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The Nature Conservancy is a USmarker charitable environmental organization working to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.

Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries, including all 50 United Statesmarker, with an increasingly global reach. The Conservancy has over one million members, has protected more than 69,000 square kilometers (17 million acres) in the United States and more than 473,000 square kilometers (117 million acres) internationally. The organization's total support and revenue was $1.28 billion in fiscal year 2007 with assets totaling $5.42 billion.

The Nature Conservancy rated as one of the most trusted national organizations in Harris Interactive polls in 2007, 2006 , and 2005 poll. Forbes magazine rated The Nature Conservancy's fundraising efficiency at 88% in its 2005 survey of the largest U.S. charities. The Conservancy received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator in 2008 and was named by the 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 America's third-largest nonprofit by assets, and America's largest environmental nonprofit by assets and by revenue.

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’s Stern School of Business. 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 President's Conservation Counsel of the Conservancy.

Historical timeline

The Ecological Society of America is formed. From its beginning, there is some disagreement about its mission
From the activist wing within the Ecological Society, the Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions, chaired by Victor Shelford, is created.
The Committee publishes The Naturalist's Guide to the Americas, an attempt to catalog all the known patches of relatively undisturbed nature left in North America and in parts of Latin America.
The Committee reforms itself as the Ecologists' Union, resolving to take “direct action” to save threatened natural areas.
The Ecologists' Union changes its name to The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia on October 22.
The Nature Conservancy grants its first official chapter charter in Eastern New York, thereby launching the first in a network of chapters and field offices that grows to cover the entire United States. Later that year, the Conservancy acquires its first piece a property - the Arthur W. Butler Memorial Sanctuary. This donation started a suite of land acquisition projects. The organization still uses donated land as an important land conservation and fundraising tool.
Land acquisition, a key protection tool for the Conservancy, continues with a purchase along the Mianus River Gorgemarker on the New York/Connecticut border. The Conservancy provides $7,500 to finance the purchase, with the provision that the loan be repaid for use in other conservation efforts. The revolving loan fund that results — the Land Preservation Fund — is still the organization’s foremost conservation tool.
The Nature Conservancy embarks on its first partnership with a public agency, the Bureau of Land Management, to help co-manage an important old-growth forest in California.
The Nature Conservancy receives its first donated conservation easement, on of Bantam River salt marsh in Connecticut. The easement allows the landowner to retain title to the ecologically valuable property while giving the Conservancy the right to enforce restrictions on certain types of harmful activities.
A gift from the Ford Foundation enables the Nature Conservancy to hire its first full-time, paid president, Tom Richards, a former IBM executive. Richards introduces management techniques from IBM.
The Nature Conservancy purchases Mason Neck, Virginia, as part of a plan to later sell it to the federal government. It is the first such deal of this magnitude with the government — an arrangement that comes to be known as a government co-op. Pat Noonan is president.
Robert E. Jenkins joins the Conservancy as Chief Scientist. He focuses TNC on the central mission of preserving biodiversity and leads the organization ultimately to create and foster, beginning in 1974, a 50-state biological inventory, introducing scientific rigor to land acquisition choices.
The Nature Conservancy helps create the Golden Gate National Recreation Areamarker - one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Huey Johnson - Western Director of the Conservancy - convinces the Gulf Oil Corporation to cancel a housing development project called Marincello and sell the land to the Nature Conservancy for $6.5 million. This key part of the Marin Headlandsmarker was then transferred to the GGNRA to help make up the national park surrounding the Golden Gate.
The Natural Heritage Network is launched by the Science Division. The network ultimately comes to reside in and be supported by the governments of all 50 states, most of Canada, and a dozen other countries in the New World. The first state is South Carolina, the second Mississippi, the third, a few months later, Oregon. A core methodology is developed over the following decades based on strictly comparable "elements" of biodiversity, assessment of their status, and locating occurrences of those most imperiled. The methodology becomes the national standard and is adopted by numerous partner organizations, university researchers, and agencies of the federal government.
