The Nature Conservancy

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The Nature Conservancy
Nature Conservancy.svg
Founded1951(71 years ago) (1951) [1]
Type 501(c)3 non-profit [2]
Focus Environmental conservation
Headquarters Arlington, Virginia, United States
Area served
Method Conservation by design
More than 1 million
Key people
US$1.29 billion (2018) [3]

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is a global environmental organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, United States. As of 2021 it works via affiliates or branches in 79 countries and territories, as well as across every state in the US.


Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has over one million members globally as of 2021, and has protected more than 119,000,000 acres (48,000,000 ha) of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide.[ when? ][ where? ]As of 2014, it is the largest environmental non-profit organization by assets and revenue in the Americas.


Global headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (2021) The Nature Conservancy - Arlington (Nov 2021).jpg
Global headquarters in Arlington, Virginia (2021)

The Nature Conservancy developed out of a scholarly organization initially known as the Ecological Society of America (ESA). [4] The ESA was founded in 1915, and later formed a Committee on Preservation of Natural Areas for Ecological Study, headed by Victor Shelford. [4] [5] [6] The primary aim of Shelford was to find areas of land that would be beneficial for long-term research. [4] By the 1930s, Shelford and his colleagues such as Aldo Leopold increasingly sought to advocate for conservation. [4] The divide in viewpoints regarding scholarship or advocacy led the Society to dissolve the committee and in 1946, Shelford and his colleagues formed the Ecologists' Union. [4] [5] The latter group eventually took the name "The Nature Conservancy", in emulation of the British agency of that name, which pursued a mission of conserving open space and wildlife preserves. The Nature Conservancy was incorporated in the United States as a non-profit organization on October 22, 1951. [5]

The Nature Conservancy at 2017 Capital Pride 2017 Capital Pride (Washington, D.C.) - 057.jpg
The Nature Conservancy at 2017 Capital Pride

As the organization grew, the organization focused largely on buying as much land as possible in the name of conservation with little scientific research conducted on land before being purchased. [4] Patrick Noonan served as President from 1973 to 1980 and spearheaded major land acquisitions, fundraising and decentralized growth of state programs. [7] In 1970 the organization hired its first staff scientist, Robert E. Jenkins, Jr., who helped the organization refocus its mission to conserving natural diversity. [7] [4] With Noonan's support, in 1974 Jenkins began to partner with state governments to develop state-by-state inventories which assembled and stored data on the “elements” of nature (e.g. rare species and natural communities) and on “element occurrences” (the specific locations where they occur), [7] which later morphed into the Natural Heritage Network, a network of state natural heritage programs. [4]

Sexual harassment investigation

After service as The Nature Conservancy's president for one year, Brian McPeek, resigned on May 31, 2019, after a report on an internal investigation of sexual harassment was revealed by Politico and two other senior executives were ultimately dismissed based on its findings. [8] On June 7, 2019, Mark Tercek, CEO since 2008, announced his resignation following the resignation of McPeek. [9] On June 10, Luis Solorzano, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Florida-based Caribbean chapter, became the fifth senior official to depart the organization. [10] On June 11, The Nature Conservancy's board chairman Thomas J. Tierney announced that board member and former US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell would serve as interim CEO, effective September 2019. [11]

Project sites

Nature Conservancy of Tennessee's William B. Clark, Sr., Nature Preserve on the Wolf River at Rossville, Tennessee Rossville Boardwalk Wolf River.jpg
Nature Conservancy of Tennessee's William B. Clark, Sr., Nature Preserve on the Wolf River at Rossville, Tennessee

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. [12]

North America

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 Guatemala–Mexico 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. [13]

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.

