The Conservation Fund

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The Conservation Fund
Area served
United States
MethodThe Fund's Conservation Strategy is conservation through balancing economic and environmental goals.

The Conservation Fund is an American environmental non-profit with a dual charter to pursue environmental preservation and economic development. Since its founding in 1985, the organization has protected more than 7 million acres of land and water in all 50 states, including parks, historic battlefields, and wild areas.[1] The Fund works with community and government leaders, businesses, landowners, conservation nonprofits and other partners to create innovative solutions[buzzword] that integrate economic and environmental objectives. The Fund also works with communities to strategically plan development and green space and offer training in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

The Conservation Fund was founded in 1985 by Pat Noonan, former head of the Nature Conservancy. The current CEO is Larry Selzer. About 140 full-time staff work in the Fund's headquarters, located in Arlington, Virginia and in offices in several states across the U.S. including California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Texas and Wyoming.

Conservation strategy[edit]

The Conservation Fund is neither a membership organization nor an advocacy group. The Fund's services include land acquisition, conservation finance, small green business financing, community and economic development, environmental mitigation services, green infrastructure planning, and conservation training. The Fund works primarily with partners who have identified conservation priorities and request assistance achieving their goals. Frequent partners include federal government agencies—such as the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management—and state agencies, such as departments of natural resources. Land trusts, corporations, foundations and other non-profit organizations are also common partners.


Below is a list of several of the programs affiliated with the Fund:

  • Strategic Conservation offers strategies and tools that government leaders, conservationists, and others need to answer key questions such as: "Which places get saved? In what order? And why?" The program's "work in places like Houston, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nashville demonstrates that strategic conservation makes economic sense—yielding cost savings that can be calculated and environmental rewards to last for generations."[2] The program offers: Strategic Conservation Guidance, GIS Decision Support Tools, Optimization Models, Green Infrastructure Plans, and Mitigation Strategies.
  • The Natural Capital Investment Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides financing and small business loans to natural resource-based small businesses in rural areas. Started in 2001 in West Virginia, it has expanded to include North Carolina, Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, West Virginia, Southeast Ohio and Appalachian Kentucky. NCIF is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution Fund (CDFI) by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's CDFI Fund. CDFIs are private, specialized financial institutions that are targeted to borrowers who cannot meet the credit standards of traditional financial institutions because of perceived credit risk. NCIF is also certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Entity (CDE), having met the eligibility requirements set forth in the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC) statute.
  • ShadeFund was established by The Conservation Fund with a lead grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and Mercedes-Benz USA in 2010. It is similar to Kiva in that it provides microloans to entrepreneurs and innovators. What makes ShadeFund different is that it provides loans exclusively to American business owners who use natural resources creatively and responsibly. The goal is to help small businesses and support green jobs and the green economy in America.
  • Land Conservation Loan Program, provides bridge financing and real estate expertise to land trusts. The program started in 1993 and has a revolving fund of $15 million. To date, the program has provided more than $85 million in more than 150 loans to roughly 100 land trusts.

The Conservation Leadership Network offers courses ranging from understanding mitigation banking, green infrastructure planning, the use of GIS tools for strategic conservation and training in the design and management of water reuse tools.

  • The Resourceful Communities Program has been operating in North Carolina since 1991. This program helps under served communities protect and restore natural resources.
  • The Freshwater Institute, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, launched in 1987 and conducts research, development, and training in water resource management, including developing technology and providing engineering services for aquaculture systems.
  • Go Zero, is a voluntary, philanthropic carbon offset program. Through the Go Zero carbon calculator individuals or companies can measure their carbon dioxide emissions and donate to offset their carbon footprint. Go Zero plants native trees in protected parks and national wildlife refuges across the nation usually in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The areas are selected based on the need for reforestation and restoration. Since 2006, Go Zero has planted more than 2 million carbon-storing trees primarily in the Southeast and Gulf Coast region.
  • Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) has been operating in Michigan since 1998. This program works to support sustainable development, with special emphasis on environmental conservation and economic development in 22 counties in central Michigan. The WIN program has administered grants totalling more than $4 million since its inception.