The Nature Conservancy expands and relaunches its International Conservation Program, focused on Latin America, to identify two things
With the purchase of $240,000 in Costa Rican debt, The Nature Conservancy completes its first “debt-for-nature” swap to support conservation in Braulio Carillo National Park. The Conservancy signs a landmark agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to assist in managing 25 million acres (100,000 km²) of military land.
With funding from the U.S. Congress, The Nature Conservancy launches the Parks in Peril program, designed to protect 50 million acres (200,000 km²) in Latin America and the Caribbean by helping local nonprofit and governmental organizations provide effective park stewardship. Frank Boren is president.
The Nature Conservancy purchases the 32,000 acre (130 km²) Barnard Ranch in Oklahoma’s Osage Hills and establishes the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Here, the Conservancy has undertaken its largest restoration effort to date, re-creating a fully functioning tallgrass prairie by reintroducing bison and fire to the ecosystem.
A new office in Koror, Republic of Palau, represents The Nature Conservancy’s first expansion beyond the Western Hemisphere.
The Nature Conservancy launches its Last Great Places
The Nature Conservancy opens its first South American office, in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.
The Nature Conservancy adopts Conservation by Design, a cutting-edge ecoregional approach for setting conservation priorities and taking action. Drawing on the lessons learned through the Last Great Places initiative and guided by scientific data from the Natural Heritage Network, the Conservancy begins to employ this framework for identifying the suite of sites that must be protected to conserve the biological diversity of the Western Hemisphere.
The Nature Conservancy's Membership surpasses 1 million.
The Conservancy announces The Campaign for Conservation, an effort to raise $1 billion to preserve 200 Last Great Places and complete a Conservation Blueprint identifying the places that must be conserved to ensure lasting protection of our natural heritage. The Campaign concluded at the end of 2003 after raising a total $1.4 billion.
The Conservancy spins off its 85-center Natural Heritage Network into a new independent organization, the Association for Biodiversity Information (later named NatureServe).
The Conservancy and the Association for Biodiversity Information publish Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States, the most comprehensive analysis to date of biodiversity in the United States. Precious Heritage warns that 1/3 of the plant and animal species found in the United States are in peril.
Steve McCormick begins as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy in February.
The Nature Conservancy turns 50. In celebration, 12 renowned photographers, including Annie Leibovitz and William Wegman, capture the rich and complex splendor of some of the “Last Great Places” in the Conservancy’s In Response to Place photography exhibit.
The Nature Conservancy acquires property for Oregon’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve on the edge of Hells Canyon in Wallowa County. The Nature Conservancy's preserve includes extensive native bunchgrass prairie habitats and wooded canyons descending to the Imnaha River. Creeks on the preserve harbor spawning grounds for endangered Snake River steelhead and chinook salmon. Zumwalt Prairie is also renowned for its concentrations of breeding hawks and eagles and other wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy signs an agreement in January to purchase about 97,000 acres (390 km²) of one of Colorado's largest and most important natural areas – the Baca Ranch. The acquisition is the first of a complex series of transactions that by 2005 is expected to create the Great Sand Dunes National Park and a new Baca National Wildlife Refuge, as well as add land to the Rio Grande National Forest.
With a commitment of $1.1 million from The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund, the U.S. and Peruvian governments sign a historic agreement in June to protect 10 tropical rainforest areas covering more than 27.5 million acres (111,000 km²) within the Peruvian Amazon.
Transforming a bankruptcy into a conservation opportunity, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund, partnered with Chilean environmental organizations to protect the rare plants and wildlife on of biologically rich temperate rainforest in the Valdivian Coastal Rangemarker in southern Chile.
The Nature Conservancy and The National Park Service jointly purchased the 116,000 acre (469 km²) Kahuku Ranch in Hawaii for addition to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The purchase increases the size of the 217,000 acre (878 km²) park by fifty percent, and is the largest land conservation transaction in Hawaii’s history.