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] [15] In June 2008, 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 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. [16] [17] [18] As a follow-on, in 2015 The Nature Conservancy made a $134 million transaction to purchase 165,073 acres – 257 square miles – of forests, rivers and wildlife habitat in the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington and in the Blackfoot River Valley in Montana. The Conservancy also acquired this land from Plum Creek, including 47,921 acres in the Yakima River Headwaters in Washington and 117,152 acres in the Lower Blackfoot River Watershed in Montana. [19] [20]

Nature United is the Canadian affiliate of The Nature Conservancy. Nature United was founded as a Canadian charity in 2014, building on decades of conservation in Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, the organization has field staff located across the country. Nature United supports Indigenous leadership, sustainable economic development, and large-scale conservation, primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest, Clayoquot Sound, the Northwest Territories, and northern Manitoba. [21]


In December 2015, The Nature Conservancy announced the finalization of the first ever debt swap in Seychelles aimed at ocean conservation. The new protected area increases the country's marine protected waters from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent including support for the creation of the second largest Marine Protected Area in the Western Indian Ocean. [22] The debt swap deal was made possible through a partnership with the Seychelles Ministry of Finance, support of debt-holding nations including France, and grants from private organizations led by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. [23]

Financing for this effort was organized by The Nature Conservancy's impact investing unit called NatureVest. [24] [25] NatureVest was created in 2014 with founding sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase with the stated goal of sourcing and putting to work at least $1 billion of impact investment capital for measurable conservation outcomes over three years. [26] [27] For their work on the Seychelles debt restructuring, The Nature Conservancy and JPMorgan Chase were given the FT/ITC Transformational Business Award for Achievement in Transformational Finance. The award is given by the Financial Times and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) for ground-breaking, commercially viable solutions to development challenges. [28]

Plant a Billion Trees campaign

The Nature Conservancy's Plant a Billion Trees campaign is an effort to plant one billion trees by across the globe in forests with the greatest need. [29] [ better source needed ] 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. [30] [ better source needed ] This campaign encourages individuals and organizations to plant their own trees around the world and record this action on the website as a tally.

Environmental benefits

The Plant a Billion Trees campaign has also been identified as a tool to help slow climate change with forest restoration being an effective way to help regulate emissions in the atmosphere and stabilize global climate. [31]

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. [32] [ better source needed ]

Tree planting

The Nature Conservancy plants trees for every contribution donated by supporters. [33] Its "Plant a Billion Trees" campaign aims to restore Brazil's Atlantic Forest by planting 1 billion native trees on 2.5 million acres that have been deforested. [34] Some of the seeds being planted in Brazil consist of:


The Nature Conservancy has over one million members across the world as of 2021. [35] [36] As of 2014, it was the largest environmental non-profit organization by assets and revenue in the Americas. [37]

Big business ties

The Nature Conservancy has ties to many large companies, including those in the oil, gas, mining, chemical and agricultural industries. [38] As of 2016, its board of directors included the retired chairman of Duke Energy, and executives from Merck, HP, Google and several financial industry groups. [39] It also has a Business Council which it describes as a consultative forum that includes Bank of America, BP America, Chevron, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, General Mills, Royal Dutch Shell, and Starbucks. [40] The organization faced criticism in 2010 from supporters for its refusal to cut ties with BP after the Gulf oil spill. [41] [42]

Writer and activist Naomi Klein has strongly criticized The Nature Conservancy for earning money from an oil well on land it controls in Texas and for its continued engagement with fossil fuel companies. [43] [44] The Nature Conservancy responded by arguing that it had no choice under the terms of a lease it signed years prior with an oil and gas company and later came to regret. [43]

In 2020, Bloomberg published an article claiming that some of the companies (such as JPMorgan Chase, Disney, and BlackRock) that purchase carbon credits from The Nature Conservancy were purchasing carbon credits for forests that did not need protection. [45]

Efficiency and accountability

The Charity Navigator gave The Nature Conservancy a 3-star overall rating, a 2-star financial rating and a 4-star accountability and transparency rating for the 2019 fiscal year. [46]


Like many large environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund, the Conservancy includes allowances for hunting and fishing within its management policies. The organization does not totally ban hunting or fishing but defers to state hunting and fishing regulations. [47]


The organization publishes The Nature Conservancy magazine ( ISSN   1540-2428; six issues per year).


