June 17, 2024 |The Conservation Fund

Springing Into Action: 2024 Midyear Spotlight

And as we look ahead to the second half of 2024, please know that there are more amazing conservation efforts underway and projects to be completed that benefit wildlife, people and local economies. Together we are making positive and lasting impacts on key landscapes!

Preserving Maine’s Natural Beauty

Photo by EcoPhotography.

Oxford Forest Preserve, ME

The Conservation Fund recently completed our third collaboration with the Western Foothills Land Trust in Maine to create the Oxford Forest Preserve. TCF sold the 83-acre property, containing diverse habitats from forests to wetlands and over 1,000 feet of riverfront along the Little Androscoggin River, to the land trust in February 2024.

Named after the town of Oxford, the new Oxford Forest Preserve is already helping to build connections between people and the outdoors. The land trust envisions engaging students from many nearby schools through forest classrooms and plans to develop hiking trails and visitor infrastructure for public access including hiking, snowshoeing, fishing and mountain biking.

“Connecting children with nature, in nature, is critical to all our futures. The new Oxford Forest Preserve is a win for the environment and education.”

- Tom Duffus, Vice President & Northeast Representative, The Conservation Fund

We’re proud to continue our work securing forestland important to the people in Maine! Oxford Forest Preserve protects wildlife habitats and provides an educational resource and clean water sources for locals and visitors alike.

The Farm-to-People Trend in Georgia

Photo courtesy of Deer Creek.

Deer Creek Farms, Chattahoochee Hills, GA

What began as two blueberry bushes for Merlon and Joe Harper grew to numerous fruit crops and evolved into Deer Creek Farms at Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. Named after the deer in the area that would eat everything but the blueberries, Deer Creek Farms became a successful farming business and is expanding with the help of our Georgia Farms Fund.

This spring, we matched the Harpers to an additional 64-acre farm to help achieve their goal of greater crop production and to meet the demand for local blueberries and vegetables. The added land will also help them build a farmhouse, a commercial kitchen and a storefront for education and agritourism.

“The Barnes property that TCF secured on behalf of Deer Creek Farms is one of the last best farms in Fulton County, home to the city of Atlanta. With idyllic pastures and flat crop land, it is the perfect farm to grow the local food movement in Chattahoochee Hills.”

- Krisztián Varsa, Director, Farms Fund, The Conservation Fund

By helping connect the Harpers to highly arable land, we also prevented commercial development in an area seeing significant developmental pressures. The new farmland even includes wetlands, natural forests, streams and a lake to support biodiversity.

The Harpers made a lifestyle change from urban dwelling to farm living, which has led them to create a model for a healthy, regenerative local food system and sustainable development. Deer Creek Farms is another great example of the work done by our Farms Fund, which continues to connect a new generation of farmers to protected farmland while increasing food security near metropolitan areas like Atlanta.

Protecting Land for All Seasons

Photo by The Conservation Fund.

Upper Ugashik Lake, AK

Alaska’s lands represent globally significant habitats that span a diversity of ownerships. Over the last five years, The Conservation Fund worked to acquire more than 2,000 acres of education trust lands across the state from the University of Alaska. This programmatic effort has protected habitat for numerous species, ranging from migratory birds, Cook Inlet beluga whales, salmon, seals, otters, whales, moose, mountain goats and foxes. These acres also include:

  • Five miles of coastline in the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge,
  • Two and a half miles of the Kasilof River,
  • Seven miles of trails in Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge and
  • Inholdings at Kachemak Bay State Park

Most recently, we secured 473 acres of shoreline on Upper Ugashik Lake. The Ugashik Lake system is among the largest salmon spawning sites in Bristol Bay, producing over 4.3 million sockeye and 70,000 chinook, chum, pink and coho salmon during the seasonal running.  These runs are the foundation of the regional ecosystem and a cornerstone of the globally significant Bristol Bay commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries.

And as education trust lands, these acquisitions had the additional benefit of generating $1,523,000 in revenue for the University of Alaska system from non-state funds, directly supporting educational programs and student scholarships. This conservation work is a win-win for wildlife, students and the State of Alaska.

“Ugashik Lakes host a seasonal explosion of life, and the project contributes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to preserve access to this refuge for all species. The Fund is proud to continue our programmatic effort to acquire University of Alaska education trust land, achieving conservation outcomes while funding public education with non-state dollars.”

- John Wros, Field Representative (AK and Northwest Region), The Conservation Fund

Preserving Forests to Foster Climate Resilience

Photo courtesy of Kirste Kowalsky.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, AZ

The Conservation Fund added an additional 160 acres to Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in 2024. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Services, we secured this property to help protect Apache-Sitgreaves from mounting development threats and urban sprawl from Phoenix and neighboring towns.

Named after the Apache people of central and eastern Arizona and Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves, who led Arizona’s inaugural scientific-mapping expedition in the 1850s, this national forest attracts thousands of visitors each year to enjoy hiking, camping, fishing and wildlife. The forest provides habitat for over 400 species of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, antelope, elk, bighorn sheep and various bird and aquatic species.

“The Conservation Fund’s Arizona team aims to preserve our natural wonderland, so we can nourish our souls and benefit wildlife for years to come! We unite with purpose, working together to defend our heritage and create a legacy of conservation.”

- Kirste Kowalsky, Southwest Representative (AZ/NM), The Conservation Fund

This unique forest is rich in archaeological resources, including prehistoric sites like hunting grounds and ancient pueblos, resembling those of the Hopi and Zuni. Rock shelters, caves, and rock art, dating roughly from 900 to 600 years ago, are scattered throughout the forest, particularly along the Mogollon Rim and the Blue River.

Now under permanent protection within the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, this parcel of land plays a crucial role in combating the effects of climate change and wildfires in the region. We take pride in contributing to the reinforcement of climate resilience in northern Arizona and safeguarding the integrity of this terrain amidst its diverse environmental tapestry for the benefit of future generations. With its varied landscapes, including mountains, pine forests, and high desert, this remarkable terrain holds significant ecological and historical value.

Written by

The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms.