It is a period of transformative change for the North American West, an area that contains some of our country’s greatest natural treasures, greatest diversity, and last remaining wild landscapes.
Yet, the change is not environmentally sustainable. The region’s natural treasures face many threats: escalating demands from a growing population, sprawling development, large-scale energy and mineral production, and climate change. In particular, water, which has always been a limiting factor in parts of the region, has become increasingly scarce as competition for it intensifies.
Throughout much of the region, these threats are likely to result in a further degradation of the region’s natural resources and iconic landscapes, and a growing cultural separation of people from the land that surrounds them. Despite the scale of change that will take place over the coming years, there are still a number of opportunities to achieve conservation outcomes.
The Western Conservation subprogram, which began in 2008, is a five-year effort to build the resilience of the region’s conservation infrastructure in order to withstand the impacts of population growth, energy and mineral development, and climate change.
Our goal is to protect and restore biologically important and iconic areas of the North American West in ways that help create sustainable communities and build broader and more effective conservation constituencies. These efforts carry on the Packard Foundation’s long tradition of supporting land and water conservation in the West.
Most of our grants are focused in three priority geographic areas, each with specific objectives:
- California: Protect and restore ecologically important lands and corridors, improve resource management systems, and build environmental constituencies in the Sierra Nevada, California Central Valley, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
- Colorado Plateau: Protect priority river systems, terrestrial habitat, and culturally significant landscapes on the Colorado Plateau.
- Northwest Mexico: Focus on key coastal protection, including opportunities for the protection of private lands, designation of public natural protected areas, and new policies and regulations for coastal land protection.
These areas were chosen as our highest priority investment areas based upon three primary criteria: (1) the Foundation’s past and current work within the areas, (2) the ability of philanthropic investment to leverage new public or private funds for conservation, and (3) the opportunity for significant conservation outcomes over the five-year life of the subprogram. We also fund a limited amount of work that spans the entire North American West (e.g., strengthening land trusts).
The Western Conservation strategy was developed in close collaboration with the Resources Legacy Fund (RLF), a longtime partner of the Foundation. RLF conducts grantmaking for several elements of our work: California, Northwest Mexico, and our targeted investments in West-wide conservation initiatives.
We prioritize projects that clearly articulate a plan to accomplish significant, measurable results in support of subprogram objectives. We seek to fund projects that can be replicated widely, leverage other funding, and/or be catalytic in stimulating policy changes that provide broader societal and environmental benefits.