December 27, 2021 |The Conservation Fund

Forests, Food and More Conservation Triumphs from 2021

Protecting Critical Forests

Pelican River Forest. Photo by Jay Brittain.

Protecting mature, intact forests in the U.S. is one of the most effective ways we can combat climate change right now. This year, we acquired over 127,000 acres of sensitive working forestland across the country through our Working Forest Fund® program. They are now on a path towards permanent conservation for recreational, wildlife and water quality benefits, while supporting local jobs and economies.

Our purchase of the 70,000-acre Pelican River Forest in northern Wisconsin this October secured the largest privately-owned, unprotected block of forest remaining in the state. Under our temporary ownership, we will work to secure this forestland in a way that continues to support the local timber economy, safeguard wildlife habitat and provide public recreational access. Located along the Continental Divide, this landscape plays an important climate role, storing roughly 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)—comparable to the emissions from 4.1 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year

Columbia Gorge Forest. Photos courtesy of @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock.

But large forest conservation deals like this can be challenging. Luckily those intricate efforts are where we shine. In fact, The Conservation Fund, through an affiliate, completed one of our most complex deals to date this November with the purchase of 35,000 acres of working forestlands spanning across the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Washington (two states and four counties). Not only is the Columbia Gorge Forest ecosystem of oak, pine, and other coniferous trees and wildlife habitat critical to our fight against climate change, it is also one of the nation’s most pristine destinations for kayaking and has important cultural significance to the Yakama Nation.

Improving Our Food System

Photo by Steve Orr.

We recognize that the land and those who nurture it are the backbone of many systems—including our food system, which has seen unparalleled interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting our nation’s farmers and those who help get food to our local stores, restaurants and tables is an important part of our dual charter mission of environmental conservation and economic growth.

Our Working Farms Fund program has seen tremendous success in 2021. In Atlanta, where the program first launched, we have four farm teams expanding their operations and working larger farm sites across the metro region. Love is Love Cooperative Farm (our program’s first farm) recently completed their first delivery of produce to Emory University as part of a corporate partnership. Additionally, we’re working to build the program’s success and expand into Chicago! Read the Working Farms Fund’s latest feature in the New York Times.

Love is Love Farm harvested their first sweet potatoes at their new, expanded farm site this fall (left: photo courtesy of Love is Love Farm). Those sweet potatoes were then delivered to our partner chefs at Emory University (right: photo courtesy of Stacy Funderburke).

In North Carolina, our Resourceful Communities team has been on the front lines of COVID-19 food relief efforts, issuing grants to rural organizations that address food insecurity and strengthen local food economies—both critical goals, especially during the pandemic. We’ve found that supporting local and often BIPOC-led groups is one of the most effective ways to serve communities. Learn more about this year’s grants and how we can continue to improve food security efforts nationwide.

Wildlife & Recreation

Wildlife & Recreation

2021 was also an exceptional year for conservation solutions that benefit both people and wildlife. We know that a healthy environment and healthy economy go hand in hand. When nature and wildlife are thriving, so are recreational and economic opportunities in nearby communities.

For example, the Bristol Bay region of Alaska is a pristine and important place. It’s home to the largest wild salmon fishery in the world and supports over 15,000 jobs. Some of the most significant watersheds for salmon are located in the heart of Bristol Bay, in the northeastern end of Iliamna Lake. It’s here that the Pedro Bay Corporation, an Alaska Native village corporation, has remained a longstanding steward of the critical fish and wildlife habitat and traditional cultural resources currently threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine project. Earlier this year we announced our intent, in tandem with the corporation and other partners, to conserve 44,000 acres of this vital place. Learn more about the Pedro Bay Rivers effort and how you can help.

Photo courtesy of EOL Learning + Education. 

Similarly, Mispillion Harbor on the Delaware Bay is one of the most critical stopover points for the imperiled Red Knot shorebird during their annual marathon migration each spring. This spectacle is a renowned event for bird watchers and attracts tourists from all over the world to the Delaware Bay region. This year, after a 15-year conservation effort, we were able to secure Mispillion Harbor’s final piece of shorefront so this important place could be protected forever. Learn more.

And in the southern tip of Texas, another endangered species saw enhanced protections this year. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge supports one of the last two remaining populations of ocelots in Texas. In 2021, we helped expand the Refuge not just for ocelot habitat protection, but also to enhance recreational access and tourism for the Rio Grande Valley region. Learn more.

Ocelot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of USFWS.

We can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store. To support our future work, please consider a gift to The Conservation Fund this holiday season. Your help will allow us to continue making tangible impacts like these for nature and people for years to come.

Written by

The Conservation Fund

At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.8 million acres of land.