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Name and title: William B. McKeown, vice president, general counsel and deputy secretary Age: 60 Saves wildlife and wild lands: One of the first conservation organizations in the United States, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) preserves and protects the world’s fauna and their habitats through science, international conservation initiatives and the management of the largest system of urban wildlife parks in existence. In 1895, the WCS was chartered by the state of New York as the New York Zoological Society. Today, spearheaded by its flagship Bronx Zoo, it operates zoos in the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn; runs the New York Aquarium; oversees 130 reserves, preserves and national parks worldwide; and manages field work comprising more than 350 programs. It also features an extensive education program stressing the sustainable interaction between humans and wildlife. A 501(c) tax-exempt organization, the WCS reported a 2004 operating budget of $144 million, plus a separate capital budget for its ongoing construction and refurbishing activities. It has 1,050 full-time employees, including 110 overseas, augmented by 1,027 seasonal staff members based in New York. Spectacular acquisition: McKeown was the chief lawyer for a “unique event” in which investment firm Goldman Sachs turned 680,000 acres of pristine land over to the Wildlife Conservation Society to “protect in perpetuity.” An area rivaling Rhode Island in size on Chile’s Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego was set aside as a preserve in the 2004 deal, representing the biggest-ever transaction for the WCS and a triumph for conservation in general. The society and Goldman Sachs used counsel from the United States, Chile and Argentina, and the WCS also engaged a Chilean environmental-consulting group. Penguins, sea lions, elephant seals and right whales, among other threatened species, were the beneficiaries of this historic effort. WCS’ legal leader also oversaw aspects of an endeavor started in 2002 in the African nation of Gabon. Its president, heeding advice to transform Gabon’s oil-based economy into one supported by ecotourism revenues generated by its unique wildlife, created a system of national parks based on the work of the conservation society. Daily duties: McKeown provides counsel to the board of trustees and senior management, and “advises development people on fund-raising matters all of the time.” He also participates in media-related work, such as WCS’ arrangement to make films with the National Geographic Society. His office also resolves trademark and copyright issues. It gives legal advice relevant to the procurement of animals as well. McKeown noted that many in his field are relatively unused to working with lawyers, so part of his job also entails integrating legal services into the WCS framework. The society has played a role in statutory schemes and legislation since the passage of the Migratory Bird Act of 1911, and continues to do so. The WCS also advises on legal issues raised by disease and its transmission, including the so-called zonatic illnesses transferable between humans and animals. McKeown recently provided policy guidance to New York health officials during an outbreak of one such disease, mosquito-borne West Nile virus. Wary WCS health officials are also monitoring potential pandemics such as Ebola, SARS and avian influenza. Conservation-not politics: The Wildlife Conservation Society has performed under regimes whose attitudes toward conservation and the environment fall within the extremes of Theodore Roosevelt and George W. Bush. “We have a long history of working with the national administration and Congress,” McKeown asserted, “and we take positions for conservation ends: We don’t do electoral politics.” Legal team and outside counsel: The WCS legal division consists of McKeown, four other attorneys and a pair of nonlawyers. As the society is heavily involved abroad, McKeown frequently delves into international matters and two on his staff focus almost entirely on foreign activities. They are trilingual-fluent in English, French and Spanish-and are well-versed in civil law standards outside the parameters of the common law system. Another two in the department have extensive domestic experience, one as the sole attorney for a museum, the other as a lawyer for the city of New York. The conservation society has more than 350 projects in more than 53 nations, 90 in Africa alone. Depending on the time frame of their deployment and the local political climate, their presence in a particular country may range from only one worker to several hundred, but the general counsel said that “Even with only one person involved, we are apt to have legal issues.” Local counsel, usually nationals of that country, will be used anywhere the WCS has significant involvement. Domestically, McKeown partners with attorneys from New York’s Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler; Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner; and, for media work, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. He also turns to Holland & Knight for airplane law-related matters. His office hires the firms and approves the bills. McKeown reports to President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Steven E. Sanderson. Route to the top: Upon completing law school, McKeown entered private practice with the New York office of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, for which he worked from 1974 until 1998. He specialized in representing nonprofits, and also counseled private donors in connection with charitable gift-giving. Leaving the firm, he joined the Wildlife Conservation Society in 1998 as its first general counsel. McKeown has obtained three degrees: a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College (1967), a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary (1971) and a juris doctor from Columbia Law School (1974). Personal: Atlanta-born McKeown and his wife Constance Coles are the parents of Sarah, 34, and Isaiah, 28. He admitted that “When I tell other lawyers what I do for a living, almost without exception, they say, ‘That sounds like the greatest job in the world.’ And it actually may be.” Last book and movie: Among the five books he is currently reading is Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. Casablanca is McKeown’s favorite movie. - Roger Adler

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