After growing up in a rural countryside angling for sunfish and shooting apples off trees by the stem, William Eichbaum’s first legal job in the nonprofit sector was far afield. He joined the police law reform unit of the Community Legal Services organization in Philadelphia. He later became founding director of the environmental pollution strike force in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources with a mission to bring lawsuits and educate the courts on enforcement of the state’s new laws aimed at cleaning up the industries in Pennsylvania.
Eichbaum’s subsequent career found him as a leader of the state environmental agencies in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts in the seventies and eighties where he liked being able to make decisions and “actually see something happen.” He served as Vice President at the World Wildlife Fund from 1990 until his retirement in 2014. There he helped to create WWF’s energy and marine resource programs and to establish large-scale conservation field programs in the Northern Great Plains and the Coral Triangle in SE Asia. He advocated the development of new systems for decision-making in places like the Arctic marine environment, now increasingly open to industrial development as the ice recedes. Eichbaum also predicted that national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lacking formal legal status in international law but with transparency and reporting rules might add up to a self-implementing system that could work. This is the approach that was ultimately adopted at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. With his broad experience in so many fields and his bias toward innovation, Eichbaum continues to advise WWF and to serve as a respected thought leader and advocate in the environmental community.