Are you looking to fund community projects in your area? Check here periodically for an updated list of national funding opportunities that you can use to enhance your rural community.

Children, Youth, and Families At Risk – Sustainable Community Projects
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA announces the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk funding program to improve the quality and quantity of comprehensive community-based programs for at-risk children, youth, and families supported by the Cooperative Extension System. Application Deadline: April 11, 2014

Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants
FY 2013 TIGER Discretionary Grants are for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and are to be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area, or a region. Larger projects of national or regional significance which DOT determines demonstrate achievement of several of the strategic goals, as well as the project readiness criterion, could be considered for grants larger than those typically awarded in recent rounds of TIGER. Application Deadline: April 28, 2014

Hart Family Fund for Small Towns
Grants from the Hart Family Fund for Small Towns are intended to encourage preservation at the local level by providing seed money for preservation projects in small towns. Grants generally range from $2,500 to $10,000. Application Deadline: May 1, 2014

National Association of Realtors Smart Growth Grants
NAR’s Smart Growth Action Grants support a wide range of land-use related activities. To be considered, activities should support the core purpose of NAR’s Smart Growth Progam: to support realtor engagement in land-use related issues with the primary goals of affecting public policies that support a more sustainable development paradigm while raising the profile of realtors as community leaders and enhancing relationships with elected officials. Application Deadlines: April 30, July 31, and October 15, 2014

Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD)
CIRD provides communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality.  CIRD works with communities with populations of 50,000 or less, and offers annual competitive funding to as many as four small towns or rural communities to host a two-and-a-half day community design workshop.  With support from a wide range of design, planning and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops bring together local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government to develop actionable solutions to the community’s pressing design challenges. Application Deadline: May 6, 2014

NEA Challenge America Fast-Track
The Challenge America Fast-Track category offers support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to under-served populations — those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Grants are available for professional arts programming and for projects that emphasize the potential of the arts in community development. Application Deadline: May 8, 2014

2015 National Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program
The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council seeks innovative (new, cutting-edge or builds upon existing studies) grant proposals for program development that address the following priority issues: Making Urban Trees and Forests More Resilient ot the Impacts of Natural Disasters and the long-term Impacts of Climate Change, Green Infrastructure Jobs Analysis, Utilizing Green Infrastructure to Manage and Mitigate Stormwater to Improve Water Quality. Application Deadline: May 15, 2014

NEA Art Works
To support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. Matching grants generally range from $10,000 to $100,000. Application Deadline: July 24, 2014

National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program
Do you have an idea for a local conservation and outdoor recreation project, but need assistance to move that vision into reality? You do not have to be located near a National Park to receive assistance. Application Deadline: August 1, 2014

People For Bikes Community Grant Program
The People for Bikes Community Grant Program provides funding for important and influential projects that leverage federal funding and build momentum for bicycling in communities across the U.S. These projects include bike paths and rail trails, as well as mountain bike trails, bike parks, BMX facilities, and large-scale bicycle advocacy initiatives. Application Deadline: August 1, 2014

Land and Water Conservation Fund State and Local Assistance Program
The National Park Service provides matching grants to states and through states to local government for the acquisition and development of land and water for outdoor recreation purposes. Application Deadline: August 22, 2014

State Historic Preservation Opportunity Historic Preservation Fund Grants
To provide matching grants to States for the identification, evaluation, and protection of historic properties by such means as survey, planning technical assistance, acquisition, development, and certain Federal tax incentives available for historic properties.  Application Deadline: December 31, 2014

HUD Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grants
Applications must propose to plan for the revitalization of a severely distressed public and/or HUD-assisted multifamily housing project located in a distressed neighborhood into a viable, mixed-income community. Individual grants may be for up to a maximum of $500,000. Applications Deadline: CHECK BACK FOR 2015 DEADLINE

NEA Our Town
Organizations may apply for creative placemaking projects that contribute to the livability of communities and place the arts at their core. An organization may request a grant amount from $25,000 to $200,000. Application Deadline: CHECK BACK FOR 2015 DEADLINE

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund
American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund is the only privately funded, national grants program dedicated solely to building and protecting hiking trails. Grants value between $500 to $5,000 to improve hiking access or hiker safety. Application Deadline: CHECK BACK FOR 2015 DEADLINE


Presented on November 5, 2020 this webinar provides an overview of regulatory guidance for selecting mitigation sites and the best practices used by bankers to select suitable sites for meeting mitigation requirements. The session also reviews the suite of site protection mechanisms needed to minimize risk and create durable and successful mitigation banks.



Matt Gause, Westervelt Ecological Services (
Valerie Layne, US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources (
Michelle Mattson, US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources (
Deblyn Mead, Bureau of Land Management (
Clint Miller, The Conservation Fund (
Jeff Phillips, US Fish & Wildlife Service (
Veronica Rowan, DOI Office of the Solicitor (

Webinar Materials:


  1. Bean, Kihslinger, Wilkinson. “Design of U.S. Habitat Banking Systems to Support the Conservation of Wildlife Habitat and At-Risk Species” ELI, February 2008. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  2. Kiesecker, et. al. 2009. A Framework for Implementing Biodiversity Offsets: Selecting Sites and Determining Scale. BioScience 59(1):77-84. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  3. Land Trust Alliance Accreditation:
  4. USFWS. “Strategic Habitat Conservation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing the Technical Elements of Strategic Habitat Conservation” Version 1.0, Feb. 11, 2008. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  5. USFWS. Strategic Habitat Conservation: Selecting Surrogate Species for Conservation Planning and Design, Fact Sheet, March 2013. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  6. USFWS. “The Right Science in the Right Places: Landscape Conservation Cooperatives” December 2009. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  7. USFWS, et al. “Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects” April 2006. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  8. Wilkinson, McElfish, Kihslinger, Bendick, McKenney. “The Next Generation of Mitigation: Linking Current and Future Mitigation Programs with State Wildlife Action Plans and Other State and Regional Plans” ELI, August 2009. [DOWNLOAD PDF]

