Nature conservancy

This article is about the charitable organization in the United States. For the Canadian organization, see The Nature Conservancy of Canada. For the former UK government organization, see Nature Conservancy (UK).
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy: Protecting nature. Preserving life. The Nature Conservancy logo is copyright © 2007 The Nature Conservancy
Founded 1951
Area served Global
Method(s) Conservation by Design
Revenue US$547 million (2009) [1]
Members Over 1 million[2]
Motto "Protecting nature. Preserving life"

The Nature Conservancy is a charitable environmental organization in the United States. Its mission is to "conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends."[2]

The Indiana Dunes of Northwest Indiana played a role in the formation of the Nature Conservancy.[3] Volo Bog in northern Illinois was the first purchase of the Illinois Nature Conservancy thanks to the fundraising efforts of Cyrus Mark, the first president of the Illinois Nature Conservancy.[3]

Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries, including all 50 states of the United States. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. The Nature Conservancy also operates more than 100 marine conservation projects globally.[4] The organization's assets total $5.64 billion as of 2009.[1]

The Nature Conservancy is the largest environmental nonprofit by assets and by revenue in the Americas.[5]

The Nature Conservancy rates as one of the most trusted national organizations in Harris Interactive polls every year since 2005.[6][7][8][9] Forbes magazine rated The Nature Conservancy's fundraising efficiency at 88% in its 2005 survey of the largest U.S. charities.[10] The Conservancy received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator in 2008 (three-star in 2010)[11] and was named by that organization in 2005 on their list of "10 of the Best Charities Everyone's Heard Of". The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Conservancy an A− rating and includes it on its list of "Top-Rated Charities".

The Nature Conservancy is led by President and CEO Mark Tercek, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, and an adjunct professor at New York University Stern School of Business.[12] The organization draws from all segments of the community. Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of coalition forces during the First Gulf War, was a member of the Conservancy's President's Conservation Council.[13]


The Nature Conservancy takes a scientific approach to conservation, selecting the areas it seeks to preserve based on analysis of what is needed to ensure the preservation of the local plants, animals, and ecosystems. The Nature Conservancy is one of the world's largest environmental organizations as measured by number of members and area protected. It is a nonprofit organization supported primarily by private donations.

The Nature Conservancy works with all sectors of society including businesses, individuals, communities, partner organizations, and government agencies to achieve its goals. The Nature Conservancy is known for working effectively and collaboratively with traditional land owners such as farmers and ranchers, with whom it partners when such a partnership provides an opportunity to advance mutual goals. The Nature Conservancy is in the forefront of private conservation groups implementing prescribed fire to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems and working to address the threats to biodiversity posed by non-native and invasive plants and animals.

The Nature Conservancy has pioneered new land preservation techniques such as the conservation easement and debt for nature swaps. A conservation easement is a way for land owners to ensure that their land remains in its natural state while capitalizing on some of the land's potential development value. Debt for nature swaps are tools used to encourage natural area preservation in third world countries while assisting the country economically as well: in exchange for setting aside land, some of the country's foreign debt is forgiven.

Featured project sites

The Nature Conservancy's expanding international conservation efforts include work in North America, Central America, and South America, Africa, the Pacific Rim, the Caribbean, and Asia. Increasingly, the Conservancy focuses on projects at significant scale, recognizing the threat habitat fragmentation brings to plants and animals. Below are a few examples of such work:

The Nature Conservancy was instrumental in the creation in 2004 of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. The Conservancy's efforts in China's Yunnan province, one of the most vital centers of plant diversity in the northern temperate hemisphere, serve as a model for locally based ecotourism with a global impact. The Nature Conservancy and its conservation partner, Pronatura Peninsula Yucatán, are working to halt deforestation on private lands in and around the 1.8 million acre (7,300 km²) Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, along the Mexico-Guatemala border. In November 2004, 370,000 acres (1,500 km²) of threatened tropical forest in Calakmul were permanently protected under a historic land deal between the Mexican federal and state government, Pronatura Peninsula Yucatán, four local communities and the Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy's programs in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are working together to build partnerships and enhance the profile of the conservation needs in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting voluntary, private land conservation of important wildlife habitat. Conservation easements, land acquisition, stewardship In 2007 the Nature Conservancy made a 161,000-acre (650 km2) purchase of New York forestland from Finch Paper Holdings LLC for $110 million, its largest purchase ever in that state.[14]

