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Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Our Role

The Freshwater Institute partnered with Four Peaks Environmental Science & Data Solutions to complete the facility assessments and provide modernization recommendations for each hatchery. At each facility, the water sources, piping distributions systems, fish rearing equipment and buildings, influent water treatment and effluent treatment infrastructure were evaluated. Our experts worked closely with the hatchery staff to determine the facility-specific program needs and potential areas for improvements. The goal was to maximize the current facility infrastructure and footprint and provide solutions to challenges the hatchery was currently facing.

The hatcheries evaluated were Lahontan National Fish Hatchery, San Marcos Aquatic Research Center, Neosho National Fish Hatchery, Saratoga National Fish Hatchery, and Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery. Each facility was rearing different species with different conservation and mitigation goals, but all had similar concerns for water resiliency, flexible rearing space, biosecurity, and data management. Once all five site assessments were completed, a final modernization plan was developed to summarize overarching themes, challenges, and recommendations. The Freshwater Institute provided expertise through technical and biological review, program planning, and concept-level design to address specific issues for improvement.

USFWS Hatchery Modernization map 08 copy


Why this project matters

The goals of USFWS are to recover federally designated threatened or endangered species, restore imperiled species, improve recreational fishing and public use of aquatic resources, and fulfill tribal partnerships and trust responsibilities. Increasing demands on limited water resources, changing environmental conditions, and aging infrastructure jeopardize many hatcheries ability to meet those goals. This project created a framework for USFWS and all hatcheries to overcome their unique conservation and recreation challenges. The Freshwater Institute makes it a priority to share our knowledge and technical expertise and support the recovery and conservation of species across the U.S.
 Photo credit: pixdeluxe

In August 2020, we celebrated a historic conservation win with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which granted full and permanent funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This law nearly doubles the opportunities for federal land conservation across the U.S., so our federal agency partners will be looking to us now more than ever to help them advance and complete more extraordinary conservation projects. To meet the growing demand that LWCF will enable, we need to scale up our funding capabilities to take full advantage of what this new law is capable of doing for America’s land, water and communities.


What is LWCF?

LWCF is a federal funding source (roughly $900 million a year) that uses offshore drilling revenue—not taxpayer dollars—to enable conservation victories across the U.S. Funding from LWCF is what allows federal agencies to purchase land from us and other partners for permanent protection and public access. LWCF enables the protection of some of our most treasured natural places, enhances recreational access nationwide, and strengthens local economies. 

Places we’ve helped protect and/or enhance with LWCF include: 



How you can help

While we’re still celebrating this historic victory, and the ability to protect even more places like these, we’re also looking ahead. Full and permanent funding for LWCF essentially doubles the amount of money our federal partners can use on conservation each year. And while this will make it possible to protect more critical land and advance conservation for wildlife, recreation, local economies and nature-based solutions to climate change, it also doubles the demand on nonprofit conservation implementors, like us, to scale up and help federal and state agencies use LWCF to its full potential. 

To meet this new demand, we need help from supporters like you. Your support allows us to act quickly on behalf of our federal partners while they acquire the federal funding needed for their future purchase and protection. Help us ACT on the Great American Outdoors Act. Consider a gift today! 

Please contact Claire Cooney for more information. 

Related reading: 

Challenge

But America’s working forests are disappearing at an alarming rate and once they are gone, we all lose out. Our Working Forest Fund is a proven model that saves the most critical working forests before it is too late.  

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Photo by Ivan LaBianca

Action

In 2019, we turned to a unique source—the financial markets—to scale our model more quickly. We issued the first-ever green bonds to protect forests. In a bold move, we placed $150 million of unsecured ten-year bonds and put the proceeds to work. By the end of the year, a substantial portion of bond proceeds had been invested, along with other sources of funding, in five Working Forest Fund projects. Together, these 128,000 acres of working forestland will safeguard 750 jobs and sequester nearly 30 million tons of CO2 all while filtering drinking water downstream and providing unspoiled places to hike, hunt and play. 

