December 7, 2020|By Larry Selzer| Support our Efforts

A Time of Reflection and Focus for 2021 and Beyond

Here are some of the things we are keenly focused on:

  • Accelerating progress on natural climate solutions to address climate change, specifically through the protection of America’s last remaining large, intact working forests.
  • Ensuring we are fully prepared to help implement the Great American Outdoors Act, especially the full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Continuing the integration of equity, diversity and inclusion into our programs and across our organization, like our work to transform dispirited and dull city spaces into green, vibrant public spaces in one of the most underserved communities in Richmond, California.

Let’s take each in turn…

1. Natural climate solutions and the protection of America’s working forests play a central role in addressing climate change. Protecting our forests is the most cost-effective natural climate solution with the largest potential, and lowest cost, to help mitigate the amount of CO2e needed to keep global warming below 2°C through 2030. You might be asking: ‘What is a working forest?’ They are forests that produce the products we use every single day, from toilet paper to two-by-fours. They provide outdoor spaces to explore and clean our air and drinking water. These forests also sequester over a half-billion metric tons of CO2e, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of over 100 million vehicles. Finally, 8.6 million American jobs are supported by the forest products industry—roughly the population of New York City. Our nation’s working forests have a high risk of fragmentation and development, and if we don’t step in and protect them now, they will be lost forever.

But there’s good news. The Conservation Fund has created a scalable solution to change the trajectory of forest loss in America. For the past 10 years, we’ve built our Working Forest Fund model to conserve these last, intact working forests. And we have strong results to show. By investing more than $500 million to acquire over 750,000 acres across 16 states, and then establishing management plans for these forests that allows them to be harvested, we are able to keep jobs and the tax base intact for the nearby rural communities. Permanent protection is ensured by placing conservation easements on these lands, which means they will remain forests forever. Finally, we resell the forests, protected by the easement, back into the private market, allowing us to recapture our investment and use it to acquire the next important forest. This is the future of forest protection in America. By raising a combination of impact investment and philanthropic capital to permanently secure the first million acres of critical forests, we will lay the foundation for our goal of protecting five million acres of working forests. While we are making great strides, we continue to need your support.

12 7 20 Minnesota Heritage Forest MN 005 c Jay BrittainWe recently announced our purchase of over 72,000 acres of working forests in Minnesota from PotlatchDeltic, one of the largest acquisitions in state history. These forests play an important role in mitigating climate change by absorbing over 19 million metric tons of CO2e, equivalent to the emissions from more than 4 million vehicles annually. Photo by Jay Brittain.

2. The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act has unlocked a historic opportunity to accelerate land conservation across the country. We must be ready to act quickly.
For the first time since its creation in 1964, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important conservation program, has been fully and permanently funded thanks to the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. This historic victory essentially doubles the annual amount of LWCF funds available for the protection of public lands for outdoor recreation, while helping support rural, nature-based economies and strengthen climate resiliency.  

But there’s a missing link. When landowners are ready to sell their properties, it often takes time for federal and state agencies to get the LWCF funds in hand to buy them. Our Revolving Fund was established in 1986 to address this very issue. It provides the ready conservation capital to make these projects possible.

While the opportunity is great, the stakes are high. Our Revolving Fund is currently over extended—meaning the demand for it is outpacing the amount of money available to acquire critically important lands when they come on the market. Our Revolving Fund revolves in and out of projects on average every two years. And this will continue in perpetuity! That’s why raising new funds for conservation is a top priority for us, and we hope it will be for you, too.

12 7 20 Grand Teton c David StubbsMost recently, our Revolving Fund enabled The National Park Service’s protection of a key property within Grand Teton National Park that preserves the iconic landscape of the Teton Range, prevents residential development and protects important habitat for a variety of wildlife. Photo by David Stubbs.

3. Continue to support and integrate equity, diversity and inclusion into our programs and across our organization. This is the right thing for people and for nature. While we have had very strong successes with community-driven conservation and equity efforts in underserved parts of Atlanta, Georgia, Baltimore, Maryland, Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, and Richmond, California, we are now exploring new ways to scale up our activities to reach more communities and engage even more people. In addition to working hard within our organization to address these issues—reinvigorating our EDI Committee, and encouraging our staff to participate in co-create of the future of our company culture—we must also expand our efforts nationwide. This isn’t simply a ‘nice to do;’ it’s a ‘must do.’

12 7 20 yellowbrickroad c Pogo ParkParks with Purpose—our community-driven program focused on the environment, the local economy, and most importantly, the people—continues to be successful in Richmond, California. Children and residents of the underserved Iron Triangle community are now able to enjoy the newly expanded Harbour-8 Park. Photo by Pogo Park.

Clearly there are no shortage of important things to do for conservation in America, but these are among our top priorities. I hope you find solace in nature this holiday season, and that you will join us on this journey.

12 7 20 Larry Selzer signature

Written By

Larry Selzer

Larry Selzer is President and CEO of The Conservation Fund. Appointed in 2001, he has led the Fund through significant growth while advancing its environmental and economic goals.