In 2008 June The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land announced they reached an agreement to purchase approximately 320,000 acres (1,300 km2) of western Montana forestland from Plum Creek Timber Company (NYSE:PCL) for $510 million. The purchase, known as the Montana Legacy Project, is part of an effort to keep these forests in productive timber management and protect the area’s clean water and abundant fish and wildlife habitat, while promoting continued public access to these lands for fishing, hiking, hunting and other recreational pursuits.[15]

Plant a Billion Trees campaign

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign is an effort to restore 2,500,000 acres (10,100 km2) of land and plant 1 billion trees by 2015 in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Each donated dollar results in one planted tree in the Atlantic Forest.[16]

Environmental benefits

The Plant a Billion Trees campaign has also been identified as a tool to help slow climate change, as the Atlantic Forest – one of the biggest tropical forests in the world – helps regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate. The reforestation of the Atlantic Forest has the capability to remove 10 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. The Nature Conservancy states that this is equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road. The Atlantic Forest’s restoration could help to slow the process of climate change that is affecting the earth.

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign also aims to protect 10 critical watersheds in the Atlantic Forest that provide water and hydro power to more than 70 million people, create 20,000 direct jobs, and an additional 70,000 indirectly as part of this effort. The Plant a Billion Trees Campaign is also associated with The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program, which consists of nine locations, including Brazil.[17]

Involvement in the community

The Nature Conservancy also features

Tree planting

The Nature Conservancy plants one tree in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil for each dollar donated by supporters. Some of the seeds being planted consist of:

  • Guapuruvu Tree (Schizolobium parahyba) – An indigenous plant of Atlantic Forest, this has one of the fastest growth rates of all the native species.
  • Golden Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia umbellate) – According to popular belief, when this tree’s yellow blooms appear, no more frosts will occur. The wood of a Golden Trumpet Tree has the same fire rating as concrete and is denser than water. Illegal logging activity has grown due to this tree’s growing popularity.
  • Ice-Cream Bean Tree (Inga edulis) – Leafy and abundant, this tree controls weeds and erosion. Its popular fruit is a long pod up to a few feet, containing a sweet pulp surrounding large seeds.
  • Capororoca Tree (Myrsine ferruginea) – Birds like the Rufous-bellied Thrush enjoy the fruit off of this tree.[16]

History of the campaign

The Nature Conservancy launched the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign in 2008 with a micro-site that is affiliated but not hosted by The Nature Conservancy’s website.

As a part of this launch, The Nature Conservancy pledged to plant 25 million trees as part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)’s Billion Tree Campaign.[19] This campaign encourages individuals and organizations to plant their own trees around the world and record this action on the website as a tally. The UNEP Billion tree Campaign is currently attempting to plant 7 billion trees by the end of 2009.[20]

On Earth Day 2009, Disneynature’s film “Earth” debuted, promising to plant a tree for every ticket sold to the film in its first week. This resulted in a donation of 2.7 million trees to the Plant a Billion Trees program.[21]


The Plant a Billion Trees Campaign has followed The Nature Conservancy’s approach of partnering with larger organizations (such as Disneynature, Planet Green, Penguin Books, Payless Shoesource, AT&T, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and Visa) to leverage donations from supporters and increase efficiency and effectiveness of the campaign.[22]

  • Penguin Classics sponsored a Penguin Walk [23] to benefit the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign on June 6, 2009 as well.[24]
  • Payless Shoesource sponsored the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign[25] by giving $1 to The Nature Conservancy for every Plant a Billion Trees reusable bag sold between 4/13/09 to 12/31/09 (sold at a retail value of $1.99) and $1 from each zoe&zac branded product sold between 4/13/09 and 5/4/09. Payless guaranteed a minimum total contribution of $100,000 in 2009 from these sales and the sales of other merchandise during 2009.
  • Panasonic has been involved by planting a tree for each customer who selects The Nature Conservancy in their “Giving Back” program.[19]
  • Organic Bouquet has donated 10 percent for every flower and gift purchased during the month of April 2008 at[19]

