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Photo credit: Ben Herndon

It is extremely rare to find ecologically valuable, unfragmented and undeveloped land of this size in the U.S. The Marton Ranch is a keystone portion of the North Platte region, which supports rare wildlife habitat and is a beloved recreational destination.

For over 40 years the Marton family has conducted their agricultural operations in a way that’s maintained and stewarded the conservation value of the land, and those working lands operations will continue. In 2022, the family worked with The Conservation Fund and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to see their ranch and legacy permanently protected as part of the North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area.

Photos of the Marton Ranch property taken by Ben Herndon.

Why It Matters

Protecting Marton Ranch has enabled BLM to secure over 70,000 acres of contiguous public land, equivalent to more than 118 square miles, that will be protected and open for public access in perpetuity. The property includes roughly 11 miles of the blue-ribbon North Platte River and the entirety of the famed Grey Reef section of the river, which is considered a premier rainbow trout fly-fishing destination. In fact, American Angler Magazine has named it the #1 spot in the lower 48 states to catch trophy rainbow and brown trout. Prior to BLM’s ownership, fishing access had been limited.

The property’s unique riparian habitat makes it a haven for numerous wildlife species, including herds of antelope, elk, both white-tailed and mule deer, various duck species, turkey, sandhill crane, potential golden eagle nesting habitat, and a wintering bald eagle population. It is also considered core habitat for sage grouse—a near-threatened species in the U.S.

Just half an hour outside of Casper, this land is a popular destination for local outdoor enthusiasts and area visitors. These outdoor opportunities, especially fishing and rafting along the Gray Reef, will be an important economic driver for the area. Tourism is the #2 driver of Wyoming’s economy, and outdoor recreation generates roughly $5.6 billion in consumer spending annually for the state, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Marton Wyoming lo

Former ranch owner, Randy Marton (left) and Dan Schlager, Wyoming State Director at The Conservation Fund (right) stand in front of North Platte River on the Marton Ranch property.


Protecting Marton Ranch was an unprecedented and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For more than three decades, conservation of the Marton Ranch has been a top priority, and during that last 5 years The Conservation Fund worked closely with the Marton family to help them find a conservation solution for their land. In 2022, we purchased the ranch and then transferred it to the BLM for their permanent protection and management so it could benefit the Wyoming community for generations to come.

Funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) made the conservation of the Marton Ranch possible. LWCF is a federal funding source that uses offshore drilling revenue—not taxpayer dollars—to support conservation victories across the U.S. In 2020, the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act allocated full and permanent funding (about $900 million) to the LWCF program, expanding our opportunities for greater conservation in Wyoming and nationwide.

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Pedestrian walkway over Little Coal River in Madison, WV. Photo by The Conservation Fund.
Photo credit: Freshwater Institute

This partnership builds on recent efforts between the two groups that validated the effectiveness of Cargill’s new diet for Atlantic salmon grown in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). The partners started working together in 2018, and the collaboration continues through 2023 and beyond.

Diets fed within RAS must meet the nutritional requirements of fish while causing minimal impact on the fish culture environment. When substandard diets are fed, water quality deteriorates resulting in a range of negative consequences including impaired fish health and performance, inhibited conversion of ammonia to less toxic nitrate, increased water and energy use by filtration devices, and elevated risk for pollution discharge.

Our Role

The Freshwater Institute provides fish, experimental systems, research facilities, and a world-class team of scientists, engineers, and fish culturists to comprehensively evaluate the effects of newly developed diets provided by Cargill.

  • Fish production personnel maintain continuous operation of replicate RAS while carefully raising Atlantic salmon from egg to market-size. Fish growth, health, welfare, and feed conversion are regularly assessed.
  • Water chemistry professionals perform chemical, biological, and physical testing of water quality.
  • An aquatic veterinarian regularly evaluates fish health through gill, skin, and organ tissue histopathology sampling.
  • Research scientists analyze data to characterize effects of diets on fish performance, nitrification, solids removal efficiency, waste production metrics, and fillet quality attributes.


Research findings from this collaborative project are validating the effectiveness of commercial diets for land-based salmon farming. Results from these studies are helping to ensure that land-based salmon producers have access to diets that support excellent water quality, optimized fish performance, and minimized pollution thereby improving long-term sustainability and economic success.

