|05-16-2001, 09:31 AM||#1 (permalink)|
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Group saves environment by buying it
<font color="yellow">How the Nature Conservency works...</font c>
From the Anchorage Daily News:
Group saves environment by buying it
NATURE CONSERVANCY: Land deals, education at heart of organization's agenda.
By Paula Dobbyn
Anchorage Daily News
(Published May 14, 2001)
It's the rare environmental group that attracts more power suits than fleece.
But a Nature Conservancy reception at an Anchorage oil company headquarters last month drew a decidedly upscale crowd. Leather loafers and silk ties defined the soiree. Dapper executives from the petroleum, timber, seafood and other extractive industries sipped cocktails with bankers, Native corporation leaders, general counsels and other notables.
With a high-rise view of the Chugach range warmed by an early evening sun, guests picked at baked brie, crab dip and poached salmon with dill garnish. The talk centered on market-based solutions to environmental problems.
"There's no room for polarization. We're all conservationists," said David Banks, the conservancy's Alaska chapter president, drawing applause from the distinguished crowd.
The fete was a chance to wine and dine members of The Nature Conservancy's Corporate Council on the Environment. These deep-pocketed local donors help bankroll the organization, which describes itself as the world's largest conservation group. More than any other national green organization, the conservancy has courted the business world for its money and clout. With 1.1 million members and an annual budget of $7.4 million, the Arlington, Va.-based group's message that preserving the environment makes business sense has convinced an impressive roster of wealthy donors.
Unlike any other environmental group in the state, The Nature Conservancy's Alaska chapter has a board of trustees that reads like a who's who of the Alaska business world. It's stacked with heavyweights like BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. president Richard Campbell, Phillips Alaska Inc. president Kevin O. Meyers, Key Bank of Alaska president Michael J. Burns, Alaska Communications System chief operating officer John R. Ayers, two former governors, and a university chancellor. David Wight, president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., comes onboard in June.
And it's not like the conservancy has to twist arms to fill those seats.
"In a lot of organizations, you have to go out and recruit board members. In our case, people come to us and ask to serve," Banks said.
While The Nature Conservancy knows how to throw a good bash, it's just as adroit at fund raising as it is in hobnobbing with the affluent.
The Alaska chapter launched a capital campaign last year with the goal of reaching $10 million by 2005. More than $6.5 million has flowed into conservancy coffers so far, the group says.
Phillips Alaska Inc. gave the group $1 million last year. Board member Richard Goldman of San Francisco slipped the group a cool $2.5 million donation recently. Goldman heads The Goldman Fund, a private charitable foundation supporting environmental and quality-of-life issues.
Gene T. Sykes, a partner with Goldman Sachs, recently made a $1 million gift. Sykes, of Los Angeles, is also a board member of the Alaska chapter.
While the 29-member board helps guide the conservancy's Alaska agenda, it's also an economic and marketing engine.
"It's a nonprofit. We're expected to bring in the cash," said Burns, referring the board.
Unlike with other environmental groups known for in-your-face tactics or expensive lawsuits targeting industrial polluters and developers, The Nature Conservancy's strategy is low-key, almost stealthy, in comparison. It avoids confrontation as it quietly buys up key parcels of private land for habitat protection. Usually only after the deals are closed does the public find out.
It also works on conservation easements and educating landowners on how to protect public resources.
Conservation easements preserve property for recreation, habitat, open space or historical importance. Along the Kenai River, for example, the conservancy has worked with private property owners, government agencies and communities to conserve the watershed from development, pollution and fishing pressures. It's done the same in Kachemak Bay and is making inroads in Southeast, where it recently opened an office in Juneau.
In the past year, the conservancy has bought 1,460 acres in the Copper River Delta, the Kenai River Watershed, the Palmer Hay Flats, on Admiralty Island in Southeast, and other areas.
More than half of the $10 million raised in the capital campaign will go toward land purchases and $3 million will be earmarked for promoting eco-friendly businesses, the group says.
Founded 50 years ago in New York state by a small group of scientists wanting to preserve biodiversity, The Nature Conservancy has since matured into a prominent, worldwide organization with a reputation for huge land acquisitions and promoting ecological research. The group has protected more than 12 million acres throughout the United States and Canada, including 70,000 acres in Alaska. It owns 1,300 nature preserves, the largest private system of sanctuaries in the world.
Susan Ruddy, a University of Alaska Anchorage vice chancellor, said the Alaska chapter has come a long way since she founded it in 1988. Relations with the oil industry back then weren't as cozy as they are now. The first attempt Ruddy made at wrangling money out of the local BP president didn't exactly get off to a smooth start.
"He said, 'I never thought I'd have a tree hugger in my office,' " she said, laughing. But Ruddy said they ended up having a delightful conversation and she didn't go away empty-handed.
The Nature Conservancy's ability to pay market-value prices to protect land from commercial development appeals to private property and business owners who might otherwise shun contact with environmentalists.
"They don't go into court and try to exercise eminent domain. Their rationale is to try to find pieces of property to take out of private ownership and put into the public domain. It takes a willing seller," said board member Alec Brindle, president of Wards Cove Packing Co., a Seattle-based seafood company that operates in Alaska.
Brindle said he sold property to the group before becoming a board member.
"I found them very reasonable," he said.
None of the board members asked said they joined for the public relations value. Most said they sit on a variety of boards and consider it a public service.
"It's no different than serving on the Red Cross board," Brindle said.
But for industries often at odds with environmental groups, donating time and money to a prominent conservation organization certainly can't hurt.
Only one of the nine board members interviewed said they would sit on the board of another environmental group. June McAtee, vice president of land and natural resources for Calista Corp., a regional Native corporation, said she's also been a board member for an Audubon Society chapter. But she identifies with The Nature Conservancy for its pragmatism and search for middle ground.
