The Nature Conservancy is a
US 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
1951, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries,
including all 50 United
States, with an increasingly global reach.
Conservancy has over one million members, has protected more than
69,000 square kilometers (17 million acres
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
2007 with assets totaling $5.42 billion.
The Nature Conservancy rated as one of the most trusted national
organizations in Harris
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
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
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 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
- The Committee reforms itself as the Ecologists' Union,
resolving to take “direct action” to save threatened natural
- The Ecologists' Union changes its name to The Nature
- 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.
acquisition, a key protection tool for the Conservancy, continues
with a purchase along the Mianus River Gorge 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
- 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
- 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.
Nature Conservancy helps create the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area - 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 Headlands 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 Range 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
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
Dunes National Park.
- 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
- 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.
in Bariloche, Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina, the first Argentinian office opens to protect the
Patagonian Steppe's grasslands. 
- 2009: The Nature Conservancy announces a 10% reduction in staff
due to the worsening economy, a drop in donations and other
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
as measured by number of members and area
protected. It is a nonprofit
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
and working to address
the threats to biodiversity posed by non-native and invasive plants
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
Conservancy's expanding international conservation efforts include
work in North America, Central America, and South America, Africa,
the Pacific Rim, the Caribbean, and Asia.
the Conservancy focuses on projects at significant scale,
recognizing the threat habitat
brings to plants and animals. Below are a few
examples of such work:
Nature Conservancy was instrumental in the creation in 2004 of the
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.
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 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.
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.
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, Virginia.
Conservancy was instrumental in the 2004 establishment of the
Glacial Ridge National Wildlife
Refuge in Minnesota.
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
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. 
The Plant a Billion Trees campaign has also been identified as a
tool to help slow climate change
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
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 
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
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
http://www.plantabillion.org. 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. 
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
History of the Plant a Billion Trees
- Capororoca Tree (Myrsine ferruginea) – Birds like the
Rufous-bellied Thrush enjoy the fruit off of this tree. 
The Nature Conservancy launched the Plant a Billion Trees Campaign
in 2008 with a micro-site (http://plantabillion.org) 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”
- 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
- From nature.org:
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
and the World Wildlife
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
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 California.
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,
Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience, also said of the
plan: "“No environmental problem exists which will require complete
had also criticized the
Nature Conservancy of Hawaii in 1996 for using snares to control
- 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
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)
The Nature Conservancy
- About The Nature Conservancy - Non-profit Governance of
The Nature Conservancy
- Annual Report 2007
- 2007 Harris poll
- 2006 Harris poll
- 2005 Harris poll
- Nature Conservancy - Forbes.com
- Charity Navigator Rating - The Nature
- Largest Charities by Assets - Forbes.com
- Largest Charities by Private Support -
- Mark Tercek Bio - Nature Conservancy
- Nature Conservancy News Room - The Nature
Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land to Purchase 320,000 Acres
of Plum Creek Forestl
- The Unsuitablog - The Nature Conservancy:
Partnering With Poisoners
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 18 Oct 2007
- New York Times article
- Nature Conservancy News Room - Washington Post:
Setting the Record Straight Regarding The Washington Post Big Green
- About The Nature Conservancy - Non-Profit Governance:
Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy - Non-Profit
- Nature Conservancy News Room - Henry M. Paulson, Jr.,
Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Nature Conservancy - Hank
- U.S. Treasury - Biography of Henry M. Paulson, Jr.,
Secretary of the Treasury