But our work is not done. With our partners, we are working towards permanent conservation solutions for each of these forests and in turn we will then recycle the green bond proceeds into the next high priority forests. In order to continue scaling this effort, we plan to match the green bond funds with philanthropic support to multiply the impact and the acres of forest we can save. Because people, the planet and our economy depend on it.  

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“We believe this unique green bond offering will not only help combat climate change by protecting high conservation working forests but also ensure sustainable livelihoods for the communities that depend on those ecosystems.”

– Kevin Smith, Vice President, Goldman Sachs

 

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Three Rivers Forest, NY. Photo by Carl Heilman.


Why it matters

One of the working forests benefitting from the green bond is Three Rivers Forest—51,000-acres of exceptional hardwood timberland nestled in the heart of New York’s Adirondack Park and near the headwaters of the three major rivers flowing into the St. Lawrence River. Taking this property off the market buys us time to work with stakeholders to develop a long-term conservation plan for the forest so that it continues to provide economic, community and environmental benefits. 

We are sustainably managing this working forest in the interim, supporting timber-related jobs, hunting and fishing traditions, snowmobiling and other types of outdoor recreation opportunities that draw nearly 10 million visitors to the Adirondack region every year.  

Challenge

Forestry and agriculture are critical industries across the South and Georgia is no exception. Together, they contribute nearly $112 billion to the state’s economy annually. And Georgia happens to be home to the iconic gopher tortoise, a keystone species whose large burrow systems benefit and support around 350 other species. The gopher tortoise is federally protected in some areas, and  is a candidate for endangered species status in Georgia. If the gopher tortoise becomes federally protected in Georgia, it could have a significant negative impact on the timber and agricultural industry in the south. 

Action

In 2019, working together with Open Space Institute we purchased Ceylon, one of the largest undeveloped coastal, conservation-quality properties in the Southeast—land that is also home to one of the largest densities of gopher tortoises in the state. Working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, we helped establish a new Wildlife Management Area that will restore and protect gopher tortoise habitat, create space for public recreation and support Georgia’s working landscape.

Terms of use: Images are to be used by OSI in print and online sources. Credit to imagesshould read as: Photo by Mac Stone and linked back to artist in captions onsocial media. Instagram: @macstonephoto Facebook: @mac stonephotography. Images can be shared with GADNR under the same conditions,but should not be sublicensed to other third parties except for newspapersand press materials relating to OSI's conservation efforts on the Ceylonproperty. Photo by Mac Stone

 

“The Knobloch Family Foundation and its Directors are proud to support the permanent protection of this vital gopher tortoise habitat. The unique mix of coastal marsh and longleaf pine make it an ideal place for a Wildlife Management Area. The collaboration of many public and private partners is a big win for wildlife and the State of Georgia.”

– Eleanor Ratchford, Director, Knobloch Family Foundation



Why it matters

Together with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Open Space Institute, and federal and private partners, we are proving that conservation, protection and economic development can go hand-in-hand. Protecting the gopher tortoises at Ceylon will tip the scale, fortifying the future of this important species and the many jobs supported by the farming and forestry industries in Georgia. 

Challenge

In spring 2019, a rare super bloom of poppies created a frenzy. More than 800,000 visitors, photographers and nature lovers converged on Walker Canyon in southern California to view the vibrant hues of orange and yellow blanketing the vast hillsides. Thrilled by so many visitors enjoying and marveling at the site, the landowner wanted to protect his 271-acre property for future tourists and wildlife within Walker Canyon. So, he came to The Conservation Fund for help.  

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Walker Canyon. Photo by Ivan LaBianca

Action

We worked quickly to purchase the property and worked with Riverside County to adhere to the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). Established in 2003, it’s one of the largest MSHCP in the country and helps balance critical infrastructure and development projects with the conservation of habitat. Working alongside our partners Ecosystem Investment Partners and the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority, we focused on maintaining the environmental value of the poppy fields, ensuring future explosions of poppy blooms for the public, while also protecting essential habitat for the federally endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat and other rare species. 

