Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, new construction, deforestation, the damming of lakes and rivers: There are constant changes and challenges facing the millions of acres of land in the United States and the people who live and work on them. That’s where The Conservation Fund comes in. RewardExpert spoke with Jena Thompson Meredith, the Fund’s vice president of business partnerships about what makes the organization unique and how anyone can help protect the Earth.
The Conservation Fund Comes to Life
The Virginia-based organization has already saved more than 7.8 million acres, allowing residents, businesses and travelers to continue enjoying the land and possibly even make an income off of it. “The Conservation Fund was founded in 1985 when Patrick Noonan, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award, created a nimble and entrepreneurial nonprofit organization with the goal of bringing environmental protection and economic vitality together—as a mutually-reinforcing, necessary path forward for America,” stated Meredith. She said that mission continues today, as the organization works in all 50 states.
An Integrated Approach
For the fund, it’s not just about protecting the land, it’s also about protecting the United States and bringing economic prosperity to rural and underserved communities in the country. The organization offers a blend of expertise in conservation, real estate, financing, green infrastructure, economic development, small business and more.
“With our integrated services, we are able to take a holistic, entrepreneurial approach to some of America’s most pressing environmental and economic issues,” she said. That approach has helped create and save jobs in many of America’s most economically challenged areas.
The organization has dedicated capital funds to certain agendas including the National Capital Investment Fund, which has created or retained more than 3,000 jobs at businesses in central Appalachia and the Southeast, and the Working Forest Fund, which has protected and sustainably managed over 500,000 acres of working forest, which in turn has saved forest jobs across the nation. It has also awarded over $3.2 million in grants to communities that preserve the rural landscape and strengthen local economies. In addition, it has provided financing for small businesses in the areas of renewable energy, local agriculture and eco-tourism.
“These small businesses are the backbones of their communities; and by being conscious of natural resources, they are not only operating more efficiently and being good stewards of natural resources, they’re also setting an example for the rest of their communities,” said Meredith.
The Conservation Fund doesn’t just work with local governments and small business, it also works with major corporate partners to protect the nation’s land. Corporate partners include Dell, UPS, Dow, CSX, The North Face and many more. Meredith noted, “We work with them to advance social responsibility and sustainability priorities by offsetting carbon footprints, restoring wildlife habitat, investing in urban greenspace and more. As they tackle those challenges, we work with them to also prioritize making meaningful, lasting differences in places where their employees and customers live, work and play.” One example is the Fund’s work with Dell to plant trees at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. “The refuge is home to one of only two remaining ocelot populations in the U.S., and with Dell’s help, we’re working to rebuild their threatened habitat,” described Meredith.
How You Can Help
The Conservation Fund prides itself on being an efficient and responsible organization, with 96% of every dollar donated going directly into conservation efforts. And if you don’t have money to spare, you can always do your part, including when you travel. “A great way for travelers to be more environmentally responsible is to make an effort to support local businesses. For example, by going to the local farm-to-table restaurant or staying in the local inn, you are supporting the people who live, work and contribute to that community,” said Meredith.