December 26, 2022|By Claire Cooney| Support our Efforts

Four Ways We Enriched 2022 Through Conservation

As America’s leader in land conservation, The Conservation Fund is committed to protecting the places that matter most. Whether it’s your favorite national park, a unique historic site or a local family farm, how we care for our land has an impact on our quality of life, our understanding of the past and our future prosperity. That’s why we put 95% of our annual spending into the mission of effective and meaningful conservation. And this year, thanks to your help, we’re confident we have achieved that goal.

We are honored to share a few of our most impactful efforts this year. We hope you’ll consider being a part of future change-making by supporting our work today.

1. Expanding access to nature

More than ever, people are seeking outdoor spaces to explore, reflect and enjoy. From local community parks to vast wildernesses, we’ve helped secure hundreds of sites for public access across the country this year thanks to support from many partners and funding sources like the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

For example, the former Marton Ranch in Wyoming is over 35,000 acres of pristine wildlife habitat, including roughly 11 miles of the North Platte River — a premier rainbow trout fly-fishing destination. We were able to work with the Bureau of Land Management to conserve this wild landscape, while simultaneously creating a block of 80,000 contiguous acres for public use and increasing fishing access to one of the best fishing experiences in America, for all to enjoy moving forward. 

12 27 22 Marton Ranch Wyoming photo by Ben HerndonFishing on the North Platte River at the former Marton Ranch, Wyoming. Photo by Ben Herndon.

There’s also the Vistoso Preserve, formerly known as the Rancho Vistoso golf course, in Arizona. This abandoned golf course became a beloved community nature area, ripe with wildlife, native plant species, Native American petroglyphs and even an existing walking trail. But its future was uncertain until The Conservation Fund purchased the land earlier this year and secured its future for the town of Oro Valley and its residents.

12 27 22 Vistoso Sunset Credit Bill Murray and Preserve VistosoVistoso Preserve in Arizona. Photo by Bill Murray.

2022 also marked the completion of a multi-year effort to conserve nearly 6,400 acres of working forestland that encompass 27% of the Beebe River watershed in New Hampshire. The land shares a 6.5-mile border with the White Mountain National Forest and allows access to 150 miles of hiking trails. It’s also great for water quality and wildlife habitat!

12 27 22 Beebe River NH c Stacy FunderburkeBeebe River in New Hampshire. Photo by Stacy Funderburke.

 

2. Protecting at-risk Black history sites

Some of the most important sites in our nation’s history face the risk of being lost or forgotten every day. Urban sprawl and pressure from development endanger important places where Black Americans changed the course of history. It has been an essential part of our mission to secure historic and culturally significant land, and this year we accelerated our efforts and helped protect some of the nation’s most at-risk Black history sites for future generations.

One of those places was Elkonia Beach in Annapolis, Maryland. From the 1930s to 1960s, Black families traveled from across the region to visit Elkonia Beach — a sandy bayfront utopia open for swimming, boating, picnicking and performances from musical legends like James Brown, Etta James and Stevie Wonder. Thanks to a collaborative conservation effort earlier this year, we’ve ensured the beach is now officially protected as a City of Annapolis heritage park and is publicly accessible for all.

12 27 22 Elkonia Carrs Beach Will Parson Chesapeake Bay ProgramIn August 2022, many gathered to celebrate the protection of the historic Elkonia/Carr’s Beach in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program. 

Another example is the former Chattahoochee Brick Company site in Atlanta, which was designated one of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Top 10 ‘Places in Peril’ before we acquired it in June. In the 1870s, the Chattahoochee Brick Company was a brickworks business known for its extensive use of convict lease labor, which forced hundreds of mostly African American men to work in conditions like those experienced during antebellum slavery. Despite the site’s historical importance, and several attempts by the City of Atlanta and environmental nonprofits to secure the land, it eventually became the location of a proposed rail terminal. Luckily, The Conservation Fund was able to step in and negotiate a conservation solution for the property. Now, it is owned by the city and is being restored as a memorial and riverfront park.

12 27 22 Chattahoochee Brick Stacy FunderburkeThe former Chattahoochee Brick Company site in Atlanta. Photo by Stacy Funderburke. 

