Press Release Dec 29, 2021

Parks Group Mourns Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Conservationist and Friend

Tom viewed parks and protected areas as essential components of a sustainable future. Not just for fauna and flora, but for humanity.

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, 80, renowned conservationist and longtime member of The National Parks Conservation Association, passed away Christmas Day at his home in Mclean, Virginia of pancreatic cancer. The National Parks Conservation Association mourns this loss for the scientific community, the environment, and most importantly his family and loved ones.

Though perhaps best known for his revolutionary work in the Amazon rainforest and for being the first to use the term, “biological diversity,” in 1980, Tom was also an advocate for America’s national parks and protected areas. He was a friend to NPCA, serving on our Science Advisory Council for many years, and dedicating time and resources to the fight to protect our parks.

In a 2019 article for National Parks magazine, Tom wrote, “It is my hope that the multiple impending changes in our environment will move people to think differently about their relationship to nature and the wonders of the national parks. If we collectively take the proactive measures necessary to assist in the survival of species, parks will no longer be isolated treasures set in the midst of human-dominated landscapes. Instead, we will have a vast natural web connecting these jewels we love so much.”

Tom was a friend and mentor to many conservationists across the country, including NPCA’s Director of Conservation Science and Policy, Dr. Ryan Valdez. He will be deeply missed, and his contributions to environmental advocacy will live on for many generations to come.

Statement of Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association:

“We join conservationists and friends of Dr. Tom Lovejoy all over the world in mourning this great loss. Tom was one of a kind, and we are privileged to have enjoyed his warm charm, wit, and tremendous contributions to science.

“Tom viewed parks and protected areas as essential components of a sustainable future. Not just for fauna and flora, but for humanity. Tom knew that we are part of nature’s biodiversity – not separated from it – and we would therefore need to act accordingly to protect and preserve our beautiful blue and green planet. He would know, given that he coined the term “biological diversity,” in the first place.

“He was among the first to correctly identify climate change as a human-caused threat to people, our planet, and our parks. He was among the first to center coordination with Indigenous tribes, the oldest caretakers of land among us, as a key tenet of protecting biodiversity. And he was among the first and foremost in the hearts of the many students and budding conservationists he mentored during his long career, including at NPCA.

“The National Parks Conservation Association is honored to celebrate the life and achievement of Tom Lovejoy, a visionary researcher, trusted partner, longtime NPCA member and friend.”


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

Read more from NPCA