Credit: The Conservation Fund

Over the past three decades, The Conservation Fund has focused on conserving the critical upland and wetland habitats found within the Suwannee River watershed. By utilizing proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s pioneering green bonds, a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, and a grant from the EJK Foundation we will be able to safeguard thousands of additional acres of riverfront forestland in southeast Georgia from conversion and development, enhance recreational access, support climate and fire resiliency, and enable longleaf pine habitat restoration.

Our Role

Since our founding, The Conservation Fund has protected over 168,000 acres in Georgia including thousands of acres of working forests and farmlands. In November 2021, we purchased 8,760 acres along a 14-mile stretch of the ecologically sensitive upper Suwannee River in Clinch County, Georgia.  

Our purchase and interim ownership of these lands, now referred to as Suwannee River Headwaters Forest, provides time to develop permanent conservation strategies over the next few years that aim to increase public recreational access to the river, ensure sustainable forest management and longleaf pine restoration, and enhance protection for the Suwannee River headwaters and the adjacent Okefenokee NWR.

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.

Why It Matters

Ensuring the permanent conservation and sustainable management of our existing forests is one of the most effective strategies we have right now to combat climate change. Forests not only store carbon, they also absorb more CO2 as the trees grow. Suwannee River Headwaters Forest plays an important role in this fight, storing approximately 2 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to the emissions from over 456,000 passenger vehicles over the course of a year.

Well-managed forests, particularly in upper watersheds, are critical sources of clean water. The Suwannee River plays an important role by providing most of the surficial fresh water to the Gulf of Mexico’s “Big Bend” coast that supports the second largest seagrass area in the region, the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve. Located within the Greater Okefenokee ecosystem, one of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems and the largest protected wildlife corridor east of the Mississippi River, this conservation effort will consolidate Okefenokee NWR lands, help create a fire resilient buffer and conserve a critical linkage in the statewide wildlife corridor.

Sandhill Crane GA c Stacy Funderburke 800 x 600
Sandhill Crane. Photo credit: Stacy Funderburke

Conserving this property will secure significant riparian and upland areas that provide important wildlife habitat for a variety of resident and migratory species, including the gopher tortoise, Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Alabama shad, Gulf sturgeon, Suwannee bass, and Suwannee cooter. The area also provides important habitat for approximately 234 migrant and resident bird species, including a variety of warblers, songbirds and waterbirds like the rusty blackbird, bobolink, sandhill crane, red-headed woodpecker, tricolored heron, and swallow-tailed kite.

A popular paddling destination, The Conservation Fund’s purchase will enable the future creation of two new river access points for entering and exiting along a 14-mile stretch of the Suwannee River.

In addition, conservation of the Suwannee River Headwaters Forest also offers a tremendous opportunity to restore more than 5,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat—one of the most diverse and endangered ecosystems in the world—within the larger Okefenokee NWR landscape. This significant restoration outcome will further the goal set by America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative for restoring 8 million acres by 2025.

We need your help

The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for permanent conservation solutions for this land. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Suwannee River Headwaters Forest please contact Shannon Lee.

Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock

Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon image

Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock

Our Role

At The Conservation Fund, we recognize financial sophistication and innovative collaborations are required to solve 21st century challenges, especially urgent ones like climate change. When SDS Lumber Company and SDS Co, LLC—a driving force and major employer in the Columbia River Gorge—announced its intent to sell over 96,000 acres of working forestland and its mill and timberland business, we quickly recognized the opportunity and challenges to securing this large landscape.  

These 96,000 acres form a critical natural connection between national forests, wild & scenic rivers, and numerous conserved and public lands. However, the potential for a real estate developer or commercial timber liquidator to threaten these lands with conversion and aggressive harvesting was high. To prevent that outcome, we and a unique consortium of for-profit businesses worked together to design and offer a competitive purchase solution for the land that would balance conservation with economic sustainability. 

Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon map

Click here to view a larger map (in PDF).
Credit: The Conservation Fund

After a year of hard work, in November 2021, as part of a single transaction, Twin Creeks Timber, LLC acquired 61,000 acres of timberland to be managed by Green Diamond Management Company, and the lumber and plywood mills were purchased by Wilkins, Kaiser & Olsen, Inc. (WKO), a local company that operates two sawmills in the region, for continued operation.   

But how did conservation play a role? The Conservation Fund, through its affiliate Lupine Forest LLC, acquired over 35,500 acres of sensitive forestland using funding in part from our Green Bonds. This step provides time for our Working Forest Fund® to fundraise, develop and implement a range of permanent conservation strategies with public agencies and the Columbia Land Trust that will seek to secure public recreational access, preserve the natural, climate and community values, and ensure sustainable forest management.  

In addition, we are committed to working with Green Diamond to place conservation easements that will ensure the lands it manages are protected from development and can continue to provide valuable wood products, jobs and environmental benefits across this important landscape for years to come.   

Why This Project Matters

Columbia Gorge Forest will be one of the largest conservation victories in the Pacific Northwest, and it needed a mission-driven, business-savvy nonprofit like The Conservation Fund, along with willing partners, to become a reality. 

The Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine forests are at the heart of local timber economies.Continued sustainable management of this landscape supports hundreds of forest-related rural jobs and will ensure the important forests, oak woodlands, and river habitats will be maintained for an array of wildlife, including rare, threatened and endangered species like the northern spotted owl, Oregon spotted frog, western gray squirrel, fisher, salmon, steelhead and golden eagle. In addition, these habitats support the municipal drinking water supplies for the cities of The Dalles, Oregon and White Salmon, Washington. 

The lands also hold cultural importance, providing First Foods and natural resources for Tribes and Indigenous people. The people of the Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakama Nation and other tribes have lived in this area, from the lowlands around the Columbia River to the snow-peaked Cascade Mountains, since the beginning of time. We recognize them as exceptional stewards of natural resources and leaders in watershed restoration. 

The beloved landscape and its four rivers—the Klickitat, White Salmon, Little White Salmon, and Hood—are a premiere, world-class destination for whitewater kayakers and rafters. The river’s big waterfalls and powerful rapids challenge expert boaters, while other scenic sections are perfect for beginners. Our efforts will help secure over 34 miles of river frontage, including 4.5 miles of frontage along the White Salmon Wild & Scenic River. The region also offers multiple locations for mountain biking, hiking, hunting and fishing. 

Situated in an ecological transition zone between the West and East Cascades, this region has greater ecological diversity than anywhere else along the lower Columbia River. Conservation of these working forestlands will be key to managing the landscape for climate resilience and species migration because they offer connections from the Columbia steppe habitat to high-elevation mixed conifer forests of the nearby national forests. Estimates show over 8.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are stored in the forests—comparable to the emissions from 1.8 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year. 

“This landscape and its rivers and forests has been a priority for Columbia Land Trust for more than 20 years. The Conservation Fund's purchase enables Columbia Land Trust and our partners to work toward permanently conserving the critical wildlife habitat, public access, and working forests that the community values. We look forward to working together to make this dream a reality.”

— Cherie Kearney, Forest Conservation Director for Columbia Land Trust

Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon 1

Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock


we need your help

The Conservation Fund is actively raising funds to implement permanent conservation solutions for these lands. For more information about how you can support the ongoing efforts to conserve Columbia Gorge Forest, please contact Samaria Jaffe.

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Photo credit: The Conservation Fund
Photo credit: Jay Brittain

Over the past few decades, much of Wisconsin’s industrial forestland has been converted to non-forest uses and subdivided for development, specifically for residential and second homes. This conversion ultimately harms the forest’s ecological integrity.

Fortunately, by utilizing proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s pioneering green bonds and a loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation we will be able to secure the largest privately-owned, unprotected block of forest remaining in Wisconsin, while supporting the local timber economy, safeguarding wildlife habitat, and providing public recreational access.

Our Role

Since our founding, The Conservation Fund has protected over 113,000 acres in Wisconsin, including thousands of acres of working forests and farmlands. In October 2021, we purchased 70,000 acres from The Forestland Group, a Timberland Investment Management Organization, to safeguard this large, forested landscape.

Our purchase and interim ownership of these lands, now referred to as Pelican River Forest, provides time to develop permanent conservation strategies that will preserve the forest, safeguard jobs, and provide public recreational access like hunting and fishing year-round. As part of our strategy, we ensure the land remains privately owned and on local tax rolls while it is managed to provide timber to local mills, safeguard water quality and protect wildlife habitat.

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.

Why it matters

Ensuring the permanent conservation and sustainable management of our existing forests is one of the most effective strategies we have right now to combat climate change. Forests not only store carbon, they also absorb more CO2 as the trees grow. Pelican River Forest plays an important role in this fight, storing approximately 19 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to the emissions from 4.1 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year. Over the next 5 years, the forest is estimated to remove an additional 240,000-640,000 MT CO2e from the atmosphere.