Timeline: 1985–2015[edit]


  • Patrick Noonan founds The Conservation Fund as the first environmental nonprofit dedicated to both environmental preservation and economic development.
  • First project is completed: 1,245 acres in Lake Champlain, VT


  • The Revolving Fund launches. Every dollar invested in the Revolving Fund goes directly to protecting land, over and over. By recycling these dollars, lands valued at more than $4.7 billion have been saved.


  • The Civil War Battlefield Campaign begins, ultimately protecting more than 10,000 acres at 83 battlefields.


  • The Land Trust Loan Program is launched to provide key financing to local land trusts. To date, the program has provided 152 loans in 30 states protecting nearly 100,000 acres.


  • 1 million acres protected.


  • The Conservation Fund helps protect a key battlefield site at Antietam Battlefield in Maryland, grounds for the turning point of the Civil War ending the invasion of the north and inspiring Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.


  • The Conservation Leadership Network begins bringing together professionals to forge conservation solutions.[buzzword] CLN has reached more than 5,000 participants across the country.


  • The Conservation Fund protects 296,000 acres in NY, VT and NH – America's biggest multi-state forest conservation deal.


  • Larry Selzer becomes president and CEO of The Conservation Fund.
  • The Natural Capital Investment Fund launches to provide financing for rural businesses that use natural resources sustainably. NCIF has now invested over $5 million in portfolio companies, leveraging over $27 million in additional financing and creating more than 350 jobs in economically stressed communities across the Southeast.
  • The Great Lakes Revolving Fund was created in 2001 with a $4 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.[3]


  • The Conservation Fund acquires, and begins sustainably managing, a 24,000-acre working forest on California's North Coast, an effort to fight climate change.


  • 5 million acres protected.
  • The Fund completes America's biggest conservation project – 851,000 acres on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
  • The Go Zero program launches to help people and businesses offset climate change by planting trees. To date, Go Zero has planted over 1 million trees.
  • Working with a team of partners, The Fund protectes 327,000 acres of working forestland in Maine, connecting more than one million acres of contiguous wilderness.


  • The Conservation Fund completes a decade-long effort to protect 12,586 acres of wetlands on the Alaska Peninsula.
  • The Fund's Pineywoods Mitigation Bank, one of the largest, launches in East Texas.


  • The Fund's Great Lakes Revolving Fund helped the Land Conservancy of West Michigan protect a critical stretch of shoreline that became part of the Saugatuck Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan[3]—saving wetlands, dunelands and safe havens for migratory birds and other threatened species.


  • The Fund turns 25, with nearly 7 million acres protected in all 50 states



  • After a nearly 5-year process, the Fund conveys the final piece of Rocky Fork, the largest tract of unprotected land in the southern Appalachian Mountains, to the US Forest Service in September 2012.[5] Tennessee named it the newest state park that year.[6]
  • 7 million acres protected



  • The Conservation Fund partners with Apple[10]

See also[edit]

Garcia River Forest (a forest in Northern California owned and managed by the Conservation Fund)


  1. ^ "The Conservation Fund homepage".
  2. ^ "Strategic Conservation program page".
  3. ^ a b "Innovative fund protects natural assets in the Great Lakes basin". Mott Foundation. October 17, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  4. ^ "Civil War Battlefield Conservation: Focus On Gettysburg".
  5. ^ "Cherokee National Forest Press Release: 'Forest Service Acquires Final Rocky Fork Tract'".
  6. ^ "State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Press Release: 'Governor Haslam And Senator Alexander Name Rocky Fork Proposed Site For Tennessee's 55th State Park'".
  7. ^ "Delaware's 'First State National Monument'".
  8. ^ "Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument".
  9. ^ "Buckeye Forest".
  10. ^ "Apple Is Buying Up 36,000 Acres Of Forest To Conserve It'".
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