The Nature Conservancy is a US charitable environmental organization whose goal is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on our planet. The Nature Conservancy UK is now the Nature Conservancy Council. It was established in 1949 to cover natural conservation issues across all of Great Britain. The Environmental Protection Act of 1990 later split the Nature Conservancy Council into four groups. There is also The Nature Conservancy of Canada. All of these organizations with similar names have the same general goal – preserving our biosphere.
History of The Nature Conservancy Project
The Nature Conservancy has its roots in both the Ecological Society of America in 1915; and then, the Ecologists Union, a small group of scientists, in 1946. This group resolved to take direct action to save threatened natural areas. Richard Pough was one of the founders of the Nature Conservancy. One of his efforts involved a hunting spot near Reading, Pennsylvania called Hawk Mountain. He found hundreds of dead carcasses there and he persuaded a New York philanthropist to buy 1,400 acres of the mountain and it became established as the country’s first sanctuary for birds of prey.
After a visit to England, Mr. Pough urged the Ecologists Union to change their name to The Nature Conservancy and it was incorporated into a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia in 1951. Mr. Pough was elected the nature Conservancy’s first president and served until 1956. It was not until 1965 and a gift from the Ford Foundation that the Nature Conservancy hired its first full-time paid president.
Current Status of Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries, including the 50 states in America. The Conservancy has more than one million members worldwide. The Conservancy has protected more than 17 million acres in the US and more than 473,000 square kilometers (117 million acres) internationally. The Nature Conservancy is the largest environmental nonprofit according to its assets and revenue. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Conservancy an A- rating and includes it on its list of “Top-Rated Charities.”
Today, President and CEO Mark Tercek, a former manager from Goldman Sachs, leads the Nature Conservancy. He is an adjunct professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. It is one of the largest and most prominent Big Green environmental groups in the world. It has received a tidal wave of donations from corporations of late. Some of these companies are known polluters.
The Nature Conservancy purchases private land and then sells it to state and federal agencies, sometimes at a considerable mark-up. Between 2002 and 2004, the Washington Post published several articles featuring the Nature Conservancy. The publisher asserted that the Conservancy is the richest environmental group in the world. It has amassed $3 billion in assets by pledging to save parts of the planet. In addition to land conservation, the conservancy has pursued drilling, logging and development.
Another published piece put the Conservancy at odds with its mission. Mobil Oil gave the Conservancy a patch of prairie that was the last native breeding ground of the most endangered bird in North America. The Conservancy wanted to turn the site into a national model of environmentally compatible drilling to the chagrin of many of its members.
Occasionally the Nature Conservancy seems more interested in acquiring money than preserving land. Recently, the Conservancy acquired a rare open sand plain on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. It reported that it was “an important victory for conservation.” Although it placed restrictions that limited development, it went ahead and resold half of the land, paving the way for large vacation homes.
In spite of some questionable decisions, the nature Conservancy remains the beacon for land conservation. They are trusted by most of the public and their mission speaks to the green movement of today.