About 28% percent of grant expenditures during the first 50 years of the Conservation and Research Foundation went toward various aspects of saving biodiversity — the acquisition of natural areas, their protection, their management, and the saving of specific endangered species.
During the first decade of its operation, the Foundation assisted in the establishment of four preserves and the enlargement of two others. These were in the early days of the natural area movement and the National Park Service was engaged in identifying outstanding tracts to be designated as National Natural Landmarks. One of those that qualified was Beckley Bog, The Nature Conservancy’s first preserve in Connecticut. The purchase of the first tract was assisted by the Foundation. Another, the Tannersville Cranberry Bog in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, was secured by the purchase of a $200 option, funded by the Foundation. A third was Bergen Swamp, a 2,000-acre calcareous wetland in western New York, which the Foundation helped the Bergen Swamp Preservation Society enlarge with small grants.
In the coast ranges of northern California, a magnificent 3,000-acre Douglas fir forest became available for protection. The price tag was $100,000. It was by far the largest project TNC had undertaken at the time. A pledge of $5,000 from the Foundation was crucial in persuading TNC to get involved. This became the Northern California Coast Range Preserve, soon recognized as a Global Biosphere Reserve. Years later it was conveyed to the University of California to be added to the California Natural Reserves System. It is known today as the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Preserve in honor of the owners who made the property available.
Another land conservation project involved a wild wooded promontory on the west side of the Thames River, adjacent to the campus of Connecticut College, became available and was purchased by friends of the Connecticut Arboretum. The Foundation contributed toward this acquisition. On the southern edge of the Arboretum was a tract of undeveloped land acquired by the Federal Government for military housing during World War II. This land was purchased by the State of Connecticut for a wildlife sanctuary with funds provided by the Foundation. It serves as a protective buffer to the Arboretum’s Bolleswood Natural Area.
Between 1973 and 2002, the Foundation assisted in the establishment or enlargement of thirteen more preserves, five in the United States, five in Costa Rica and three in Ecuador. In the U.S., the first was an addition to the 700-acre natural area of the Pond Mountain Trust in Kent, Connecticut; the second, the establishment by TNC of the Ell Pond Preserve in western Rhode Island. Ell pond, a little gem lying on the Narragansett Trail, is now embedded in the Pawcatuck Borderlands, a landscape scale project of the Conservancy straddling the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Foundation’s largest financial commitment, which came to over $46,000, was toward the enlargement of the Conservancy’s Burnham Book Preserve in East Haddam, Connecticut. This involved three additions to the preserve itself plus the purchase of an adjacent tract later added to the Devils Hopyard State Park. The Preserve lies within the watershed of the Eightmile River, which is a candidate for designation by the Federal Government as a Wild and Scenic River. It is also part of the lower Connecticut River watershed, selected by the Conservancy as one its “Last Great Places.”
In Costa Rica the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) runs several stations for education and research. One of these, Finca La Selva, lies at the foot of the Atlantic slope and protects a still intact tropical rainforest. A committee of the National Academy of Science selected this station as one of four primary sites in the world for detailed studies of tropical ecosystems. In 1981, the Foundation made a pump-priming grant of $5,000 to help OTS raise the funds needed to acquire an important 1500-acre adjacent lowland. But this left a critical expanse of rainforest — one of the richest in the world — on the steep slopes between La Selva and the huge Braulio Carrillo National Park situated on the crest of the mountains. This forest, which was under immediate threat of destruction by logging, was vital to the survival of large mammals such as the jaguar and tapir, as well as several species of rare tropical birds that migrate altitudinally up and down the mountain side during the course of the year. This land was temporarily protected by presidential decree as a Zona Protectora. However, in order to permanently save the area, $2.9 million was needed to purchase the land and provide endowment for its protection. The Foundation made the initial grants amounting to $17,000 toward this purchase in the hope that it would catalyze the fundraising effort. Early in 1985 the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation pledged $1 million toward this project, contingent upon an equal amount being raised from other sources. The fund drive was successful, title to the land was acquired, and in April of 1986 President Monge signed a decree which added the Zona Protectora to Braulio Carillo National Park.
