about wildlife.
Viv Burton has been John’s companion in work in addition to in life, and so they had been a staff at work and at house. For all these years John and Viv have gone to work collectively, been at work collectively and gone house collectively and when John handed away they had been along with Viv caring for him tenderly. I do know that Viv’s buddies, Viv’s and John’s buddies, are rallying spherical presently and can proceed to supply assist into the longer term.
John was a personality, which is usually mentioned of individuals about whom there may be little else to say, however John was a personality with character. A naturalist, author, chief, entrepreneur, agitator, mentor and good good friend, John was a person the like of which we see not often, and he can be deeply missed by these whose lives he touched. He was a conservation big and a exceptional man.