Amphibian Conservation Alliance


Amphibian Conservation Alliance

Amphibian Conservation Alliance was a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) U.S. nonprofit education and advocacy organization founded in California in 1997 in response to scientific concern about widespread scientific reports of amphibian population declines and malformations. It was the first organization solely dedicated to amphibian conservation to establish a professional policy advocacy program, and it operated successfully from 1997 to 2005 in Berkeley, California and Washington, D.C.

Why was ACA founded?

Amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, constitute about one-fifth of all vertebrate species on Earth. They’re the most endangered vertebrate group, and scientists claim that they are like “canaries in a coal mine” whose demise could signal other problems to come, even for people. In a keynote address to the First World Congress of Herpetology in 1989, former ACA board member David B. Wake generated worldwide headlines when he reported that amphibian populations were unexpectedly declining in several environmentally “pristine” places around the world. For instance, he said, former ACA board member Martha L. Crump and her assistants had observed the popular Golden Toad apparently vanish over a few short years in Costa Rica’s Monte Verde Cloud Forest. At the time that Dr. Wake sounded his alarm, limited resources were available for scientists to confirm and explain the declines, much less to help policymakers respond. Thus, in 1991, Dr. Wake helped found the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF), under auspices of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), to support scientific communication and investigation, and in 1997 Paul Speck founded ACA to pursue scientific funding and policymaker education in support of amphibian conservation.

What did ACA accomplish?

One of ACA’s first achievements was to propose and help found AmphibiaNet (later renamed AmphibiaWeb), the first online database of amphibian biology and conservation information, which has since become a critical scientific resource. However, ACA’s main accomplishment was elevating U.S. amphibian conservation and research funding through a combination of direct outreach to policymakers and citizen action over more than 5 years. Among other things:

  • ACA advocated for and tracked the appropriation and spending of nearly $30 million in federal funding for amphibian conservation research and monitoring over 5 fiscal years.
  • ACA met regularly with Members of the U.S. Congress and their staff on several House and Senate committees in support of continuing, new and additional funding for amphibian decline research and monitoring by over half a dozen federal agencies.
  • ACA published a highly ranked website,, which attracted over 1 million unique visitors per year for over 5 years.
  • ACA’s website won “honorable mention” in the nonprofit category of prestigious “Webby” website awards.
  • ACA generated over 57,000 emails and letters to Members of Congress and other policymakers in support of amphibian conservation policies over 5 years.

Who supported ACA?

ACA garnered validation for its efforts from a wide range of supporters. ACA received cash support from the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Starfire Foundation, over a dozen major individual donors, and several hundred ACA members. In addition, ACA received generous in-kind support from Mr. John Wagers of Oakland, California and Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in Arlington, Virginia. During its start-up years in California, ACA was honored as a project of the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, California. And counsel was provided by Carolyn Klamp, Esq., of Dorn and Klamp, P.C. in Washington, D.C.

Who were ACA’s leaders?

The following individuals generously served as uncompensated board members of ACA for two or more years of the organization’s existence*:
  • Paul S. Speck, M.S./M.P.P. (Founder and President, Amphibian Conservation Alliance)
  • S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, J.D. (Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives)
  • Andrew R. Blaustein, Ph.D. (Professor, Oregon State University)
  • Martha L. Crump, Ph.D. (Adjunct Professor, Northern Arizona University)
  • Maureen A. Donnelly, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Florida International University)
  • George T. Frampton, J.D. (Former President, The Wilderness Society)
  • Richard N. Mott, J.D. (Vice President, World Wildlife Fund)
  • David B. Wake, Ph.D. (Professor and Curator, University of California, Berkeley)
  • James R. Waltman, M.S. (Director, The Wilderness Society)
* Affiliations at the time of each former board member’s latest term of office are given in parentheses.

More than a dozen talented full- and part-time staff members worked in ACA’s Berkeley, California and Washington, D.C.-area offices at various times in support of ACA’s board and president.