And the momentum will continue. In fact, we recently entered into a partnership with the City of Montgomery and other communities in Alabama’s Black Belt region to revitalize a strategy for preservation along and around the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights Trail over the next several years.

 

3. Securing land for Native and Indigenous peoples

We completed two historic transactions with immense cultural and tribal significance this year. In the largest land-back effort in U.S. and Indian Country history, we partnered with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe to restore 28,000 acres of our Minnesota’s Heritage Forest to the Band for their ongoing ownership, stewardship and protection. Nearly 40% of our 72,000-acre Minnesota’s Heritage Forest lands were located within the Band’s reservation boundary. By returning that land to the Band, we ensure an enduring and sustainable solution for both the environment and communities.

The second effort was the protection of an additional 3,500 acres at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado. The Sand Creek Massacre is one of the most tragic events in America’s history and marked a major turning point in Native American-white relations. After nearly two decades of working to further secure land within the historic site boundary, 2022 was the year for long-awaited results at the site. In October, to commemorate this significant addition to the park, we were joined by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, National Park Service Director Charles Sams, representatives of the Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, and many others. Tribal descendants and park visitors can now more fully memorialize and interpret this essential chapter in our nation’s history.

12 27 22 Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site CO credit U.S. Department of the InteriorA dedication event at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Interior.  

 

4. Spearheading local solutions to tackle national issues

Some of our nation’s most daunting challenges like food security, public health and the climate crisis may feel larger than life. But it’s so often the local, grassroots, on-the-ground efforts that make the most meaningful impact.

Just look at our nation’s farmland and food system. According to a recent survey from the National Young Farmers Coalition, young farmers reported that buying affordable farmland is their top challenge in 2022. In fact, over 40% of farmland in the U.S. is rented. Our Working Farms Fund program is conserving agricultural land in metro areas and helping dozens of farmers forge a path toward affordable farm ownership. The program launched in Atlanta in 2021 and we expanded into Chicago in 2022!

12 27 22 Working Farms Fund Love is Love c Addison HillLove is Love Farm in Atlanta was the first group of farmers to join our Working Farms Fund program. Photo by Addison Hill. 

There’s also the rapid loss of our country’s working forests and vast wildernesses to think about. These landscapes provide essential natural solutions to mitigate climate change and support economic opportunities nationwide. To help ensure a better tomorrow, our Working Forest Fund® program has impacted nearly 900,000 acres of forests at-risk of fragmentation and conversion to non-forest uses. It’s estimated that forests in our program store almost 215.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent to date and support roughly 6,650 jobs.

12 27 22 Chadbourne Forest ME c EcoPhotographyThe Conservation Fund’s Chadbourne Tree Farm working forest in Maine. Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography. 

Another example is Alaska’s Bristol Bay. This landscape is globally significant for the millions of wild salmon that spawn in its lakes and rivers, supporting commercial and recreational fishing industries and subsistence harvest. Yet all of this is threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine project. We embarked on an ambitious endeavor to protect over 44,000 acres of vital habitat on Iliamna Lake watersheds that are essential to the health and vitality of Bristol Bay and the people who rely on the natural and cultural resources these lands provide. In December 2022, we were able to complete that historic, once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunity so that Bristol Bay can continue to support robust salmon runs and the local and Indigenous communities for years to come.

12 27 22 Pedro Bay AK c Bri DwyerGrizzly bear family in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Photo by Bri Dwyer. 

2022 was a remarkable year for conservation, but we already have our eyes set on what we can achieve together in the coming year to create a better future for nature and communities. Come along with us on the journey! I am humbled by your incredible support, and if you feel inspired by the stories above, please consider a gift to The Conservation Fund today. Thank you for your support! 

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Written By

Claire Cooney

Claire Cooney is Vice President of Development and Marketing & Communications at The Conservation Fund, where she supervises the fundraising and marketing teams to amplify the Fund’s mission and secure funding for projects, programs and the Revolving Fund. She drives the Fund’s integrated messaging outreach to current and prospective donors by sharing the compelling personal stories of our work. Claire grew up in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee and now lives in North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time in nature.