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Stephens’ kangaroo rat. Photo by USFWS

“Working with The Conservation Fund, Ecosystem Investment Partners is pleased to be contributing to the goals of the Riverside County MSHCP, which include adding 153,000 acres to the public trust and protecting 146 different species. By providing acquisition funds, conducting biological surveys and working to identify parcels that meet the goals of the Regional Conservation Authority, our investments are contributing to the permanent protection of essential corridors and habitat."

- Glen Williams, Western Region Projects Director, Ecosystem Investment Partners



Why it matters

Urban regions often grapple with how to accommodate development while preserving their natural assets. Conservation and economic growth aren’t mutually exclusive yet striking the right balance between the two requires a thoughtful approach. Protection of the poppy field at Walker Canyon will successfully demonstrate the necessary role conservation plays in enabling sustainable development and economic growth. 

Loxa-Lucie area. Photo credit: G. Smith

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Photo credit: Barbara Birdsey
Over 11,000 acres of privately-owned land located west of the residential community of Hobe Sound separate Jonathan Dickinson and the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Parks. Located in Florida’s Atlantic Coastal Ridge, where the maximum elevation is 86 feet above sea level on Hobe Mountain, wetlands may have little to no surface water half of the year, and water flows are nearly undetectable during the dry season. But when skies darken and summer rains fall, water in formerly “isolated” wetlands flows south through Kitching Creek into the Loxahatchee River and north into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Numerous threatened and endangered plant species exist on several undeveloped tracts, which also serve as critical pathways for native fauna that move between the state parks.

In 2018, The Conservation Fund, The Guardians of Martin County and the Treasured Lands Foundation began developing a campaign to bring these key properties into conservation. Critical lands within the project area have been on the State’s Florida Forever list of desirable, at risk, parcels for years, but intense competition for limited state dollars has prevented the project from scoring high enough to attract state funding. These properties, which are situated at the edge of Martin County’s Primary Urban Services District, are subject to intense development pressure, as the demand for residences and urban development surges north from the megalopolis of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. In fact, this area is the last large undeveloped natural area of its kind east of I-95 that has not yet been claimed for development or conservation.

 

our role

Our coalition is working together to protect this last remaining wild area and these two watersheds that also feed into the Indian River Lagoon system. We are currently negotiating with the willing seller of a strategically-located, 138-acre representing two miles of frontage on Bridge Road—the sole infrastructure impediment that interrupts water flow and animal movement between Jonathan Dickinson and the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Parks.Great Egret in Loxa Lucie GBraun Great Egret in Loxa-Lucie.
Photo credit: G. Braun


The conservation of this property will protect water, wildlife, and preserve the rural character of the area. It will also help leverage funding from the State of Florida’s Florida Forever program towards protection of the larger Loxa-Lucie landscape.

 

Why It Matters

Many land speculators have had a different vision for this land, including carving it up into dozens of single-family residential homesites, which would interrupt surface and subsurface hydrologic flow and animal movement between the state parks and water flowing into the already endangered Indian River Lagoon system, the most biologically diverse estuary in the country. As our work across the United States has shown, purchasing land from willing sellers while it is still in restorable condition is much less expensive than trying to retrofit channelized water flow and address the habitat fragmentation that results from residential development.

Once these lands are brought into conservation management, they will be able to manage water flow into the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and provide opportunities for recreation for residents and visitors. They will also provide permanent protection for wildlife corridors, foraging and nesting habitat for native wildlife species including wood storks, snail kites and limpkins, and will maintain biodiversity in a corridor that links over 16,500 acres of existing state park lands.

 

what can you do?