Site Protection RESOURCES:

  1. Johnson, B. S. Five tips to expedite regulatory review of conservation easements. National Wetland Newsletter. Mar-Apr 2016. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  2. O’Donnell, M. K. 2016. What title reveals that the land itself cannot. Savingland. Land Trust Alliance newsletter. Summer 2016: 24-27. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  3. Raffini, Eric. “Mineral rights and banking.” National Wetlands Newsletter. Vol. 34 No. 5, 2012. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  4. Terzi, Gail. “The Lummi Nation wetland and habitat bank: restoring a piece of history.” National Wetlands Newsletter. Vol. 34 No. 6, 2012.  [DOWNLOAD PDF]

“Thriving, Not Just Surviving”

Over the past 15 years, The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network has offered assistance specifically to gateway communities through our Balancing Nature and Commerce Program. Our goal is help these communities forge solutions for both conservation and economic development goals.

The program offers national and place-based workshops, resources and different types of community assessments as well as a community of practice for participating communities. Click on the links below to learn more about our program offerings. 


The program is comprised of national and place-based workshops that focus on the economics, community character, natural resources and partnership building skills necessary for creating sustainable communities. Please contact CLN if you would like to set up a workshop for your community.  Or, view our upcoming course list to find out if there is a workshop scheduled.

Livability and Sustainable Tourism Assessments

The Balancing Nature and Commerce workshops also facilitate livability and sustainable tourism assessments that provide evaluation and recommendations for existing and future nature-based and cultural heritage tourism opportunities. In addition, participants are introduced to trends in sustainable agriculture, alternative transportation and renewable energy.  Learn more >>

Community of Practice

Check out the hub page for our Balancing Nature & Commerce Community of Practice, featuring new tools, resources and innovative strategies being implemented across the nation that can support your own efforts. Visit Community of Practice >> 

Publications & Resources

We provide a list of new publications, websites and tools to assist you in your community’s planning and project delivery.  Learn more >> 

Funding Opportunities

Are you looking to fund community projects in your area? Check here periodically for an updated list of national funding opportunities that you can use to enhance your community. Learn more >>

Success Stories

Check out Our Projects to learn about how our Balancing Commerce and Nature Program has helped these communities thrive.

You can also view this video by the PA Wilds team, who attended both a national and place-based workshop back in 2007.  Learn about their progress and inspire your own community team!

Download the Balancing Nature and Commerce brochure here. 


Wednesday, December 2, 2020
2:00 – 4:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Pacific

This session will provide an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the mitigation review team (MRT) and other banking partners during the instrument development, implementation, and management phases of a bank. Best practices will be shared in how active operations and management can minimize risk and increase the success of banks in meeting all mitigation compliance requirements.


It is recommended that participants attend (or watch the recording of Webinar 1: The Market & Regulatory Drivers for Conservation Banking prior to attending this webinar. Live-captioning is available during the webinar at no cost to participants; to access please go to:


Charlotte Kucera, US Fish & Wildlife Service (
Valerie Layne, US Army Corps of Engineers Institute of Water Resources (
Veronica Rowan, DOI Office of the Solicitor (

Webinar Materials:

Operations & Management Resources:

  1. California Multi-Agency Project Delivery Team. Cover Sheet: Mitigation Banking Proposal Procedures & Checklists, September 2010.
  2. California Multi-Agency Project Delivery Team. Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Mitigation and Conservation Banking in California, 2011. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  3. Gardner, Roy and Teresa Radwan, “Corporate Shell Games: LLPs, LLCs & Responsibility for Mitigation Sites” National Wetland Newsletter 31(6): 2009. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  4. USFWS Sacramento Office. Annual Reporting Checklist, updated. [DOWNLOAD PDF]

Oversight & Compliance Resources:

  1. Gardner, Royal. “Mitigation banking and reputational risk.” National Wetlands Newsletter. Vol. 34 No. 6. 2012. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
  2. Owley, Jessica. Keeping Track of Conservation. Ecology Law Quarterly, 2015. [DOWNLOAD PDF]
Look here for new publications, websites, and tools that are available to assist you in your rural community’s planning and project delivery.

About Town: Building Revenue for Communities
Financial strain can be a burden on local governments, but it can also be a force for change, encouraging officials to streamline operations, reduce waste, and seek reliable ways to build stable revenues while spurring economic growth. This report takes a look at six rural communities in the Rocky Mountain West which recognize the value of downtowns and mixed use centers, which are bringing excellent revenue to these cities and counties.

Archived Webinars from the American Farmland Trust
Food systems planning is an emerging field to support, facilitate and promote local, regional and sustainable agriculture. The American Farmland Trust has put together a series of educational webinars to take a look at systems approaches for county and community-based planning, and state and regional planning to improve and maintain agricultural viability.

Asset-Based Economic Development and Building Sustainable Rural Communities

This series of three ICMA briefing papers showcase how small communities are tackling sustainability and smart growth through asset-based economic development. The first paper defines asset-based economic development and provides several case studies on industry and industrial clusters. The second paper looks as natural resource strengths and working landscapes. The third paper examines historic and cultural resources as well as existing infrastructure such as Main Streets and town squares.

Investment Ready Places: A Field Guide to Community Building in the New American Frontier
The small towns and cities of America are once again becoming the new frontier for development. Investment Ready Places are those communities that are well positioned to respond to retooling. The report lists six characteristics of Investment Ready Places that need to be in place to attract productive investments and steps communities can use to acquire these characteristics.