After more than a decade of work to conserve the Baca Ranch in Colorado, The Nature Conservancy completes the last of a complex set of real estate transactions, clearing the way for the protection of the ranch and the designation of the nation’s newest national park, the Great Sand Dunes National Parkmarker.
During a five-week expedition through Indonesia’s karst systems – limestone caves, cliffs and sinkholes – a team of international scientists led by The Nature Conservancy discover several new species, including a “monster” cockroach that is believed to be the largest known species of cockroach in the world.
The Nature Conservancy, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other partners announce that the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to have gone extinct in 1946, had been rediscovered in the Big Woods of Arkansas.
2006: Through the Micronesia Challenge, five Micronesian governments commit to conserve 30 percent of nearshore marine resources and 20 percent of forest resources by 2020.
The Nature Conservancy launches its Africa program.
The Conservancy protects of forest in New York’s Adirondacks, the last big tract of privately owned timberland in the park. The transaction allows selective logging to continue for 20 years, helping to preserve 850 jobs at a local mill.
The Conservancy and Conservation International broker the largest ever debt-for-nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act. The forgiven debt provides $26 million in conservation funding for Costa Rican tropical forests identified as conservation gaps by the Conservancy.
2008: Mark Tercek, former head of the Goldman Sachs Center for Environmental Markets, begins as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy in July.
The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land preserve the Crown of the Continent— of western Montana forestland. This region has sustained all of its species— including grizzlies, lynx, moose and bull trout—since Lewis & Clark.
Based in Barilochemarker, Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentinamarker, the first Argentinian office opens to protect the Patagonian Steppe's grasslands. [56838]
2009: The Nature Conservancy announces a 10% reduction in staff due to the worsening economy, a drop in donations and other losses.


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 Caribbeanmarker, 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 Parkmarker in Coloradomarker. The Conservancy's efforts in Chinamarker's Yunnanmarker 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 Mexicomarker-Guatemalamarker border. In November 2004, 370,000 acres (1,500 km²) of threated 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 Idahomarker, Montanamarker and Wyomingmarker are working together to build partnerships and enhance the profile of the conservation needs in the Greater Yellowstonemarker Ecosystem by supporting voluntary, private land conservation of important wildlife habitat. Conservation easements, land acquisition, stewardship agreements, grassbanks, prescribed fires and weed districts are a few of the tools the Conservancy and its partners use to protect this region's natural heritage. The Nature Conservancy's worldwide office is located in Arlington, Virginiamarker.

The Conservancy was instrumental in the 2004 establishment of the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refugemarker in Minnesotamarker. Glacial Ridge is reputed to be the largest tallgrass prairie and wetlands restoration project ever.

In 2007 the Nature Conservancy made a purchase of New York forestland from Finch Paper Holdings LLC for $110 million, its largest purchase ever in that state.

In 2008 June The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land announced they reached an agreement to purchase approximately of western Montana forestland from Plum Creek Timber Company (NYSE:PCL) for $510 million. The purchase 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.

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. [56839]

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 our planet.

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 [56840].

Involvement in the Community

Individuals who wish to participate in The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign can plant as little as one tree at a time (for a dollar each), can track the total count of trees planted using an online widget, can start their own tree planting campaign to raise money for plants through their own Web pages or social network profiles, or can sign up to give trees as a gift or make a monthly gift to plant trees each month at

The Nature Conservancy also features e-cards from the Atlantic Forest, as well as video of the Atlantic Forest and detailed information about the seedlings on their micro-site at The Web site also features a news feed and an interactive map of the Atlantic Forest region in Brazil, as well as information on many of the plants, animals, and people that are impacted by the plight of the forest and who may benefit from its restoration. [56841]

Tree Planting

The Nature Conservancy plants one tree in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil for each dollar donated by supporters. The Conservancy makes every attempt to maintain the biodiversity of the existing forest in its restoration efforts.

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 in length, containing a sweet pulp surrounding large seeds.

  • Capororoca Tree (Myrsine ferruginea) – Birds like the Rufous-bellied Thrush enjoy the fruit off of this tree. [56842]

History of the Plant a Billion Trees 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 Web site,

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. 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.