Making A Gift To The Conservation Fund
On behalf of The Conservation Fund, thank you for your support of the Loxa-Lucie project. Your restricted gift will directly support the project acquisition costs associated with the purchase of the Loxa-Lucie project in Hobe Sound, FL.

Acknowledgements & Recognition
We formally acknowledge all contributions to The Conservation Fund by letter. Unless directed by the donor to remain anonymous, all gifts of $1,000 and more are recognized in The Conservation Fund’s annual report. Thank you for your thoughtful commitment.

Donation via Check
Checks should be made payable to The Conservation Fund. Please designate your gift by including Worldwide Fabrics/Bridge Rd, FL #26995 on the reference line and mail to The Conservation Fund’s headquarters: 1655 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 1300, Arlington, VA 22209

Donation online
To donate online to the Loxa-Lucie project, please click here.

Donation via Wire
Please contact Scott Tison at stison@conservationfund.org.

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Alligator lily. Photo credit: G. Smith

Suwannee River. Photo credit: Genevieve Dimmitt

This region has been a priority for conservation since the 1980s because it serves as a critical source of water for North Florida communities and supports one of the largest conservation and wildlife corridors east of the Mississippi River.

Proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s first-ever green bonds will enable us to protect thousands of acres within the headwaters of the Suwannee River and Osceola National Forest and to ultimately restore priority lands to longleaf pine. 

 

our role

In August 2020, the Fund acquired nearly 7,000 acres of the Suwannee River Woodlands. Located within one of the last remaining strongholds for longleaf pine in the Southeast, the woodlands will be sustainably managed over the next several years as a working forest, with the goal of adding all or a portion to Osceola National Forest and restoring it to longleaf pine. We are working to protect additional acreage in the region to expand this forest conservation effort.

This project is part of our Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.

To fund this land’s permanent protection, we are seeking support from several public programs including the Land and Water Conservation Fund and potentially other sources, including the USDA Forest Legacy Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Florida Forever—the state’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. We are also working with our partners to raise private support to complete this significant conservation effort.

 

Why It Matters

The Suwannee River Woodlands are located within the headwaters of the Suwannee River—the second largest river in Florida and one of the largest remaining free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. The Fund has worked over the last 20 years to protect the watershed of the Suwannee, from its headwaters to its estuary on the Gulf of Mexico. The protection and restoration of the Suwannee River Woodlands will expand these efforts, helping to filter the waters in which tens of thousands of people fish and recreate, and supporting climate resiliency.

In addition, the Suwannee River Woodlands provides habitat for numerous species, including Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, wood stork and many more. Once restored to longleaf pine—one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in the world—other species associated with this ecosystem will begin to return. Longleaf pine ecosystems provide habitat for 29 threatened and endangered species and more than 900 plants found nowhere else in the world. Longleaf pine forests also provide clean air and water and can act as an economic driver for local communities. This project will advance regional efforts to protect and restore 8 million acres of significant longleaf pine ecosystems across the Southeast.

 

we need your help

The Conservation Fund is actively raising funds for a permanent conservation solution for these lands. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Suwannee River Woodlands please contact Callie Hastings Easterly.

Farm in the Path of Development, Tazewell County, Illinois.
Illinois is one of highest density farmland states with some of most productive soils in the world. Yet, across the state, expanding metropolitan growth and low density development is consuming and threatening to convert that farmland. Illinois also has a dramatic need for improved habitat solutions. Illinois’ vulnerable wildlife species need better and more connected habitat across the board, but there are only limited, stretched resources to support solutions. At the same time, Illinois’ agricultural land contributes a disproportionately high amount of nutrient run-off to the Mississippi River and Gulf Hypoxia. Public and private partners across Illinois launched the Illinois Working Lands, Water and Wildlife Partnership to address these problems.

Our Role

The Conservation Fund launched the partnership in direct response to the varied farmland, habitat and water quality needs in Illinois. Serving as lead partner, The Fund works with project and funding partners – including Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and Kinship Foundation and the Searle Funds at Chicago Community Trust – to prioritize and implement key projects.