Economic Profile System-Human Dimensions Tool Kit from Headwaters Economics
The updated Economic Profile System-Human Dimensions Toolkit (EPS-HDT) helps decision makers access and analyze large amounts of information about their community or anywhere in the United States. EPS-HDT was created jointly by Headwaters Economics, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service.

Federal Resources for Sustainable Rural Communities
A guide to programs from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the USDA that rural communities can use to promote economic competitiveness, protect healthy environments, and enhance quality of life.

Lasting Value: Open Space Planning and Preservation Successes
More than one million acres of forests, farms, and other rural lands are converted to development every year. Can preservation happen? Yes, but its no walk in the park. Lasting Value celebrates the selected cities, towns, and counties that excel at preserving natural areas, farmland, and other types of open space.

Livability Literature Review: A Synthesis of Current Practice
This comprehensive report from the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) describes how livability is understood, provides examples of livable communities in practice and adds clarity to several concepts.

Locally Owned Businesses Can Help Communities Thrive And Survive Climate Change
Cities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems, according to several recently published studies. And in the face of climate change, those are just the sort of traits that communities most need if they are to survive massive storms, adapt to changing conditions, find new ways of living more lightly on the planet, and, most important, nurture a vigorous citizenship that can drive major changes in policy.

Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-being, and Sustainability
This book provides a far-reaching follow-up to the pathbreaking Urban Sprawl and Public Health, published in 2004, offering a fresh and comprehensive look at the adverse effects of what we have constructed and the positive benefits of well designed build environments.  Edited by Andrew L. Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin, and Richard J. Jackson.

Model Design Manual for Living Streets
This manual focuses on all users and all modes, seeking to achieve balanced street design that accommodates cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. This manual also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant as well as environmentally sustainable.

Outdoor Nation Special Report: Technology and Social Media
Outdoor Nation Special Report: Technology and Social Media provides an in-depth analysis of how the Outdoor Nation community of young ‘Outsiders” is interacting with social media and technology. The report gives the youth perspective on ways that technology can both enhance and interfere with outdoor activities. The survey offers youth-driven ideas on how to best combine outdoor experiences, social media and technology.

Promoting Physical Activity through the Shared Use of School & Community Recreational Resources
This brief summarizes research on community access to school sport and recreation facilities outside of school hours, as well as studies that examine the shared use of school facilities and programs with other community groups or agencies. It also describes challenges commonly associated with the shared use of recreational facilities and opportunities for policy-makers at the state and local levels. 

Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities
This report, the result of collaboration between EPA and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), focuses on smart growth strategies that can help guide growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working lands and preserving the rural character of existing communities.

Regional Approaches to Sustainable Development: Linking Economic, Transportation, and Environmental Infrastructure in Rural and Small Metropolitan America
Regional development organizations (RDOs) are designing and implementing strategies to create stronger, more dynamic, more resilient regional economies that are based on quality of place. This report from the National Association of Development Organizations highlights the opportunities available to RDOs to undertake sustainable development initiatives using a systems-based approach.

Rural Communities: Expanding Horizons
Learn more about the great strides that have been made in the last decade to provide more transportation choices for residents of small urban and rural areas. This report highlights the opportunities for continued innovation, public transit investment, and political and community support to provide freedom, independence, and access through public transportation. 

Stewarding the Future of Our Communities
This major research project conducted for the Craig Byrne Fellows Program of the Orton Family Foundation addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning–that is, building greater sustainability into citizen-driven, value-based community engagement and planning–in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country are highlighted to provide specific stewardship approaches they have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future.

Strategic Lessons In Sustainable Community Building–The Groundwork USA Network
A growing number of communities across the country are leveraging greening initiatives  as catalysts for the social and economic regeneration of urban neighborhoods. Urban greening provides underserved neighborhoods with access to green spaces that improve overall quality of life and begin to address long-standing health and economic disparities of its residents.

Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities
This new report helps better coordinate federal programs for sustainable community and smart growth development for rural communities. The report was prepared by the HUD, DOT, and EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities in cooperation with USDA. It presents sample funding mechanisms, technical assistance opportunities, and performance measures rural communities can use, and includes case studies showcasing rural accomplishments.

Three Years of Helping Communities Achieve Their Visions for Growth and Prosperity
This report provides an overview of EPA, HUD, and DOT support to communities seeking to protect the environment, provide more housing choices, and make transportation systems more efficient and reliable.  Case studies include: Bridgeport, CT; Ranson and Charles Town, WV; Montgomery, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Moline, IL; Denver, CO: and Wellpinit, WA.

Vibrant Rural Communities Case Studies Series
The National Association of Development Association’s Vibrant Rural Communities case studies series highlights how rural regions and small towns across the country are growing local and regional economies and creating stronger communities. This series shows how small towns can leverage a wide range of tools and approaches to build on their assets, protect their resources, and make strategic investments that offer long-term benefits for residents and local businesses.

This series of 12 case studies was developed for the Conservation Banking Training, offered annually by The Conservation Fund. These case studies profile approved and operational conservation banks from around the country. Appendices for each case study are available upon request; please contact

Documents are PDF downloads. 

The Conservation Leadership Network (CLN) will be strengthening livability capacity in at least four communities (see list below) starting in fall 2013 as part of the Federal Lands Livability Initiative. Through a partnership with the Federal Lands Livability Workgroup, comprised of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Park Service (NPS) and other land management agencies, CLN will assess trends in livability associated with federal public lands and their surrounding gateway communities. This initiative includes a mix of public lands, refuges, forests and parks from a geographic and demographic cross section of the country.

What Is A Gateway Community?

