The Environmental History of The Nature Conservancy

The non-confrontational approach to environmentalism of TNC started with the third president of TNC, Richard Pough.[1] In August 1969, Adams, former chairman of TNC, noted in his last speech at the board meeting that TNC set up a goal of preserving natural areas and but had “absolutely no method of attaining it”.[2] Since then, TNC succeeded in raising a series of fundraising projects that allowed them to transfer thousands of acreage of land to natural reserves like the National Park Service. Patrick Noonan, the president of TNC from 1973 to 1980, stated that “Everyone in the Nature Conservancy is a fund-raiser.”[3] The statement has described the conservation culture of TNC. Noonan made big polluters involved the conservation board and persuaded them to consider preservation as the best land use plan.

Since the 1980s, TNC has began working with corporations besides its networks with small donors. In 1983, TNC received donations, such as , direct grants, land donations, loan funds, and technical assistance, from around 400 firms.[4] Companies have played an important role in providing financial support for TNC’s conservation efforts. By the 1990s, the movement of corporate direction towards social responsibility explained why TNC received an increasing number of donations from business partners. Thanks to those donations, in 1989, TNC formed the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma’s Osage Hills, bringing back bison and fire to the ecosystem.

By protecting larger lands and greater biodiversity, TNC has convinced the private sector that their investments can generate better outcomes for both business and nature. As Mark Tercek, the current CEO of TNC emphasized, partnering with big corporations who carry big ecological footprints can create a large impact on the environment and real conservation values.[5]

[1] Birchard, Bill. Nature’s Keepers : The Remarkable Story of How the Nature Conservancy Became the Largest Environmental Organization in the World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 7, 2016)

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Griffith, James and Charles Knoeber. “Why do corporations contribute to the Nature Conservancy?” Public Choice 49. 1986: 69-77.

[5] Tercek, Mark. The Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature. New York: Perseus, 2013.


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