“The desert was my playground,” says Dr. Fred Boltz, Senior Vice President of Global Strategies, and observing the scurrying tarantulas, scorpions, and lizards disturbed from their overturned rocks was his diversion. Growing up in Arizona, the desert instilled in him a deep appreciation for nature; his strong upbringing and a series of fortunate events has turned this spirit into a lifelong passion.
Beginning his career with a fascination for language and Asian history, Boltz studied abroad in China during his time as an undergraduate at Duke University. There, his early childhood fascination with nature became a conviction.
An Eye on the Future
After watching environmental devastation unfold before him in China as a result of mass consumption and waste after China opened its doors to the free market in the 1980s, Boltz felt “something had to be done, and something that I should dedicate my life to. I knew that this would be a fulfilling career and a life well-spent, if I could make even a small dent in the problem.”
It was the result of two serendipitous events that moved Boltz from conviction to action. After returning to Duke University to finish his undergraduate degree, his friend, David Meyers, asked Boltz to help set up a project in Madagascar studying the Golden Crowned Sifaka lemur (Propithecus tattersalli) and assisting with natural resources and community outreach. A grant from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), supervised by colleague and lifelong friend Olivier Langrand, enabled Boltz to extend his stay from six months to two years.
LEARN MORE: Meet the Malasagy, the people of Madagascar.
Then, on a brief trip back to DC, WWF cancelled the grant due to political instability in Madagascar. However, only a week after a brief meeting with Rod Mast, Lee Hannah, and Serge Rajaobelina of CI, Boltz received an offer he couldn’t refuse—leading CI’s first major conservation effort in Madagascar, the Zahamena Reserve conservation and community development project.
CI, Madagascar and the World
During his four years with the Zahamena project, Boltz experienced the success born of a strong local team and sound community-based action, turning a highly threatened protected area—with 8,000 people inside its boundaries—into a major CI success and anchor for the eastern rainforest conservation corridor.
“Conservation is about having partners of every scale, from the poorest communities to heads of state. These relationships are fundamental to achieving our goal.”
IN PHOTOS: Discover Andasibe, Madagascar
Boltz’s other very important relationships are with his friends and especially his 11-year old daughter. Although Boltz laughs at the notion that he has any free time, he finds the quality time he spends with his daughter “rejuvenating and refreshing, doing whatever she wants” including movies, biking, going to the beach or the mountains, reading books or playing Rock Band.
He’s a natural homework-helper too; Boltz has a Ph.D. in natural resource economics, has nearly 20 years of experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and has learned six languages—English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Malagasy, and Chinese.
With his many talents and successes, professionally Boltz feels that his time in Madagascar and his building of the former Conservation Strategies division are his proudest highlights. Now he is inspired to lead the institution’s new directions in climate change and ecosystem service investments. The bold ambitions of CI and the depth of passion and expertise of our staff are a constant source of inspiration.
This inspiration serves to keep Boltz focused and appreciative of his professional opportunities. “Conservation is a long slog. It’s a marathon. Even if you have short-term challenges and setbacks or, for that matter, important victories, the game is far from over. The work has just begun. While the challenges are daunting, it’s an investment worth a lifetime.”
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