CO-Grand-Lake-downtown-rikdom-Flickr-300x200Grand Lake, Colorado, is one of the gateway communities participating in the initiative. Photo by rikdom/Flickr. America’s gateway communities are places adjacent to our public lands  that attract visitors and residents looking for unique recreational and cultural experiences. These communities face unique challenges—such as how to protect the assets that make them special and appealing—and often must work together with their public land partners to overcome these challenges. CLN has worked with gateway communities for more than a decade through its Balancing Nature and Commerce Program. This program has shown time and again that when local government officials, public land managers and community residents have the opportunity to talk about issues related to local land use, economic development and nature-based tourism, they can find a common way forward that fosters community development while also promoting public land and the outdoors.

What Is “Livability”?

SC-Calhoun-Falls-Richard-B-Russell-Lake-fishing-ACE-300x200The annual Kid’s Fishing Derby at Richard B. Russell Lake in Calhoun, South Carolina. Photo by Army Corps of Engineers/Flickr. The term “livability” refers to the quality and location of transportation facilities in relation to broader opportunities such as access to good jobs, affordable housing, quality schools and safe streets. 

The Six Principles of Livability defined by the U.S. departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities include: 

  1. Provide more transportation choices. 
  2. Promote equitable, affordable housing. 
  3. Enhance economic competitiveness. 
  4. Support existing communities. 
  5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment. 
  6. Value communities and neighborhoods.

Learn more about Livability >> 

The Initiative: Livability Assessments & Workshops

OR-Sweet-Home-Weddle-Bridge-Sandy-Horvath-Dori-Flickr-300x200Weddle Bridge in Sweet Home, Oregon. Photo by Sandy Horvath-Dori/Flickr This fall, members of the CLN team, together with local representatives and a local design team, will visit and conduct a livability assessment in each of the communities selected for the initiative.

Based on this on-the-ground assessment, the team will provide a livability status report to each community. By assessing these diverse gateway communities, the team hopes to draw general conclusions and lessons about how best to create and improve livability standards in these and other gateway communities.  

Once the livability assessment report is provided to the communities, CLN will set up workshops, unique to each community, that will allow residents and local officials to meet with representatives from their neighboring public lands.  “It’s our goal to help communities foster valuable partnerships,” says Kris Hoellen, vice president of sustainable programs for the Fund and CLN director. These workshops aim to help build an action plan based on the evaluation of the community’s key livability factors, which may include the strength of community character, as well as the accessibility to transportation, affordable housing, employment and business opportunities. 

Selected Communities

An interagency selection committee comprised of representatives from the
USFWS, NPS, FHWS, USFS and BLM selected public lands and their gateway
communities to participate in this initiative. These include: Map-Federal-Lands-Livability-Fin-645x430


Community: Grand Lake
Managing Agency: National Park Service
Federal Land: Rocky Mountain National Park
Other Public Lands:  Arapaho National Recreation Area (USFS)/ Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest (USFS)/ BLM lands/ Bureau of Reclamation
Read the full Grand Lake Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF) 


Community: Spaulding and James townships, Saginaw City
Managing Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Federal Land: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
Other Public Lands:  Green Point Environmental Learning Center (USFWS)/ Shiawassee River State Game Area (MIDNR)/ Saginaw Township public boat launch/ Saginaw Valley Rail Trail (Saginaw County)
Read the full Saginaw and Surrounding Townships Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)


Community: Sweet Home
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Federal Land: Willamette National Forest
Other Public Lands:  Foster Reservoir (USACE)/ Green Peter Reservoir (USACE)/ BLM lands/ Cascadia State Park/ Sunnyside County Park/ Riverbend Campground/ Sweet Home City Parks (7)
Read the full Sweet Home Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)

South Carolina

Community: Calhoun Falls
Managing Agency: Army Corps of Engineers
Federal Land: Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake Project
Other Public Lands:  Parsons Mountain Recreation Area (USFS)/ Hartwell Project (USACE)/ J. Strom Thurmond Project (USACE)/ SCDNR, SCDPRT Lands
Read the full Calhoun Falls Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF)

Conservation (Species) Mitigation Banking

As a component of the annually-offered Conservation Banking Training course, we developed a series of twelve case studies.

Resources for the 8-part webinar series being offered from October 2020 – January 2021 can be found here. This series is designed to provide an introduction to foundational topics related to conservation banking for endangered species and habitat recovery, as well as joint authority programs that mitigate for impacts to wetlands and streams.

Third Party Wetland and Stream Mitigation Banking

Complementary to the annually-offered 3rd Party Mitigation Interagency Review Team (IRT) Training course, presentations and resources associated with the course are available.

Sustainable Tourism & Livability AssessmentsThe Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network works with communities across the country to provide assessments of an area’s natural, cultural and historic assets and evaluate opportunities to sustainably develop these assets predicated on livability principles.

Sustainable Tourism Assessments

As part of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program, The Appalachian Gateway Initiative: Natural and Cultural Heritage Tourism Development, The Conservation Fund and The National Trust for Historic Preservation were retained to assist communities in enhancing natural, recreational, arts and historic assets in order to create sustainable tourism programs.  Since 2007, this program has conducted six assessments and developed recommendations reports for each.  See a few of these reports below:

Other Sustainable Tourism Intiatives:

The Conservation Fund worked specifically with the community of Unicoi, Tennessee to help them achieve a vibrant community by enhancing their natural, recreational, cultural and historic assets.  As a result, The Conservation Fund developed a Sustainable Tourism Initiative for the county that provides a recommendation report for implementation of a sustainable tourism plan.