The Las Cruces Biological Field Station is another OTS enterprise. It lies at mid-elevations on Costa Rica’s Pacific slope near the Panamanian border. At its heart is the Wilson Botanical Garden. One of the Station’s most precious assets was its adjacent 300-acres of undisturbed tropical forest. Next to it, an additional 247-acres became available for purchase in 1990. Together these tracts comprised the last remnant of the original forest in the valley. The Foundation made a $5,000 grant to OTS to enable its staff to fundraise for this addition. Later it contributed toward a project to reforest a piece of pasture that intruded into the forest. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which straddles the continental divide in central Costa Rica, supports an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species. It has now become one of the country’s foremost tourist attractions. One of the Reserve’s early needs was an administrative and research facility. In 1979 the Foundation made a grant toward financing its construction. Subsequently the Reserve was greatly expanded, especially on the Atlantic slope, with funds contributed by school children initially from Sweden and later from other countries. The land thus acquired is known as the Bosque Eterno de los Ninos. In 1988 the Foundation funded the purchase of an additional tract located at the southwestern corner of the Reserve near the crest of the mountains.
Another tropical forest remnant, situated near the center of the country about fifty miles from San Jose and known as La Cangreja, lies within a large biological corridor the Costa Rican government is working to preserve. The Foundation made a contribution toward its preservation. It has now been established as a national park. In northwestern Costa Rica, not far from the Nicaraguan border, lies the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) — about 340 square miles of protected country extending from the Pacific Coast eastward across the mountains to the Atlantic slope. The biologically rich Rincon Rainforest is situated at its extreme northeastern edge. This area was threatened by logging. The Foundation made two grants towards its acquisition as an addition to the ACG.
In Ecuador three projects were assisted. One, the Los Cedros Biological Reserve, encompasses 17,000 acres of premontane wet tropical forest and cloud forest. It is located thirty miles north of the equator and serves as a critical buffer to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of Ecuador’s largest wilderness areas. In 1995, the Foundation made a grant to help finance the acquisition of Los Cedros. Two other areas, one in the mountains and one near the Pacific coast, were also given financial assistance.
Several organizations were assisted that trained volunteers and made use of them in conservation activities. They included The Grand Canyon Trust in Arizona and PROVITA in Venzuela.
Three grants were directed toward promoting the Endangered Species Act through publications. One was a legal handbook, the others, two special issues of Endangered Species Update, published by the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. Two grants involved special breeding programs, one for the Peregrine Falcon and the other for the Mauritius Parakeet.
Certain species of endangered whales, supposedly protected by international law, were being poached for meat to be sold in Japanese markets. The Foundation helped Earthtrust develop a novel approach to this problem by developing a DNA test that could identify the source of the meat.
The grizzly bear is a formidable animal, but an important element of our wilderness heritage. Its present endangered status has been due in part to aggressive confrontations with people invading its habitat. The Foundation supported a project by Martin Smith to develop an effective, non-toxic spray containing capsaicin which could serve as protection to people carrying it and which could also condition bears to avoid human contact. The product he developed is now widely used by national park rangers and others traveling in bear country. Another problem has been the practice of wildlife biologists tranquilizing bears in order to obtain information on their age and sex. It is a very stressful procedure for the bears and sometimes results in their death. Dr. Jay F. Kirkpatrick was researching a non-capture method of obtaining this information through a chemical analysis of bear feces. The Foundation supported this project.
The Foundation also helped Steven Minta obtain data required to develop a management system for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to assist the U.S. Forest Service implement a recovery plan for the endangered timber wolf as well as for the protection of the grizzly bear.
In Ghana a close interrelationship exists between valuable timber trees belonging to the genus Milicia and the straw-colored fruit bat which feeds on their fruits. The trees are dependent on the bats for pollination and dispersal. The Milicia trees are being harvested to the point of commercial extinction, while the bats are being heavily hunted as a source of protein. If the relationship between these species is as close as the evidence suggests, the over-harvesting of either one could have far reaching economic and ecological consequences for the people of Ghana. The Foundation supported a detailed study of this situation by Daniel Taylor, a graduate student at Northern Arizona University. It is hoped that the results of his study will lead to enlightened management of these resources.
Three grants addressed the plight of various species of turtles. One, the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Recovery Program, a joint venture of the American Museum of Natural History and the IUCN-World Conservation Union, involved the design and implementation of management and recovery strategies. These included establishing sanctuaries, curbing the trade of declining species, and creating projects that conserve turtles. Over 34 projects scattered throughout the world were already operational and an additional 47 were in the planning stages.