inSERVICE: Economy-Minded Conservation Efforts Pay Off
Combining environmental and economic smarts, The Conservation Fund aims to create solutions that redefine conservation. The organization has worked in all 50 states, protecting more than 8.8 million acres of land since its founding in 1985, when a small group of conservationists led by Patrick Noonan, who had just won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, envisioned a new model of American land conservation.
The Conservation Fund works with public, private and nonprofit partners to protect land and water resources through land acquisition, sustainable community and economic development and leadership training. The organization provides capital to help finance conservation, while ensuring that community economies are woven into the conservation process.
The Fund’s first completed project saved more than 1,245 acres of open space within the Lake Champlain viewshed in Vermont, but that’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the work completed in the Fund’s nearly 40 years of conservation efforts.
According to its website, The Conservation Fund has:
- Created or retained more than 3,000 jobs at more than 180 businesses in underserved rural and urban communities throughout central Appalachia and the Southeast through its Natural Capital Investment Fund.
- Awarded more than $3.2 million in grants to community organizations that preserve rural landscapes and strengthen local economies through its Resourceful Communities program.
- Facilitated nearly 335 Land Conservation Loans to conservation groups in 37 states and four Canadian provinces, leading to the conservation of more than 140,000 acres.
- Protected more than 500,000 acres in 16 states through the Working Forest Fund.
“Our people-focused, business-minded approach has enduring impact and multiple benefits,” the website states. “We’re more ecologically and community oriented than our for-profit ‘business’ competitors, and more economically focused than our ‘conservation’ competitors. We are positioned perfectly to occupy the space in between—helping people understand that it’s possible to unite their economic and environmental priorities and achieve results that benefit both.”
The Fund is independent and does not have membership, but is supported by a individuals and organizations across the country, ultimately investing more than 95% of its annual spending directly into conservation programs. RM
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