Read the Sustainable Tourism Initiative here >> (PDF)

Livability Assessments

The Conservation Leadership Network will be strengthening livability capacity in five communities starting in 2013.  Through a partnership with the Federal Lands Livability Workgroup comprised of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Park Service (NPS) and other land management agencies, we will assess trends in livability associated with federal lands and their surrounding gateway communities, including identifying transferable lessons learned, and providing specific recommendations/action plans for moving forward. The initiative expects to include a broad mix of public lands, refuges, forests, and parks, from a geographic and demographic cross-section of the country.

Read more about Livability and this initiative here >>

Read the full Grand Lake Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report (PDF) here >>

Teaching Kids About Carbon, Farming & The Environment

Download Available!

Download Moving Freight: Economy and Atmosphere school curriculum. (PDF)
Suitable for Grades 3-12.

CSX Final-Curriculum-illustration-390x260Graphic by JS Design StudioIn 2012, The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network partnered with the international transportation company CSX to sponsor the creation of Moving Freight: Economy and Atmosphere, a curriculum unit to educate school-age students that the train tracks they drive over and the trucks they pass on the highway are connected to a world-wide web of industry, culture, commerce and environmental impact.

The curriculum is designed to provide four activities that build with increasing complexity—or provide the option to be used as stand-alone modules—to help meet curricular goals in mathematics, economics and science.  Students from grades 3-12 will compare and contrast the efficiency of freight transportation in ships, trains, trucks, and airplanes using real-world examples and explore tools and resources on the internet.  Students will also discover the carbon cycle and the impacts of burning fossil fuels on the environment coupled with a comparison of calculated carbon footprints of freight transportation modes.

Additionally, CSX partners with many youth organizations including Future Farmers of America (FFA), a national organization preparing future generations to meet the challenges of the science, business, and art of agriculture.  For agriculture education with the FFA and school programs across the nation, we also developed an activity that investigates the carbon footprint of transporting the raw agricultural materials from farms to processing factories and finally to each student.  This activity demonstrates how raw goods comprise many of our everyday products and that the transportation of each of these materials emits carbon dioxide which adds to the impact of greenhouse gases. That impact reinforces the importance of efficient fuel consumption.

The Conservation Fund recognizes the shared values that CSX is striving to support through their National Gateway program: their desire to educate states and communities to efficiently and economically create safer, less congested roadways, bolster environmental health, and promote economic growth.  The Fund works on the ground across the country to help partners like CSX fulfill their conservation priorities through creative initiatives such as this in order to protect and enhance landscapes where Americans work, play, and rediscover history. 
Below are course offerings organized by Training Tracks. To see list of courses currently scheduled, go to Upcoming Courses.

Green Infrastructure:

*regional offering available upon request!

  • GI 101: Strategic Conservation Planning Using a Green Infrastructure Approach
  • GI 201: Implementing Green Infrastructure at Multiple Scales
  • Green Infrastructure and Municipal Water Management
  • Planning for Climate Change Using Green Infrastructure
  • GIS Tools for Strategic Conservation Planning

Rural Economic Development:

*regional offering available upon request!

  • Balancing Nature and Commerce in Rural Communities and Landscapes
  • Compatible Land Use Planning for Military Installations
  • Broadcast: How to Start a Sustainable Tourism Program
  • Broadcast: Keys to Success in Gateway Communities

Compensatory Mitigation Banking:

*regional offering available upon request!

  • Training Course for Wetland & Stream Mitigation Banking & In-Lieu Program Inter-agency Review Teams (IRTs)
  • Conservation (Species) Banking Training Course

February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
The Conservation Fund’s Salmon Creek forests spans about 4,000 acres of coastal redwoods and Douglas-fir forests in Mendocino County. Photo: Jena Thompson Meredith

Disney’s zero emissions goal results in positive impact for forests

Disney logo
Walt Disney had a personal passion for conserving natural resources, building a legacy that today continues to inspire children and families to join The Walt Disney Company (Disney) in caring for the environment. Disney recognizes that our future depends upon nature and a healthy planet. None of that is possible without healthy forests. Through investments in The Conservation Fund’s high-quality forest-based carbon credits, Disney is striving to meet its long-term goal of attaining “zero” net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Together we are protecting and restoring forests that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and create places to play for wildlife and people alike.


  • Meet the company’s sustainability goals, including net-zero emissions, by protecting and restoring forests that benefit wildlife, air quality, water and local economies.
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to the environment and communities by finding innovative solutions to confront climate change.


Disney and The Conservation Fund teamed up in 2009 to protect forests on the North Coast of California, known for its iconic redwoods. Here, decades of aggressive timber harvesting left the landscape and the economy bruised and battered. Rivers and streams—important to endangered salmon and steelhead trout—were clogged with sediment from eroding logging roads.

With leadership from Disney and others, The Conservation Fund has pioneered a new approach to land conservation in California by becoming the first nonprofit to own and sustainably operate a large working forest. Carbon credit investments have enabled the Fund to implement improved forest management practices that include decreasing the intensity of timber harvests, increasing the time between harvests and widening riverfront buffers to improve water quality in streams impaired by erosion. We sell carbon credits that result from the improved operations, allowing us to generate further income for restoration activities and additional forestland conservation.

“Disney understands that protecting and restoring forests may be one of the most important environmental challenges of our time. Forests clean the air we breathe, filter more than half of the water we drink, and provide homes for wildlife and people alike. We applaud Disney for its leadership to protect and restore our nation’s forests. Its climate commitments are inspiring others to do more and be better stewards of the environment each and every day.”