Pelican River ForestPhoto credit: Jay Brittain

Well-managed forests, particularly in upper watersheds, are critical sources of clean water. The 68 miles of streams, 27,000 acres of forested wetlands and dozens of ponds within Pelican River Forest support good water quality in both the upper Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, so important to the health of the communities nearby. Water-based recreation, like boating and angling contributes a significant amount of the nearly $8 billion annually economic impact of outdoor recreation throughout Wisconsin.

In addition, our efforts to ensure this large landscape remains forested and continues to be sustainably managed as working timberland will support Wisconsin’s forest products industry, which provides more than 63,500 full and part-time jobs and generates nearly $25 billion annually in economic output.


The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for permanent conservation solutions for this land. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Pelican River Forest please contact Wendy Taylor.

Photo by Rosa Dailey

project summary

The town of Oro Valley, Arizona is nestled between mountain ranges within the Sonoran Desert, just a few miles north of Tucson. The Vistoso Golf Course in Oro Valley ceased operations in 2018, leaving area residents to wonder what would become of the 208-acre property that weaves it way through a residential area called Rancho Vistoso. One potential fate for the property would have been further development into more homes and buildings. However, many Oro Valley residents envisioned preserving this open space and turning it into a nature preserve with trails open to the community. These residents soon organized and rallied around the town’s motto, “It’s in our nature,” to bring their vision to reality, contacting The Conservation Fund for assistance along the way.

Vistoso mtn view Credit Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso

Photo by Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso

our role

After a successful second round of negotiations with the seller, we have reached an agreement for The Conservation Fund to purchase 202 acres of recreational open space that was once the fairways of the former Vistoso Golf Course (outlined in green on the map). A 6-acre parcel, a parking lot zoned for high -density residential use (outlined in brown on the map), will be sold separately to an outside developer.

Vestoso map

Credit: The Conservation Fund

Once the 202 acres of the former Vistoso Golf Course is purchased, The Conservation Fund will protect the land with a conservation easement. While the Town of Oro Valley will become the eventual owner of the property, a qualified land trust will be named as the long-term property steward who will ensure it maintains adherence to the terms of the conservation easement.

Why It Matters

Preserving the Vistoso property provides an opportunity to save open space woven throughout several neighborhoods in Oro Valley. It boasts spectacular mountain scenery, Sonoran Desert vegetation, Native American petroglyphs, and habitat for local wildlife. It already contains more than six miles of paved trails, three restrooms and trail underpasses for major roads, which will all be immediately useful as it transitions from golf course to public park. 

Vistoso path Credit Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso 2

Photo by Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso

we need your support

We have launched a $1.8 million fundraising effort to make this critical conservation effort a reality by the end of December 2021. Your donation today will directly support the Vistoso preservation project in Oro Valley, Arizona. 

Tax-deductible charitable contributions may be made online, by check, wire transfer, securities transfer, and qualified charitable distribution.

Online - To donate online to the Vistoso project, please click here.

Check - Checks should be made payable to The Conservation Fund. Please designate your gift by including “Vistoso” on the reference line and mail to The Conservation Fund’s headquarters: 1655 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 1300, Arlington, VA 22209.

Wire - Please contact Scott Tison at stison@conservationfund.org to make a donation via wire.

Pledge Form - Download the Pledge Form here.

In the unlikely event that the Vistoso project does not come to fruition, you can redirect your gift to one of The Conservation Fund’s other conservation initiatives or your gift can be refunded. We will contact you directly should this unlikely event occur.



Photo credit: Freshwater Institute

Most seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, with only 2% of Atlantic salmon consumed in the U.S. coming from domestic sources. The result is an enormous seafood trade deficit that represents, among other things, a potential strategic risk for the U.S. food supply. American consumers want high quality seafood caught or produced in a manner that does not negatively impact the environment. Land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) production of Atlantic salmon can provide this option. While RAS is a sustainable method for expanding domestic seafood production, innovations are still needed to improve its economics and overall efficiency.

Our recently completed Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded research project pursued solutions and innovations to improve the economic viability and expansion of land-based RAS salmon production in the U.S.