With an investment of $8.1M from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the project will use permanent agricultural land easements to build protected habitat corridors along targeted stream segments in Illinois. The project will also support diversified farm operations transitioning to organic, agroforestry and other perennial systems, and use of continuous living cover such as cover crops.

Why this project matters

The Partnership creates a new model by stacking resources targeting habitat, resources targeting water quality and partner capacity and expertise. The Partnership will ultimately accelerate the use of conservation easements to slow farmland conversion, increase acreage for vulnerable wildlife, accomplish measurable improvements in soil health and water quality, and support farm economic resiliency.

Learn more

USDA Press Release
Farm in the Path of Development, Tazewell County, Illinois.

Challenge

America’s food system has been showing significant signs of stress for some time. School kids don’t always have access to healthy foods and our small farms are disappearing—and now with a pandemic, store shelves are often empty. As we take stock of the need for fresh, nutritious, accessible and affordable food, the question becomes, how do we build a better food system?

ACTION

We are piloting the Working Farms Fund, a first-of-its kind program in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia that is addressing that question. We are connecting next generation farmers who are interested in owning their own farms with farmland, and we are securing commitments from sustainable food buyers in the area to complete this critical supply chain. Through conservation easements and lease-to-own options, farmers will come out of our program owning their own farms with developed markets for their local products.

Emory University, metro Atlanta’s largest employer, has robust goals for sourcing its food locally and sustainably and has been an early partner in the program. Emory has committed to working directly with farmers in our program on purchase agreements to buy food from farmers for its university and hospitals, establishing a steady, direct-to-market pipeline that will improve profit margins for farmers. 

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Photo by Stacy Funderburke.

Why It Matters

Together with our farmers and partners, we are creating a vibrant economy that increases the supply of local and healthy food, connects urban and rural communities, and supports economic viability for small to mid-size farm businesses. While we are currently working with farmers in and around Atlanta, our goal is to raise additional funding to replicate the Georgia model across the country, transforming local food production and financially empowering coming generations of American farmers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really woken people up about the benefits of healthy living and knowing where their food comes from. I hope it is becoming clear how vitally important it is to create a web of small farms around major cities to ensure food security for residents. If people have farms close by, where they can actually go feel and taste and see it for themselves, they may be more willing to take the extra steps to buy local and organic and spend money for the value they are getting. This kind of farming is quality farming.”

– Nicolas Donck, Owner, Crystal Organic Farm, Atlanta, GA

Learn more

Cherokee National Forest. Photo courtesy of VW.

Challenge

In the U.S., Volkswagen calls Tennessee home. When the automaker undertook a major expansion of its electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, being a good neighbor was top of mind. The company turned to The Conservation Fund and asked us to design solutions that would help support conservation and communities around the new facility.

ACTION

Volkswagen made a donation to help us add nearly 1,500 acres of public land within a day’s drive of its plant—to the Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee’s only national forest. We also teamed up on community-level initiatives, establishing a grant program to support nonprofits, schools and public agencies in eastern Tennessee that will improve water quality, increase access to outdoor recreation and advance environmental education. To top it off, Volkswagen is leading the creation of a mural in downtown Chattanooga to inspire the community and illustrate the natural beauty of Cherokee National Forest, inside the heart of the city.

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Cherokee National Forest. Photo courtesy of VW.


Why It Matters

Cherokee National Forest is located within one of the most biologically diverse temperate regions in the world. It is home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and many whitewater and wilderness areas that offer recreation opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. By combining corporate support with our ability to do good conservation and community work, our partnership with Volkswagen is making a real difference.

“Our work with The Conservation Fund will help strengthen the environment and help us give back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live. This collaboration in our own backyard underscores our ‘Drive Bigger’ goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves and then taking action. We feel a responsibility to show how a major automaker can credibly contribute to the greater good.”

– Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America

Learn more