Jena Thompson Meredith, Vice President, Business Partnerships The Conservation Fund

Disney The Conservation Fund            
Lauren Fety, Jena Thompson Meredith, Lisa Shibata, Holly Newberger. Salmon Creek Forest 2016.
Photo: Scott Kelly


Disney’s industry-leading targets and investments help The Conservation Fund protect nearly 75,000 acres of redwood and Douglas fir forests in Northern California that encompasses one of the largest river systems in the area. By operating these forests sustainably, we’re:

  • Restoring conditions of more than 120 miles of stream, which provide habitat for endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout, and supply drinking water to nearby communities.
  • Safeguarding habitat for 36 northern spotted owls, a threatened species, as well as other rare plants and animals.
  • Rebuilding commercial timber inventories that generate more than $4 million a year in economic support for the local community.
  • Maintaining other ecosystem services and providing climate benefits.

“Disney has a long legacy of environmental conservation, and protecting the planet for future generations is a priority for us. We have supported conservation projects for almost 20 years and worked with forest communities to protect wildlife and critical habitats. We are continuing our commitment to forest by investing in forestry projects to curb climate change.”

—Lisa Shibata, Senior Manager, Corporate Citizenship, Disney

Looking Forward

More than 45 million acres of working forests are at risk in the U.S. alone, jeopardizing millions of jobs, billions of dollars to our economy, countless acres of wildlife habitat and immeasurable benefits to our health. If we’re to make significant strides in protection and restoration of our forests at scale, we will need leaders like Disney who believe that business and the environment are strongest when they work together.

February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
Cherokee National Forest. Photo courtesy of VW.

Driving a Bigger Commitment to Environment and Community

Volkswagen logoVolkswagen, one of the world’s largest automakers, is demonstrating its commitment to environmental and corporate responsibility to reflect its “Drive Bigger” goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves. To help drive this initiative, Volkswagen is sponsoring The Conservation Fund to help protect forests near Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Volkswagen has a manufacturing plant and is one of the region’s leading employers.


  • Give back to a region where around 3,800 Volkswagen employees live, work and play.
  • Be a good neighbor in a community that is a home for Volkswagen and plans to be well into the future as Chattanooga becomes the company’s North American base for manufacturing electric vehicles.

VW Forest3Cherokee National Forest. Photo by VW.


In 2019, Volkswagen and The Conservation Fund launched an initiative to help protect land adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest, located near Volkswagen’s facility in Chattanooga. Through a donation from Volkswagen, The Conservation Fund will acquire approximately 1,500 acres that will then be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, which manages Cherokee National Forest, for permanent protection.

VW road
Photo by VW

The Conservation Fund has worked with government agencies, nonprofits and businesses large and small to help protect more than 300,000 acres in Tennessee and help build greener cities and economies. Our decades of experience in the state made us a natural partner to help Volkswagen achieve its goals.

In addition to supporting land conservation, Volkswagen’s sponsorship will enable The Conservation Fund to create a community grant program to support nonprofits, schools and public agencies working in eastern Tennessee to help improve water quality, increase access to outdoor recreation, and advance environmental education. Working together with Volkswagen, The Conservation Fund will administer and manage a grant program, with support from the Tennessee Valley Authority that will deliver measurable and lasting benefits to Tennessee’s natural resources. The Tennessee Valley Authority, having been a steward of natural resources in Tennessee since 1933, welcomes the opportunity to engage with Volkswagen and The Conservation Fund on this endeavor. The first round of grants was awarded in 2020. 

"We are enthused about our partnership with Volkswagen and the opportunity to advance their commitment to corporate leadership around sustainability. Volkswagen is taking real, measurable steps forward to protect the environment, embrace sustainable business practices and support the communities in which they work."
Larry Selzer, President and CEO, The Conservation Fund   


The 650,000-acre Cherokee National Forest stretches the length of eastern Tennessee’s border, with lands north and south of the Greater Smoky Mountain National Park. The forest is home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and other whitewater and wilderness areas. The land added by The Conservation Fund and Volkswagen at Cherokee National Forest will enhance efforts to help improve water quality, access to public recreation, environmental education, and habitat for the black bear and the endangered Indiana bat.

Five charitable organizations located in eastern Tennessee received grants of up to $50,000 to advance efforts that will provide environmental learning and leadership opportunities for local youth, help keep rivers and waterways within the Cherokee National Forest clean and provide current recreational access information for outdoor lovers in the region.

Our work with The Conservation Fund will help strengthen the environment and help us give back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live. This collaboration in our own backyard underscores our ‘Drive Bigger’ goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves and then taking action. We feel a responsibility to show how a major automaker can credibly contribute to the greater good

– Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America

VW hikingCherokee National Forest. Photo by VW.

Looking Forward

Tennessee is just the start. Volkswagen and The Conservation Fund are committed to protecting natural resources and developing community programs that benefits Volkswagen’s customers, dealers and employees.

February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
Photo courtesy of CSX

Investing in Diverse Communities

wf-rgb-highlight-62pxWells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest financial institutions, came from humble beginnings as a small regional bank serving its neighbors and supporting its community. Throughout its growth and success, that sense of community has remained at the heart of Wells Fargo’s values. Wells Fargo collaborated with The Conservation Fund to strengthen local communities where its customers and team members live and work.


  • Reach diverse communities and disadvantaged business owners across the country.
  • Provide support that yields social, economic and environmental benefits.

Solutions in North Carolina

Through its Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program, aimed at serving diverse-owned small businesses, Wells Fargo $2.1 million in loan and grant funds to the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF), an affiliate of The Conservation Fund that provides lending and advisory services to locally-owned green enterprises in disadvantaged communities in Central Appalachia and the Southeast. Funding from Wells Fargo will help African-American farmers and small business owners increase access to financial resources, diversify their enterprises and build greater financial stability, resulting in stronger local communities and the responsible use of natural resources.