Our Role

The Freshwater Institute has long been the premier source for development and growth of sustainable fish farming in the North America, leading the way in state-of-the-art RAS technologies research. For several decades, the Freshwater Institute has used its expertise in aquaculture engineering, aquatic veterinary medicine, aquaculture husbandry and production, industry outreach and water chemistry to address critical issues in the domestic seafood supply.

Over the previous three years, the Freshwater Institute carried out research focusing on two important aspects of land-based RAS Atlantic salmon production: early life mortality associated with ubiquitous aquatic organisms of the genus Saprolegnia (i.e., ‘fungus’), and off-flavor in RAS-raised Atlantic salmon fillets originating from beneficial bacteria in tanks and filters.

Research included:

  • Examining low-dose applications of environmentally friendly hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid to reduce fungus-associated mortality during the vulnerable salmon ‘fry’ life-stage
  • Assessing the impact of water exchange rates, dissolved oxygen, and swimming speed on the efficiency of removing off-flavors prior to harvest


Outcomes of the Freshwater Institute’s research continue to help inform the growing domestic land-based Atlantic salmon RAS industry, assist with sustainable expansion of the industry, and increase consumer confidence in seafood produced in land-based RAS. Techniques developed to improve production learned in this project are now publicly available online at https://www.conservationfund.org/our-work/freshwater-institute/publications/research-publications.

James River in Richmond, VA. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program
Downtown Richmond was the site of America’s first industrial boom in the 1800s. New mills and ironworks lined the adjacent James River for nearly a century.

Today, most of the waterfront has become a popular location for outdoor recreation, restaurants, art displays and more. However, one riverfront green space has remained privately-owned where it’s faced immense pressure from potential residential and commercial development for decades. The Conservation Fund recently purchased that 5.2-acre property on Dock Street to secure it from future threats while we work with local partners to raise the necessary funds to permanently protect it. 

Why It Matters 

Protecting the Dock Street property will have various benefits to the Richmond community including new public access to the riverfront, enhancing the Virginia Capital Trail, maintaining water quality, and safeguarding the historic view for which Richmond was named.

Virginia Capital Trail 

The James River is a central feature of Richmond, and the James River Park System is one of the most renowned urban park systems in the nation. The park offers river access and hiking trails and provides the starting point for the Virginia Capital Trail—a 51.2-mile trail that connects Richmond to Williamsburg. Dock Street will secure the last link for the Virginia Capital Trail and will allow the last piece of the trail to be moved off the busy city street and onto the waterfront.

Water Quality

More than 2.6 million people live in the 10,000-square-mile James River watershed. While pollution discharged from large industrial plants has largely been regulated and reduced over the last fifty years, the human impact of development still greatly affects the river’s health. By keeping the Dock Street property free from commercial development, it’ll maintain the land’s ability to naturally filter runoff and prevent additional sediment from reaching the river.

Beyond clean drinking water, the quality of the James River also impacts various species including Atlantic sturgeon—which has existed for 120 million years—as well as American shad, smallmouth bass, and bald eagles that roost around the river. 

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View of James River and Richmond's downtown area. Photo: Geoff Livingston

“The View that Named Richmond” 

In 1737, William Byrd II looked out over the James River from Libby Hill and noticed the view was strikingly similar to that along the Thames in Richmond, England. This led the founders of Virginia’s city to copy the name in homage to their homeland, leading to “The View that Named Richmond.” In 2012, the American Society of Landscape Architects named the Libby Hill overlook one of America’s most iconic landscapes. Protecting the Dock Street property will ensure this historic viewshed remains unobstructed for future generations.  

Our Role 

Current zoning would have allowed industrial buildings of up to 45 feet in height to be built on Dock Street, effectively cutting off the view of the river from Libby Hill and eliminating any hope of public access to the waterfront. Instead of sitting idle, The Conservation Fund, the Capital Region Land Conservancy, the James River Association, and the City of Richmond came together to create a plan that would effectively protect the property in perpetuity.

A critical step in that plan was The Conservation Fund’s temporary ownership of the property to ease any immediate threats. Our ability to step in and quickly purchase properties like this one is what The Conservation Fund was built for. We will hold the land until our partners can secure the necessary funding for their ultimate purchase and protection. The James River Association will acquire just under one acre of this land for an education center. The rest will be acquired by the City of Richmond with help from Capital Region Land Conservancy. 

We Need Your Help to Permanently Protect this Place 

We and our partners are actively raising funds to permanently protect this site. For more information about how you can support the conservation of the Dock Street property, please contact Rachael Joiner