There have been allegations of The Nature Conservancy obtaining land and reselling it at a profit, sometimes to supporters and sometimes to large organizations that allows them to claim tax breaks. [48] [49] [50] The Nature Conservancy argues that the profit from such sales allows The Nature Conservancy to increase its preservation of what the Nature Conservancy claims are more important locations. [51]

See also

Related Research Articles

Nature reserve Protected area for flora, fauna or features of geological interest

A nature reserve is a protected area of importance for flora, fauna, or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for purposes of conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. They may be designated by government institutions in some countries, or by private landowners, such as charities and research institutions. Nature reserves fall into different IUCN categories depending on the level of protection afforded by local laws. Normally it is more strictly protected than a nature park. Various jurisdictions may use other terminology, such as ecological protection area or private protected area in legislation and in official titles of the reserves.

Land trusts are nonprofit organizations which own and manage land, and sometimes waters. There are three common types of land trust, distinguished from one another by the ways in which they are legally structured and by the purposes for which they are organized and operated:

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (MNTP) is a tallgrass prairie reserve and similarly preserved as United States National Grassland operated by the United States Forest Service. The first national tallgrass prairie ever designated in the U.S. and the largest conservation site in the Chicago Wilderness region, it is located on the site of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant between the towns of Elwood, Manhattan and Wilmington in northeastern Illinois. Since 2015, it has hosted a conservation herd of American bison to study their interaction with prairie restoration and conservation.

Rome Sand Plains Protected area of New York

Rome Sand Plains is a 15,000-acre (61 km2) pine barrens about five miles (8.0 km) west of the city center of Rome in Oneida County in central New York. It consists of a mosaic of sand dunes rising about 50 feet (15 m) above low peat bogs that lie between the dunes. The barrens are covered with mixed northern hardwood forests, meadows, and wetlands. About 4,000 acres (16 km2) are protected in conservation preserves. Pine barrens are typical of seacoasts; the Rome Sand Plains is one of only a handful of inland pine barrens remaining in the United States. A second inland pine barrens, the Albany Pine Bush, is also found in New York, located north and west of state's capital Albany.

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) is a private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. WPC has contributed land to 12 state parks and conserved more than a quarter million acres of natural lands. The Conservancy plants and maintains more than 132 gardens in 20 Western Pennsylvania counties, as well as planting thousands of trees through its community forestry program. WPC has protected or restored more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of rivers and streams. In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted Frank Lloyd Wright's masterwork Fallingwater to the Conservancy. The house was called the most important building of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects.

Happy Valley Forest

Happy Valley Forest is a 6.48 square kilometre provincially significant ecological area, classified as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. It consists of an upland forest on steeply rolling topography, various wooded swamps, and minor wetland areas. A few small kettle ponds are also present.

Conserving Carolina is a non-profit conservation organization working to preserve water and land resources in Western North Carolina. Conserving Carolina was created in July 2017, from a merger of two previously-separate organizations, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Pacolet Area Conservancy. The combined organization maintains a primary office in Hendersonville, NC and a regional office in Columbus, NC.

Deer Lick Nature Sanctuary

Deer Lick Nature Sanctuary is a protected forest and gorge in Cattaraugus County, New York. The preserve is within Zoar Valley near Gowanda, and is managed by The Nature Conservancy.

Mianus River Gorge

The Mianus River Gorge is a 935-acre (3.78 km2) nature preserve in Bedford, New York jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and Mianus River Gorge, Inc.. The first 60 acres (0.24 km2) were purchased by the Preserve, with help from the Conservancy, their first land preservation deal. It has grown over the years and is still managed by Mianus River Gorge, Inc. In March 1964, it was designated a National Natural Landmark for its old growth climax hemlock forest and the gorge of the Mianus River.

