Skip to content

A Tribute to Milton Kaufmann

After completing a thirty-year career in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Colonel in 1971, Milton M. Kaufmann started a new career as a wildlife and habitat full-time volunteer conservationist, which he vigorously pursued for another 40 years. He was both an activist, coordinating and exercising leadership for specific national and international environmental causes, and an environmental institution builder. 

Milton was recognized as an authority on organizing and operating volunteer consortia, coalitions, networks and scientific teams. These have the objective of recruiting, organizing and bring to bear on environmental issues, the services of volunteer NGO (non-governmental organization) conservationists, and volunteer scientific and technical experts from academia in order to more effectively collaborate with governments and inter-governmental entities on achieving solutions to environmental problems. 

Institution Building

Milton founded or co-founded and initially provided critical leadership for the following organizations:

  • Monitor Consortium USA: A permanent coalition of over thirty wildlife conservation, animal welfare and humane groups that met periodically since December 1972, to address environmental problems. It became a model globally for other national, permanent NGO coalitions and was a strong and effective voice for wildlife and habitat in the U.S.A.
  • The Antarctic and Southern Oceans Coalition (ASOC), headquartered in Australia, has worked successfully to preserve the living marine resources of the Antarctic continent, its littoral and the Southern Ocean.
  • Monitor International: He founded Monitor International which successfully pioneered and demonstrated innovative approaches to better organization and utilization of volunteer expert human resources to assist governments with working towards solution of environmental problems. It was particularly active in support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) administered  intergovernmental Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and was the lead organization for WIDECAST (see below).
  • The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Network (WIDECAST): Monitor International founded WIDECAST and Milton Kaufmann served as coordinator of WIDECAST until February 1989. WIDECAST prepares Sea Turtle population recovery and Conservation Plans for over 38 Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) governments and assists governments with plan implementation. It functions as a specialized network within the framework of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol under the Cartagena Convention.
  • NGO Coalitions Organized to be Active at Specific Global and Regional Intergovernmental Meetings: These coalitions collaborated with government delegations at specific intergovernmental meetings where decisions were made of great importance to wildlife such as the Cartagena Convention Conference of Plenipotentiaries; Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Wild Animals Conference of Plenipotentiaries; Canberra Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Conference of Plenipotentiaries; and meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Legal Achievements and Related Activities at International and US National Levels

  • Milton played a key role in coordinating the effort of the US NGO community to achieve a strong U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and provided citizen oversight. He actively worked for a strong U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and successfully advocated into the ESA an amendment requiring the preparation of species population recovery plans for all endangered and threatened species in the ESA annexes. 
  • The Global NGO coalition he organized in support of the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Wild Animals Conference of Plenipotentiaries was cited by the West German government as having prevented the failure of negotiations. 
  • Memorandum of Cooperation between the Secretariat of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena, 1983) and its protocols, including the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Area and Wildlife (SPAW) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (Nairobi, 1992): UNEP credited the collaboration of Milton M. Kaufmann with both of the above treaty organizations as the major factor in achieving the Memorandum of Cooperation linking the Global CBD with the regional Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP), the first CBD agreement of this type and scope to be promulgated. 
  • Cartagena Convention Protocol [sub-treaty] Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW). It is generally acknowledged that without the initiatives of partners Milton M. Kaufmann and Thomas R. Garrett, both of whom collaborated with CEP governments and UNEP, the SPAW Protocol might not exist today. Monitor International and NGO partners collaborating with governments and a wide range of other NGOs, helped shape the SPAW Protocol into a document as one of the strongest and most specific regional conservation of biodiversity, protected areas and wildlife treaties in the world.  

“In particular, I highlight the role of Monitor International and more importantly its founder, Mr. Milton Kaufmann. His vision, dedication and unextinguishable energy were instrumental in achieving what we have today. Milton has been the most faithful and persistent promoter of the SPAW cause. At times when we, as Secretariat and as a region, thought that we had done enough to promote the SPAW, Milton always came with more creative and innovative ideas. We always knew we could count [on] him, and indeed, we did. Those who know Milton well, also know that you cannot say “no” to him. That also helped. This is why it is without hesitation that I say that the region and its biodiversity are truly indebted to him. I am pleased to see that we are also taking this opportunity today to recognize his incredible and unselfish effort and work. We could never repay you Milton, but hopefully the improved status of biodiversity in the region one day will.”

— Nelson Andrade Colmenares, Coordinator, CEP, June 15, 2000, speech at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, honoring Kaufmann for his role in healing create the SPAW.
  • In September, 2001, at the first Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to SPAW, Kaufmann made a recommendation, which became a decision of the meeting that the SPAW obligation to manage wildlife to try to prevent additional species from becoming endangered with extinction, be made a priority for implementation. 

Leadership on Wildlife Issues

In his role as an activist conservationist, Milton played a leadership role in helping to coordinate the U.S. NGO community on many wildlife issues, which inter alia, include the tuna/porpoise and the sea turtle-shrimp fishery interactions and conservation of the North Pacific fur seal. He also co-organized the National Land Use Symposium in Washington, D.C. 

Awards and Honors

  • On his military retirement in 1971, the President of the United States awarded Milton the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments, while serving with the Defense Intelligence Agency and for his thirty-years of military service. 
  • In 1987, he received the Friends of UNEP (USA) 500 Environmental Award. 
  • He shared the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 1988 with the other members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces who had served as of the award date. 
  • In 1990, the Executive Director of the United National Environment Programme made him a laureate in the prestigious UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement.