Conservation Force is the culmination of four decades of pro bono wildlife conservation advocacy. It began as minor pro bono legal services in the early 1970s. By the middle 1980s, a large part of the law firm's activities, staff and resources were devoted to conservation advocacy. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the pro bono advocacy became the dominate activity of the law firm. In the early 1990s, the firm began achieving an unprecedented number of victories for traditional conservation interests around the world. During that period, the law firm became an around-the-clock international communication headquarters and advocacy "war room" for governmental and sportsmen's conservation organizations. Most partner, clerk and staff time was devoted to the pro bono protection and expansion of conservation through hunting. The firm provided uniquely pro-active services that led to a great number of conservation and bio-political successes. Many successes were wholly the work of the firm and others were carefully crafted collaborative initiatives orchestrated from the firm. The Elephant Initiative, Mozambique Leopard Initiative, and importation of horn from darted black rhino are examples of those almost totally performed by the firm. The firm legally processed an unprecedented number of successful test trophy import permits at no charge to the public because they were engines for conservation. Other achievements like the reform of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to permit the importation of polar bear trophies, though led by the law firm, exemplified a collaborative effort of many individuals and organizations seldom found in the conservation community.
The activities were led by John J. Jackson, III, a lifetime sportsman with four decades of service and leadership in hunting and fishing conservation organizations. He has been a member or officer in more than one hundred conservation organizations and the president of six, including Safari Club International. John states that even his first act as an attorney was the pro bono incorporation of a non-profit sport fishing organization. The blend of experience as an organizational leader, array of experience afield in the natural world, advocacy training and skills as a "AA" rated attorney, coupled with his infatuation with wildlife, wild places and the sporting way of life have motivated and enabled him to serve the public and to succeed again and again.
In the middle 1990s, the law firm was dissolved because the pro bono services to the conservation community had taken its toll on the firm. It was then that John, Chrissie and the network of volunteers and organizations formalized Conservation Force as a non-profit (501 (c)(3)), public charitable foundation to continue in perpetuity and expand the services and support that the principals had been providing to the hunting-conservation community. The firm, for more than a decade, had been providing services to many organizations that did not have the "in house" professional capacity, staff, and expertise necessary to fulfill their conservation missions.
The new Foundation was dedicated to continuing to provide those support services. The firm had been a worldwide communication center and "war room." The new Foundation was designed to continue to provide that network and service. The firm had serviced and supported many organizations while liberally sharing the credit for successes for the common good. The new Foundation is designed to complement, not compete, to support and to share the credit with all partnering organizations. Some initiatives take many years, e.g., the Elephant lawsuit to establish the importation of elephant hunting trophies took seven years and was handled wholly by the firm; the opposition to the "endangered listing" of the African Elephant took four years; the opposition to the Endangered Species Act listing of the Baja Desert Sheep took five years; the Cheetah Initiative is now 16 years old, etc. Conservation Force will continue to completion important long term programs regardless of their duration or difficulty.
The law firm's pro bono activities led to the first reform of international and diplomatic policy toward range nation conservation programs under the Endangered Species Act and CITES in a quarter of a century (CITES Trophy and Quota Resolutions at COP9.) It unearthed the inadequacy of the Endangered Species Act provisions for foreign mammals which are most listed mammals. Today, the Foundation continues to lead in the development and implementation of that ESA reform. From its inception, the firm had provided professional skills and resources beyond the "in house" capacity of the existing organizations to tackle the big and tough jobs. Today the Foundation continues that as it has in the past. The firm was a professional structure to get the job done without political divisiveness. Today, the Foundation maintains its independence and is organized to service the conservation community directly, efficiently and effectively. The firm had linked and worked with many hundreds of organizations and individuals. Today the Foundation serves as a consortium or collaborative federation of nearly all of those same organizations and more.