Aiken Canyon Preserve

Aiken Canyon Preserve is a 1,621-acre (6.56 km2) Nature Conservancy-managed state property in Colorado. It was first observed and named after Charles Aiken who was a 19th century U.S. surveyor, pioneer, and ornithologist who first surveyed Aiken Canyon in the 1870s and identified more than 75 bird species. The preserve consists of foothills, shrub and woodland ecosystems and is 12.4 miles southeast from Colorado Springs located on the eastern slope of the Rampart Range which is within a smaller foothill system of the Front Range. The surrounding mountain ranges of the Rampart Range and Palmer Divide created the nature preserves sustainable ecosystem. There is also a four-mile (6 km)-loop hiking trail on the preserve.

Marshall Forest

Marshall Forest is located in Floyd County, in Georgia, 5 miles (8.0 km) outside the Rome city limits. It is one of the few remaining old-growth forests in Northwest Georgia. Marshall Forest is referred to as the only virgin forest within city limits of any city in the USA. The forest is 311 acres (126 ha). Trees in Marshall Forest range from 600–900 feet (180–270 m) in elevation. More than 300 species of plants, and fifty-five tree species live within the forest, together with numerous animals indigenous to the area.

Forterra, based in Seattle, Washington, US, is the state of Washington’s largest land conservation, stewardship and community building organization dedicated solely to the region.

Neversink Preserve

The Neversink Preserve is located in Deerpark, Orange County, New York. It was created in 1993 by The Nature Conservancy. They purchased 170 acres (69 ha) of land on the Neversink River and created the Neversink Preserve in order to protect the newly discovered and federally endangered species of mussel, the dwarf wedge mussel. Over time they have purchased more land so that the Neversink Preserve covers 550 acres (220 ha). Theodore Gordon, considered the father of modern American fly-fishing, perfected his dry-fly techniques here in the 19th century. Nearly 15 million people rely on the waters of the Delaware River Basin for drinking water and industrial use making the Neversink Preserve a top priority of The Nature Conservancy.

The Montana Legacy Project is a three-phase purchase of more than 310,000 acres (1,300 km2) of land owned by Plum Creek Timber in northwestern Montana for conservation protection. The land is within the counties of Missoula, Mineral, Lake and Powell.

Whatcom Land Trust

Whatcom Land Trust is a non-profit organization based out of Bellingham, Washington that works to preserve and protect wildlife habitat, scenic, agricultural and open space lands in Whatcom County. The mission of Whatcom Land Trust is to preserve land for future generations and to promote land stewardship.

American Prairie nature reserve in Montana, United States

American Prairie is a massive prairie-based nature reserve in northeastern Montana being developed as a private project of the American Prairie Foundation (APF). This independent non-profit organization is creating a wildlife conservation area that will ultimately be over 3 million contiguous acres (12,000 km2) through a combination of both private and public lands to establish a fully functioning mixed grass prairie ecosystem, complete with migration corridors and native wildlife. The reserve improves public access and enjoyment of this unique natural habitat and provides economic benefits to the local economy.

Big Sur Land Trust

The Big Sur Land Trust is a private 501(c)(3) non-profit located in Monterey, California, that has played an instrumental role in preserving land in California's Big Sur and Central Coast regions. The trust was the first to conceive of and use the "conservation buyer" method in 1989 by partnering with government and developers to offer tax benefits as an inducement to sell land at below-market rates. As of 2016, it has protected around 40,000 acres (16,187 ha) through acquisition and resale to government agencies. It has added conservation easements to another 17,000 acres (6,880 ha) and has retained ownership of a number of parcels totaling about 4,500 acres (1,821 ha).

Big Woods Wildlife Management Area

Big Woods Wildlife Management Area is a 4,173-acre (16.89 km2) Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Sussex County, Virginia. It comprises two tracts of land; the 2,208-acre (8.94 km2) main tract, located immediately adjacent Big Woods State Forest, and the 1,965-acre (7.95 km2) Parker's Branch tract, located nearby.

The Wyss Foundation is a charitable organization based in Washington, D.C. that was founded by philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss. Established in 1998, the foundation has provided funding to conservation, environmental journalism, education, museums and progressive political advocacy.


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