Del Mar Council celebrates 20th anniversary of locally-based nonprofit

The Del Mar City Council with Nature and Culture International staff and supporters.
The Del Mar City Council with Nature and Culture International staff and supporters.
( / Courtesy)

Del Mar might be the smallest city in San Diego County, but it is home to an organization that’s making one of the biggest impacts on the world.

Nature and Culture International has helped protect millions of acres of endangered ecosystems in Latin America since 1996. Acknowledging the locally-based nonprofit’s international work, the Del Mar City Council on April 18 celebrated NCI’s 20th anniversary by honoring the organization and its founder, Del Mar native Ivan Gayler.

“The vision, commitment and environmental dedication of Ivan Gayler and his ‘can do’ spirit have grown NCI and its outstanding environmental programs to great international success,” Councilman Dwight Worden said on behalf of the council. Worden is a longtime supporter of the organization.

“NCI has achieved protection of key ecosystems and habitats in some of the most environmentally important and endangered areas of the planet.”

NCI and its partners have conserved more than 13.8 million acres of critical ecosystems in Latin America, ensuring the survival of countless species, through land purchases, community reserves and government reserves. This includes directly supporting the creation of 7.3 million acres of protected areas and 6.5 million acres of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) biosphere reserves.

In a previous interview, Gayler attributed much of the organization’s success to its strategy of working from the ground up, empowering indigenous populations to preserve and manage local ecosystems in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Though headquartered in Del Mar, the organization only has eight staff members in the United States, but more than 150 staff live and work in 17 offices in South America and Mexico.

With even bigger goals for the future, NCI aims to save 20 million acres by the year 2020.

“I’m here with a message of hope,” Gayler said. “We can save this planet. We just have to get active. The forests sustain us. The variety of life gives us the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the air that we breathe.”

On behalf of the city, the council dedicated April 22, Earth Day, to Gayler and NCI.

“This is particularly an honor to me because this is home,” said Gayler, who also formed the Del Mar Partnership with partner David Winkler and built the Del Mar Plaza. Additionally, he restored the historic Rock Haus. “To get the recognition of your home is a wonderful thing.”

For more about NCI, visit