Layoffs hit another green group

By Robin Bravender | 05/05/2023 02:03 PM EDT

Defenders of Wildlife announced Friday that 14 staff members would be laid off. The Sierra Club recently announced layoffs and restructuring.

A shadowed person leans over a laptop with a Defenders of Wildlife logo on its display.

Defenders of Wildlife announced staff layoffs Friday, saying it will "continue to evolve to keep pace with our changing world." Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News (illustration); NordWood Themes/Unsplash (laptop); dit-kieferpix/iStock (woman)

Defenders of Wildlife announced staff layoffs on Friday, citing the “economic and social climate.”

The conservation organization laid off more than a dozen staffers, according to the group. The move comes a week after another major environmental group, the Sierra Club, also announced layoffs and restructuring.

Fourteen employees were laid off, and four of those people have been offered alternative positions at Defenders, said Rachel Brittin, a spokesperson for the organization.


“This afternoon, Defenders of Wildlife announced key structural changes that will recalibrate the organization to sustain the foundation we’ve built, support our long-term stability and amplify our conservation priorities and future direction,” Brittin said in an email.

“Like so many, Defenders was not immune to the impacts of the past few years, and we must continue to evolve to keep pace with our changing world and address the impacts of the economic and social climate,” Brittin said. “Today is a difficult day for Defenders, but the decisions made are necessary to support our priorities for the rest of FY2023 and beyond.”

The conservation group’s management has been involved in contentious bargaining negotiations with its staff union, Defenders United.

Kathleen Callaghy, a spokesperson for the union, said in an email that 15 staffers had been laid off. She said two of those employees were members of the union’s bargaining committee, including Heidi Ridgley.

The conservation group and the union declined to share further details on Friday.

“At the moment that’s all we can share; this is an evolving situation and our team is busy representing affected employees,” Callaghy said.

Defenders earlier this year agreed to settle a dispute surrounding the termination of a former employee and union organizer.

Correction: A spokesperson incorrectly identified employee Heidi Ridgley as the union’s “chief organizer.”