April 18, 2022 |Larry Selzer | Support Our efforts

Earth Day 2022: Investing in Conservation Yields Many Positive Returns

The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in our Planet.” An investment is an act of devoting time, money, effort or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result. It’s doing something today that empowers change and creates a better outcome for the future.

America is investing in its gray infrastructure – building new roads, replacing old bridges, updating rail lines, enhancing energy transmission, and improving fiber optic networks and broadband internet access. But if we truly want to create a vibrant future, we also need to invest in our green infrastructure, like working forests, local farms and critical natural landscapes that people and wildlife depend on.

Investing in land protection is the most essential investment we can make because these lands provide us with clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and places to build outdoor recreation economies that support 4.3 million jobs nationwide – good jobs that cannot be exported overseas.


Photo by Jay Brittain.


And of course, these lands are our first line of defense against climate change. U.S. forests alone absorb more than 12% of our nation’s annual carbon emissions, and combined with agricultural land, ranch land and other open spaces, a whole lot more.

On top of that, protecting public lands and enhancing recreational access is an investment in our national economy. Visitor spending in communities surrounding National Park Service units in 2020 resulted in a $28.6 billion benefit to the economy and supported 234,000 jobs.

For more than 37 years, The Conservation Fund has been investing in America. To date, we have acquired over 8.5 million acres of land across all 50 states valued at more than $7.2 billion. These lands have yielded tremendous economic, cultural, health, climate and recreational returns.

For example in California’s North Coast redwood region, The Conservation Fund has protected over 120,000 acres of forestland and currently manages 74,000 of those acres using both sound environmental strategy and comprehensive economics—including a “light-touch” harvest regimen, sales of carbon offsets and a supply of local jobs. In 2020, these working forests contributed $3.5M in local economic output and generated 359,253 verified forest carbon offsets, which is equivalent to the emissions from over 891 million miles driven by average gasoline-powered passenger vehicles.

Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

In Alaska, we are currently working diligently to secure conservation funding for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could permanently protect globally important wildlife habitat in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. This critical ecosystem supports a 137-year-old commercial fishery, over 15,000 jobs, and 57% of the global sockeye salmon harvests, with $77 million generated by sportfishing alone. If we are successful in raising $20 million by the end of 2022, this project would also impede the construction of an industrial-scale road needed by the proposed Pebble Mine.

Photo by Jason Ching.

In addition to sustaining economic vitality, investments in land protection have stimulated natural resource economies and created benefits that otherwise would never have happened. In the heart of southern West Virginia where former coal fields had fueled the country, The Conservation Fund made an investment by purchasing over 32,000 acres, enabling the creation of the state’s largest, conserved block of prime habitat for elk restoration. We then worked with Partner Community Capital, a community development financial institution created by the Fund, and the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority to support tourism-related small businesses in region. This investment is expected to create 200 new jobs and 20 new businesses, as well as leverage $5 million in private investments in the region.

On this Earth Day and every day after, let’s invest in America together. Let’s invest in land protection and improved sustainable management today to lay the foundation for an even brighter, healthier, prosperous and vibrant tomorrow. Join us!

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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.