Of the nearly 1.2 million dollars awarded by the Conservation and Research Foundation between 1953 and 2002, a little more than 25% was for contributions in support of 38 institutions. Half of these grants were made when these institutions were in their formative stages. Notable among them were The Nature Conservancy, the Rachel Carson Trust for the Living Environment, The Institute of Ecology, the Fundacion de Parques Nacionales of Costa Rica, the Environmental Flying Service of Tucson, Arizona, the Latin American Natural Area Programs, Population Communications International, the Amazonian Peoples Resources Initiative, and the Population Media Center.
At this point in time it is hard to believe that in the 1950s only a few thousand dollars was needed to keep the budget of The Nature Conservancy, now the largest conservation organization in the world, in the black. The Foundation’s $6,000 of support to the Rachel Carson Trust, an organization dedicated to reducing contamination of thebiosphere by toxic chemicals, was one of the first it received. This organization, now known as the Rachel Carson Council, is still flourishing.
The Institute of Ecology is a different story. It was established in 1971 to answer the need for a scientific organization that could undertake environmental problems too large and complex to be handled by a single educational institution or mission-oriented agency. It was organized by a study committee of the Ecological Society of America. The Conservation and Research Foundation was one of two private organizations which made grants to help launch the venture. The Institute was able to undertake a number of significant projects funded by governmental agencies, but soon found itself becoming a job shop for the funding institutions, unable independently to tackle the types of projects originally envisioned. When, in 1976, the trustees of the Institute realized the magnitude of indebtedness, drastic remedial action was taken. Among other things, a $100,000 fundraising drive was initiated to help the Institute weather the crisis. The Foundation took a most unusual step by making two $10,000 loans to the Institute, each of which could be converted into grants if matched on a four-to-one basis. Within a year the loans had been matched and shortly thereafter the debts had been paid off. A reorganized Institute continued on for a few more years, terminating its operation in 1984 in sound financial condition.
In order to assist the newly formed Fundacion de Parques Nacionales in its efforts to expand Costa Rica’s National Park system, which in 1982 was already protecting over eight percent of the entire country, the Foundation made a grant of $5,000 to enable the Fundacion to send its representative, Dr. Luis Diego Gomez, to the United States to negotiate gifts of land owned by foreign interests and to raise funds for its program. As a result of his visit, at least $50,000 was raised and negotiations were initiated for the acquisition of some major tracts of land.
Another example of institutional support that has had a multiplying effect was a $5,000 grant to Ms. Sandra Lanham to begin operating her Environmental Flying Service. EFS provides inexpensive transport to organizations and individuals conducting environmental missions, mostly in northern Mexico. Among her grateful customers have been the National Audubon Society and Conservation International. Later the Foundation defrayed the cost of a plane overhaul and insurance for her venture. A letter from Ms. Lanham, a 2001 recipient of a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her work, indicated how crucial this support had been. She wrote:
Because of your foundation, my work really got off the ground, quite literally. Your matching grant in 1992 was the first money that my fledgling project ever received. I had sent 50 letters to foundations similar to the one I sent you. All were rejected.
A final example of base institutional support is Foundation seed money to the Latin American Natural Area Programs (LANAP). LANAP served for twenty years as a resource center and clearinghouse for information relating to the establishment and stewardship of natural areas throughout South and Central America. It was run by Dr. Maria Buchinger de Alitisz, initially from a desk at the headquarters of The Nature Conservancy and later from her own office in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She arranged and attended international meetings, prepared and distributed publications promoting the establishment of natural areas, and provided advice to individuals and organizations involved in the land preservation movement. Hers was a dedicated commitment. LANAP consisted of a group of friends — mostly members or former members of the Conservancy’s Board of Governors — who wished to support Maria’s work. Between 1971 to 1988 the Foundation supported LANAP with small grants totalling $20,600. This was her principal source of funds.