“NCIF recognizes that the growth and success of diverse businesses focused on triple bottom line results is good for communities, our economy and the environment. We're thrilled to be recognized by and partner with Wells Fargo to grow the next generation of African-American and minority entrepreneurs.”
Marten Jenkins, President and CEO, Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF)   

Results in North Carolina

The Wells Fargo DCC program will help people like James Joyner of Faison, North Carolina, a disabled African-American U.S. Army veteran who transformed his family farm from a labor of love to a profitable enterprise. NCIF helped him develop financial projections for his business and connected him with an innovative North Carolina company that enables him to graze his herd of sheep on solar farms and helps market his lamb. NCIF'S loan helped Joyner expand his herd, upgrade pastures and fencing, and build a lambing shed. Today, Joyner’s farm is profitable, and he sells his grass-fed, antibiotic-free lamb to a well-known national organic and natural foods grocery chain.

“Wells Fargo is proud to support NCIF and the work they are doing. Investing in our communities is one of the most important things we can do as a company and directly connects with our vision and values. At Wells Fargo, we believe that we’re responsible for promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”

– Jack Clayton, Piedmont East Regional President for Wells Fargo

The Roger Outlaw farm is funded by the ShadeFund – a project of the The Conservation Fund’s Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF). In May 2016, Wells Fargo provided $1.6 million to NCIF.  As a result, we will expand access to lending and business advisory services for African American farmers and small business owners, primarily in Eastern North Carolina. 

Solutions in Alaska

In Alaska, Wells Fargo and The Conservation Fund collaborated to support Native communities. Here, Wells Fargo donated 143 acres of culturally and historically significant land adjacent to the Native Village of Eklutna to the Fund for permanent preservation. The donation was part of Wells Fargo’s Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program.

“This land is the centerpiece of an ongoing effort to protect and restore the lands and waters of great cultural and environmental value to the Eklutna people. We are pleased to work with Wells Fargo and Eklutna, Inc., and we applaud the corporate leadership and community appreciation for this wonderful and important conservation accomplishment.”

Larry Selzer, President and CEO, The Conservation Fund

Results in Alaska

Approximately 25 miles northeast of Anchorage, the land donated by Wells Fargo preserves the way of life of Native people. Situated in the heart of Dena’ina Athabascan country where Alaska Native people have lived for thousands of years, this culturally and historically significant land remains a place for traditional subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, and berry picking. Hills on the property are also revered as sacred grounds where ancestors’ ashes are spread, and a unique granite formation on the land was the inspiration for the Native village’s name. Its permanent preservation honors the legacy of the Native people and helps future generations cultivate a connection to the land and their ancestral identity.

“When we got the word…we were thrilled and filled with such emotion that it took several days for the news to sink in. We are grateful for the vision and respect shown by Wells Fargo toward the Dena’ina people.”
                          – Curtis McQueen, CEO, Eklutna, Inc.

The Native Village of Eklutna is situated 25 miles northeast of Anchorage, AK and lies in the heart of Dena’ina Athabascan country. Alaska Native people have lived in Eklutna for thousands of years and the local hills are revered as sacred grounds where their ancestors’ ashes are spread. Wells Fargo donated 143 acres of land adjacent to the Native Village of Eklutna to The Conservation Fund for permanent land and habitat preservation. 

Looking Forward

From remote tribal lands in Alaska to rural farms in Appalachia, our long-standing relationship with Wells Fargo advances conservation at the local level for a greater impact. We will continue to help Wells Fargo find new ways to invest in diverse communities that pay big dividends for our society, our economy and our environment.


February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships

Going the Extra Mile for Environmental Stewardship 

Williams logoFor some infrastructure projects, it’s not always enough to minimize the impact of new roads or pipelines. Williams, a leading operator of pipeline infrastructure in the U.S., recognized its Atlantic Sunrise project in Pennsylvania would have a big impact, so it set out to exceed expectations. That’s when Williams turned to The Conservation Fund to develop an environmental stewardship program for its Transco pipeline that will enable the company to identify, rank and support measurable and lasting projects important to wildlife and communities across the Atlantic Sunrise project area in Pennsylvania. The Atlantic Sunrise Environmental Stewardship program is purely voluntary and is in addition to any mitigation or compensatory steps that would be required of Williams to offset potential impacts from its pipeline.


  • Go above and beyond compensatory mitigation requirements to advance conservation and benefit local communities.
  • Develop a transparent, science-based process to evaluate and select stewardship projects that maximize benefits for the business, community and natural resources.
  • Convene and energize stakeholders along the pipeline route to identify shared priorities and implement the best potential projects.


The Conservation Fund designed a turnkey environmental stewardship program for Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise project, an expansion of its Transco pipeline system, which currently transports about 10 percent of the nation’s natural gas.

The Fund first worked with Williams to identify community stakeholders in eight Pennsylvania counties impacted by the pipeline expansion, develop criteria for conservation projects, create an appropriate program budget and map natural resources and community assets with geographic information systems (GIS) technology.

Next, the Fund convened community focus groups with more than 100 stakeholders that identified hundreds of environmental stewardship opportunities. Working closely with Williams, and with feedback from the community, The Conservation Fund applied its optimization modeling tool, which takes raw data about each project’s conservation attributes, as well as the criteria set forth by Williams, and uses a scientific algorithm to calculate the best projects for the company, the communities, and the environment.

“We designed the Williams Environmental Stewardship Program with the intent for it to be an exemplary model that recognizes the importance of working in a collaborative way to go above and beyond legally required mitigation to invest in high value community projects.”