The Nature Conservancy and its scientists also work with other conservation organizations, local landowners, state and federal officials, agencies, and private companies to protect, connect, and buffer what is left of the Atlantic Forest.[19]


Over the years, The Nature Conservancy has faced a number of criticisms. They fall into the following main categories:

Too close to business

Some environmentalists consider industrial development to be antagonistic to environmentalism, and disapprove of The Nature Conservancy's policy of permitting oil drilling, timbering, mining, and natural gas drilling on land donated to the Conservancy.[26] The Nature Conservancy has ties to roughly 1900 corporate sponsors. Its governing board consists of numerous executives and directors of oil companies, chemical producers, auto manufacturers, mining concerns, logging operations, and electric utilities. And it has a reputation for remaining silent on key environmental issues that involve business practices in general. For example, many environmental organizations battled against the Bush Administration’s plan to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the Nature Conservancy did not participate in this fight. It was later discovered that legislation to allow drilling is supported by members of the Conservancy leadership council, which consists of members from BP and ExxonMobil, as well as by Phillips Alaska, Inc. These organizations have also donated over $1 million to the group. Mark Tercek, the current president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, had little to say about the accusations that ensued. Although there was a lot of pressure for the Conservancy to cut ties with BP, Tercek refused. [27]

Questionable resale

There have been allegations of The Nature Conservancy obtaining land and reselling it at a profit, sometimes to supporters,[28] who have then made use of it in ways not perceived by many as being sufficiently environmentally friendly. The rationale for the resale has been that the profit allows The Nature Conservancy to increase its preservation of what the Nature Conservancy claims are more important locations.[29] However, the Conservancy does have a no-net-profit policy that has been in effect for years for all transactions of this type.

Animal rights

The Conservancy has also been criticized, like many large environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund for using hunting in its management policies. Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, the Commander of coalition forces during the First Gulf War, and a member of the President's Conservation Counsel of the Conservancy, was also a member of the trophy hunting organization the Safari Club.[30]

Hands off our Land

A cause for concern in the integrity of the Nature Conservancy is known as the concept “hands off our land.” It is the discontent that ranchers, outdoorsmen and other recreational enthusiasts question if the conservation of land, plants and animals restricts the ability for farmers to do so responsibly. [31]

From 2005 to 2007 the Nature Conservancy, along with the National Park Service, implemented an eradication program to remove non-native feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island, in the Channel Islands of California. Throughout, the program was challenged in the courts, but those challenges were rejected. The program removed 5036 pigs. Island fox numbers have since rebounded, from a presumed low of 100 to an estimate of 700 individuals as of the Summer of 2009.[32]

See also

Environment portal
Ecology portal
Earth sciences portal
Sustainable development portal



  • Noel Grove, with photographs by Stephen J. Krasemann, Preserving Eden: The Nature Conservancy (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992) ISBN 0-8109-3663-1
  • David E. Morine, Good Dirt: Confessions of a Conservationist (Chester, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 1990) ISBN 0-87106-444-8
  • Bill Birchard, "Nature's Keepers"(Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint,San Francisco,CA, 2005) ISBN 0-7879-7158-8
  • Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "Senators Question Conservancy's Practices: End to 'Insider' and 'Side' Deals by Nonprofit Organizations Is Urged" (Wednesday, June 8, 2005) Washington Post.
  • Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "Conservancy Scientists Question Their Role" (Saturday, May 3, 2003) Washington Post.
  • Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "$420,000 a Year and No-Strings Fund: Conservancy Underreported President's Pay and Perks of Office" (Sunday, May 4, 2003) Washington Post.
  • Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "Charity Hiring Lawyers to Try to Prevent Hill Probe" Friday, (May 16, 2003) Washington Post.

External links

  • The Nature Conservancy - Sourcewatch
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Nature Conservancy - Plant a billion trees campaign
  • Cool Green Science - The Conservation Blog of The Nature Conservancy
  • The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Data
    • Charity Navigator budget summary
  • Idaho Public Television
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