"I like their respect for people who earn their living off the land," McAtee said.
Many board members said the conservancy's cachet and business savvy make them comfortable associating with it. They also like the group's heavy reliance on science to steer its decisions.
"They don't always go for the prettiest place. They look for the most scientifically valuable piece of property," said Robert Ritchie, a board member from Fairbanks. Ritchie, an ornithologist, owns an environmental engineering firm.
Business people are also attracted to the conservancy because it stays away from contentious political issues like oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or allowing helicopters in wilderness areas.
"Their role in conservation is to build consensus. They don't get anywhere near controversial issues," said Deborah Williams, executive director of the Alaska Conservation Foundation and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's top official in the state.
The conservancy's low-profile approach sits just fine with Williams. Each group has a role to play and The Nature Conservancy has cultivated an important niche, she said.
"There are some issues that are truly yes or no, like ANWR. They don't aspire to those issues. Nobody expects them to," Williams said.
The fact that veteran environmental activist Jack Hession said he doesn't know much about the group is testament to the conservancy's understated culture.
"They tend to stick to themselves. They do their own thing," said Hession, senior policy analyst for the Sierra Club's Alaska chapter.
One of the group's most heralded projects nationally is a deal the North Carolina chapter worked out with Georgia-Pacific Corp., according to conservancy publications.
The conservancy and the paper giant agreed to jointly manage 21,000 acres of hardwood forest along the lower Roanoke River, with both sides having a say in how the company logs the area. The conservancy holds an easement on 7,000 core acres where no cutting can take place. Georgia-Pacific agreed to restrictions on where and how it logs.
Finding a balance between a region's economic needs and its ecological values is what the group strives for, Burns said. It makes sense from a banker's standpoint.
"We can only be as successful as the communities we operate in. A community needs balance between business and environmental interests. If conservation makes a better community, it makes it a better environment for us to do business in," Burns said.
The conservancy's longtime national executive director, John Sawhill, who died last year, summed up the group's philosophy with signature pragmatism that defines the organization.
"The fundamental way that we protect the environment, frankly, is to buy it. I think there's a growing recognition that we can't leave things up to the government," said Sawhill, as quoted in his Washington Post obituary.
Bob Malone, BP's regional president for the western United States, said serving on The Nature Conservancy's Alaska board has been a learning experience. When Malone bought a ranch in West Texas three years ago, the previous owner offered to fill in a lake for him, thinking that would increase the value of the land by adding more pasture. Malone declined the offer, saying he cringed at the thought of eliminating critical habitat for wild turkeys and songbirds.
The ranch had been overgrazed for decades with native prairie grasses being wiped out by mesquite, cedar and prickly pear cactus. Malone spends time rehabilitating the soil, pulling up and burning the invasive species and planting wild grasses. While he's always considered himself a conservationist, the oil executive said his concern about the environment has deepened.
"Being on The Nature Conservancy board had a lot to do with it," he said.
Reporter Paula Dobbyn can be reached at email@example.com or 257-4317.
Nature Conservancy Officials
Chairman: Al Parrish, vice president of government relations, Holland America Line Westours, Anchorage
Vice chairman: Robert J. Ritchie, president, ABR Inc., Fairbanks
Secretary: Kate Janeway, environmental attorney/mediator, Seattle
Treasurer: Michael J. Burns, president, Key Bank of Alaska, Anchorage
Vera Alexander, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks
John R. Ayers, senior vice president of marketing and sales, Alaska Communications Systems, Anchorage
Alec Brindle, president, Ward's Cove Packing Co., Seattle
Richard C. Campbell, president, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Anchorage
George W. Cutting, investment adviser, New York and Homer
Brian E. Davies, Anchorage
Patrick Dougherty, editor, Anchorage Daily News
Suzanne Fischer, St. Louis
Edward Lee Gorsuch, chancellor, University of Alaska Anchorage
Jay S. Hammond, former governor, Port Alsworth
James E. Hemming, environmental consulting, Corvallis, Ore.
Walter J. Hickel, former governor, Anchorage
Philip James, executive vice president, ConAgra Inc., Fort Collins, Colo.
Bob Kaufman, principal, Audax Ventures, San Francisco
David Klein, professor emeritus of wildlife management, University of Alaska Fairbanks
William L. MacKay, vice president public affairs, Alaska Airlines, Seattle
Bob Malone, regional president of the western United States, BP, Los Angeles
June McAtee, vice president land and natural resources, Calista Corp., Anchorage
Kevin Meyers, president, Phillips Alaska Inc., Anchorage
Mike Navarre, president, Zan Inc., Kenai
Susan Ruddy, vice chancellor of university relations, University of Alaska Anchorage
Grace Berg Schaible, former state attorney general, Fairbanks
John L. Sturgeon, recently retired president of Koncor Forest Products Co., Anchorage
Gene Sykes, managing director, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Los Angeles
Alma Upicksoun, assistant house counsel, Arctic Slope Regional Corp.
Tom Barron, author, Boulder, Colo.
Richard N. Goldman, Goldman Fund/Goldman Environmental Prize, San Francisco
Celia Hunter, environmental organizer, Fairbanks
John T. Kelsey, Valdez and Anchorage
Byron I. Mallott, executive director, First Alaskans Foundation, Juneau
Hans C. Mautner, vice chairman, Simon Property Group, New York
Larry Merculieff, Bering Sea adviser, Anchorage and St. Paul
Samuel D. Skaggs, president, Skaggs Foundation,
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|05-16-2001, 02:28 PM||#2 (permalink)|
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