Will Allen, Vice President of Sustainable Programs, The Conservation Fund


Williams has pioneered the environmental stewardship approach to the planning and development of linear infrastructure projects. Williams invested more than $2.5 million in 18 projects that focus on stream restoration, nutrient reduction and recreational trails in Pennsylvania communities. Collectively, these projects will result in: 10 miles of stream frontage restored; 30 acres of riparian area restored; 8 miles of new recreational trails installed; benefits to 200,000 annual trail users; and 925 tons of manure stored annually, preventing harmful nutrients from entering waterways.

“We believe that a project as unique and far-reaching as Atlantic Sunrise requires an equally unique and significant demonstration of our willingness to step up and not only protect, but also enhance the natural resources in the project area.”

—Chris Springer, Atlantic Sunrise project director, Williams

Williams partner page
Thanks to support from William’s Company restoration activities at Camp Snyder in PA are improving habitat for brook trout. Photo by USFWS.

Looking Forward

Through this collaboration, the partners have developed a model for future infrastructure investment projects that proactively maximize environmental and community benefit. After the success of this pilot program, the partnership will continue to look for additional stewardship opportunities. 

February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
Dow Diamond Baseball Stadium will get LED lighting thanks to a grant from Saginaw WIN. Photo by Cory Seeman/Flickr.

Supporting Grassroots Projects Michigan’s Saginaw Bay

In 1998, The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) approached The Conservation Fund to help them develop a new program that could improve Michigan’s Saginaw Bay watershed and the communities where its employees live, work and play. As an organization that works at the intersection of business and the environment, we were ideally suited to forge the local and regional partnerships necessary to realize Dow’s bold vision for a sustainable Saginaw Bay.


  • Impact the quality of life in local communities
  • Support local projects that protect natural resources and strengthen economies


The largest watershed in Michigan, Saginaw Bay is located between the thumb and forefinger of Michigan’s “mitten” on the state’s eastern boundary with Lake Huron. The watershed includes more than 7,000 miles of rivers and streams and 175 inland lakes. It is home to more than 90 fish species and is a path for migrating songbirds and waterfowl travelling along the Mississippi Flyway. It’s also home to 1.4 million people and to many agricultural and industrial resources that drive Michigan’s economy.

Dow and The Conservation Fund created the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) to invest in efforts on the ground that make Saginaw Bay – and its people – better. Through grants and technical assistance, the WIN program is helping grow the region’s identity as a sustainable community. Dow’s leadership and commitment to sustainability also inspired others to join the charge – the WIN program now includes 12 corporate and foundation partners and has become a catalyst for hundreds of initiatives to improve the watershed and its communities.

“We understand that investors want to see great returns, and by connecting Dow with a range of people, resources, organizations and programs at the grassroots level, we’re making their investment go further and creating a real difference in all facets of the quality of life in the region, and in Saginaw Bay.”

Michael Kelly, Director, Great Lakes Office and Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, The Conservation Fund

DOW CorpsDow and The Conservation Fund's partnership helps remove dams to improve passage for spawning fish and recreational   kayakers and canoers. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.


Since 1998, WIN has invested more than $4.5 million in approximately 250 projects, leveraging an additional $9 million in support for these community efforts.

WIN grants have supported a wide range of locally driven projects. We’ve helped our partners improve the energy efficiency of a minor league baseball team’s stadium, plant community gardens, build trail systems, provide canoe and kayak launch facilities along the watershed’s major rivers, control erosion along tributary rivers to prevent pollution, and even remove dams to improve passage for spawning fish and recreational kayakers and canoers. One of WIN’s biggest ongoing projects involves the removal of a deteriorating dam along the Cass River in the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan’s top tourist destination.

“WIN’s open-minded, collaborative approach to providing funding is fantastic. With its entrepreneurial spirit, WIN is often the first organization to step in and provide grant money.”

Zachary Branigan, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, 2014 Saginaw Bay WIN grant recipient

Looking Forward

With nearly 8,700 square miles making up the Saginaw Bay Watershed, there is still much more work to be done. But the seemingly limitless creativity of the organizations, communities and individuals on the ground inspires us to keep going. We look forward to even more exciting projects in the future, working with our partners to build a more sustainable Saginaw Bay region.

Learn More

2017 Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network Annual Report
February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
Erik Meyers with the Google Trekker on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Bringing the Outdoors Online and Using Technology for Good

Google Maps logo
Where would we be without Google Maps? Lost. The state-of-the-art mapping technology and innovative Street View developed by Google have given us a better view of the world. By partnering with The Conservation Fund, Google Maps is now giving people a better view of the natural world, one majestic landscape at a time.


  • Use technology as a tool to help people explore some of the most iconic and historically significant landscapes in our country.
  • Engage new audiences by giving them opportunities to experience the great outdoors that they otherwise might not have.
  • Bring awareness to the importance of land conservation in America.


The Conservation Fund and its local partners teamed up with Google Maps to create virtual tours of some of America’s most important places—its parks, waterways and even battlefields. Our staff borrowed and set out with Trekker, a 4-foot-tall, 40-pound camera and backpack, that’s part of Google’s project to create a digital reflection of the world for people to explore and enjoy. Now, these spectacular places are online in Street View in Google Maps for the world to see.

“Much like Google, we are innovators. We find creative ways to engage people in conservation, and this partnership with Google is a brilliant illustration of that. Trekker expeditions spark curiosity, and give people all across the globe a view of the world they may never get to see in person. These treks will inspire a new generation to discover the outdoors and will foster a compassionate, respectful relationship with the natural world.”

Jazmin Varela, Information Manager, Strategic Conservation Planning, The Conservation Fund


The result is a virtual tour of 14 sites across the country where The Conservation Fund played a role in permanent protection. Some of these sites include:

Looking Forward

With more than 7.5 million acres protected across the country, we’ve got even more forests, landmarks and wilderness to capture, and we stand ready to work with Google to keep the masses connected to our natural world.