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.


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.

  • Penguin Classics sponsored a Penguin Walk to benefit the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign on June 6, 2009 as well.

  • Payless Shoesource sponsored the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign 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.

  • Organic Bouquet has donated 10 percent for every flower and gift purchased during the month of April 2008 at

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.


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 big business to be antagonistic to environmentalism, and disapprove of The Nature Conservancy's corporate collaborations. The Conservancy argues that since corporations have such a significant impact on the environment, they must be engaged in finding ways to do business that do not harm the environment. Moreover, they provide significant resources. In the most egregious incident, Nature Conservancy protected-land became the site of a severe oil spill caused by an on-site drilling company. The Conservancy, however, apologized for the incident and instituted a broad policy review in the wake of the incident
  • Questionable resale. There have been allegations of The Nature Conservancy obtaining land and reselling it at a profit, sometimes to supporters, who have then made use of it in ways not perceived by all as being sufficiently environmentally-friendly. The rationale for the resale has been that the profit allows The Nature Conservancy to increase its preservation of more important locations. However, the Conservancy does have a no-net-profit policy that has been in effect for years for all transactions of this type.

Nature Conservancy's response to Washington Post criticism


The Nature Conservancy underwent investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee and passed.

The Nature 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, was a member of the President's Conservation Counsel of the Conservancy, is also a member of the trophy hunting organization the Safari Club

From 2005-2007 the Nature Conservancy, along with the National Parks Service, enacted a policy of killing 4000 non-native feral pigs from the Channel Islands of Californiamarker. The plan involved constructing six electric fences to enclose the island’s pig population. After the pigs were contained, they were shot by hunters in helicopters. The Nature Conservancy claimed that golden eagles had been drawn to the island by the pigs and were killing a native fox species. Channel Islands Animal Protection Association member Scarlet Newton argued: “The island fox population was robust until the Nature Conservancy took over the island....The finger goes right to the Nature Conservancy for causing the near extinction of the island fox.” She said that the Nature Conservancy chose to eradicate the non-native sheep populations of the island in the 1980s, the carcasses of which drew the golden eagles. The Nature Conservancy used a human supremacist argument that the pigs were not natives of the island and thus had to be removed, which fails to acknowledge that ecological problems caused by non native human populations would be of equal or more immediate concern.David Theodoropoulos, author of Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, also said of the plan: "“No environmental problem exists which will require complete extermination."Peta had also criticized the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii in 1996 for using snares to control wild pigs.

Additional information

  • The Nature Conservancy has a system for ranking the conservation status of species, and this system is one of two such systems that are in widespread use.
  • Roberto Hernández Ramírez former CEO of Banamex is a member of the Board of Directors.
  • Henry M. Paulson, Jr. former Board chair was United States Secretary of the Treasury from 2006 until 2009 under President George W. Bush.


  • 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

See also


  1. About The Nature Conservancy
  2. About The Nature Conservancy - Non-profit Governance of The Nature Conservancy
  3. Annual Report 2007
  4. 2007 Harris poll
  5. 2006 Harris poll
  6. 2005 Harris poll
  7. Nature Conservancy -
  8. Charity Navigator Rating - The Nature Conservancy
  9. Largest Charities by Assets -
  10. Largest Charities by Private Support -
  11. Mark Tercek Bio - Nature Conservancy
  14. Nature Conservancy News Room - The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land to Purchase 320,000 Acres of Plum Creek Forestl
  22. The Unsuitablog - The Nature Conservancy: Partnering With Poisoners
  23. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 18 Oct 2007
  24. New York Times article
  25. Nature Conservancy News Room - Washington Post: Setting the Record Straight Regarding The Washington Post Big Green Series
  26. [1]
  27. [2]
  28. [3]
  29. About The Nature Conservancy - Non-Profit Governance: Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy - Non-Profit Governance
  30. Nature Conservancy News Room - Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy - Hank Paulson
  31. U.S. Treasury - Biography of Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury

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