Conserving the lands: Conservation Alliance awards $600,000 in grants

In its 23-year history, the Conservation Alliance has awarded more than $10.4 million to conservation organizations. This past cycle of awards, it gave about $600,000 to 19 organizations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

It pays to be a friend of a Conservation Alliance member business. Literally.

Recently, the Conservation Alliance announced it disbursed $600,000 in grants to 19 conservation organizations, each of which had to be nominated by a member organization. It was the largest round of grants to date, said the organization’s executive director, John Sterling.

Since its founding 23 years ago with original member companies Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Kelty, the Conservation Alliance has awarded grants to conservation organizations twice a year from a fund consisting of money collected from membership dues. All dues money goes toward grants to organizations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“We’ve increased the amount we’ve given each cycle for the last few grant rounds,” Sterling noted, adding that six months ago, the organization gave $550,000 in grants. The reason for this, he said, is the organization is growing, and more membership dues are rolling in. Plus, he said, more member organizations are giving sizable donations specifically to the grant fund.

“We now have seven Pinnacle Member Companies that contribute $100,000 a year to our grant fund,” Sterling said.

Some of the organizations that received funding were the California Wilderness Coalition of Oakland, Calif.; Central Oregon Landwatch, Bend, Ore.; Wyoming Outdoor Council, Lander, Wyo., and Forest Ethics, San Francisco, Calif.

Sterling said many of the organizations that receive funding are not household names, and they all do tremendous work so it would be hard for him to choose a favorite. But he did note that he’s particularly excited about the $30,000 grant given to Niparaja of La Paz, Mexico.

“They’re working to secure a 4 million acre protected area in Baja, Mexico,” Sterling said. The project, he added, shows great promise, he said. Another grantee doing exciting work is the Vermont Land Trust, Sterling said, which is working to preserve 1,200 acres for Nordic and backcountry skiing that had been under consideration for development.

This year, the Conservation Alliance had budgeted to give away $1.3 million, and Sterling said it’s on track to meet that goal. Plus, he added, it’s ambitiously shooting for $2 million in giving by 2014. In line with this goal, the organization is seeking additional member companies and individuals. Membership dues are based on a sliding scale, so a freelance photographer will pay $500 a year, whereas corporate membership dues are $1,000 for every $1 million a company makes in sales, capping out at $10,000 a year. Companies with more than $75 million in sales have membership dues of $15,000 a year.

For more information, visit the Alliance's website. In its history, the Conservation Alliance has contributed more than $10.4 million in funding.

“Conservation has become a core value of the outdoor industry,” Sterling said. “More companies are recognizing that we need to protect the places where outdoor consumers choose to recreate and use the industry’s products.”

--Ana Trujillo