Conserving precious lands and habitats across the U.S.
In Western Pennsylvania and across the nation, important habitats are imperiled, threatening biodiversity and undermining people’s quality of life.
Wildlife flourishes and people thrive in those once-imperiled habitats, through strategic land protection, stewardship, and activation, and sustainable economic development that deploys renewable energy and new technologies that foster livable communities and healthy natural systems.
Areas We Invest In
The Foundation has helped to protect more than 4.5 million acres of high conservation-value land across the country. The Foundation supports the protection and enhancement of biodiversity by conserving landscapes in the United States through the purchase of land; the use of conservation easements; and the use of other structures that ensure durable conservation outcomes. The Foundation utilizes both grants and PRIs in its Conservation program, enabling large-scale projects. The Foundation is working to create an internal $150 million revolving fund of PRIs to support the acquisition of these important natural assets.
Priority: Conserving Large-Scale Working Lands and Other Critical Ecosystems – The nation’s timberlands not only support a vast array of wildlife, they also are critical to rural communities, generating jobs and tax revenue upon which communities depend. It is estimated that 5 million acres of forestland with the highest ecological value will rotate onto the market over the next decade. The Foundation will consider investments to protect these and other threatened ecosystems at scale, including estuaries, coastal areas, and other unique natural areas, with the goal of protecting an additional 1 million acres of these lands. To support ecosystem processes and viable populations of flora and fauna, the Foundation focuses on large landscapes usually of 1,000 acres or more, often greater than 5,000 acres.
The Foundation supports the restoration and enhancement of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in high-priority landscapes in Western Pennsylvania and across the United States. Investments focus on lands and water which were protected through past Foundation investments. These geographies include, but are not limited to, the Northern Forest, Appalachia, upper Midwest, and the Southeastern United States.
Priority: Improving Water Quality and Ecosystem Health – By restoring the ecological function of lands and waters; reconnecting fragmented habitat; and returning landscapes to a diverse mosaic of habitat types and age-classes, the Foundation invests in partners and projects that restore ecosystem health throughout the country. This work includes funding for stream-channel restoration; removal of barriers to aquatic organism passage; riparian-buffer reforestation; sustainable forest management; and mine-lands restoration.
Priority: Restoring Habitat for Key Species – Past land management practices have damaged habitat and reduced ecosystem function. The Foundation supports the restoration and enhancement of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in high-priority landscapes identified through the Western Pennsylvania Business Plan for Healthy Forests and Freshwater Habitats and in other parts of the country where the Foundation has made past investments in habitat conservation. Foundation investments focus on areas with the highest quality, most resilient habitats, rather than the most threatened geographies.
Priority: Addressing Invasive Species and Wildlife Diseases – Invasive species and wildlife diseases disrupt the balance within habitats, causing native plants and animals to fail as well as diminishing hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation possibilities. The Foundation supports efforts to raise public awareness about invasive species and wildlife disease as well as ways to control it. It also invests in research and management activities that address invasive species and wildlife diseases at meaningful scale.
The Foundation supports sustainable economic development in rural communities where it has made historic investments in habitat conservation. It encourages the use of innovative conservation-finance strategies that attract new funding to conservation. It also supports data-driven efforts to increase the number of outdoor enthusiasts, so that a broader group of people can enjoy nature.
Priority: Building Strong Rural Economies in Areas Adjacent to Conserved Land – The outdoor economy contributes over $800 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports more than 4 million jobs across a wide range of industries. Agriculture and forestry contribute another $400 billion. Given the importance of well-managed lands and waters to our economic prosperity, the Foundation works to support innovative business models that lead to sustainable management of our natural resources.
Priority: Hunters, Anglers, and Other Outdoor Enthusiasts – Without support from private hunters and anglers and public funding from associated excise taxes, land protection and habitat restoration would become much more difficult. Hunting participation peaked in 1982, when nearly 17 million hunters purchased more than 28 million licenses. Hunter numbers have declined since. The U.S. lost 2.2 million hunters between 2011 and 2016 alone. The Foundation supports efforts to increase interest in hunting, angling and other outdoor activities to help generate greater participation and potential revenue for conservation.
Priority: Broadening the Conservation Movement – Access to and use of outdoor spaces is the heritage of all Americans. Currently, more than half of all Americans participate in outdoor activity, but most of those participants are white. Given the changing demographics of the United States, the percentage of Americans participating in outdoor activity could decline significantly if efforts are not made to diversify the outdoor participant base. To stay relevant and ensure that conservation is a value held by all Americans, the Foundation will seek to work with partners to encourage inclusive, diverse participation in outdoor recreation, land and water conservation, and environmental research.
The Foundation supports improving environmental quality, sustainability and the livability of communities in Western Pennsylvania, and other geographies, where it has made historic investments or that are determined to be high priorities. This includes promotion of energy efficiency, renewable energy, new sustainable technologies, healthier homes, greenspaces and trails.
Priority: Fostering the Use of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources – The Foundation makes investments that improve air and water quality; advance energy efficiency and new energy options; develop stormwater infrastructure that incorporates green design; promote reuse of materials and reduce waste; and foster new job development that allows all these efforts to thrive.
Priority: Advancing Novel Environmental Technologies – To catalyze the next generation of sustainable businesses, the Foundation will consider investments in new technologies that improve environmental quality and contribute to the economy.
Priority: Improving Environmental Factors that Affect People’s Quality of Life – To create environmentally, economically, and socially vibrant communities, the Foundation invests to increase accessibility to natural areas and greenways near urban centers and ensuring these centers are welcoming, culturally relevant and co-created with the community members these areas will serve. The Foundation also will consider investing in projects that lead to homes that provide for healthy and energy-efficient lifestyles.
Request for Proposals
The Foundation periodically issues Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to solicit proposals on specific subject areas of its Strategic Plan, areas that the Foundation believes are worthy of greater focus. There currently are four pending RFPs – two in the Economic Development program area, and two in the Economic Mobility program area. Those pending RFPs can be reviewed here.
Our historic RFPs can be viewed here:
- Conservation Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3)
- Invasive Plant Species as a Threat to Native Biodiversity
While these RFPs no longer are open, applications for funding on the subject matter highlighted in those historic RFPs can be submitted at any time through our General Application.
Apply for a Grant
In 2021, the Foundation awarded 73 grants and program-related investments totaling $48,260,925 to advance its Conservation strategy, as articulated in the Foundation’s 2021–2030 Strategic Plan.
Yes, the Foundation provides general operating support for organizations that are not postsecondary institutions or research institutions.
In the application, you will encounter a question about the type of support that you are seeking. You can select from the following options: Capital Support; General Operating Support; Land Acquisition; Project Support.
Any questions about the application may be submitted via email to [email protected]. We will be responsive to all thoughtful inquiries.
Yes. You may submit an application if your company is based anywhere in the United States. Unfortunately, we are not able to entertain applications from companies not incorporated in the United States. For ideas focused on Economic Mobility, Economic Development, or Health & Well-Being, if your company is located outside the Pittsburgh region, please be sure to address within the application how your idea will positively impact Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties. If your proposal is related to our Conservation program area, the positive impact you seek to generate can be anywhere in the United States.
The primary goal of a PRI is to achieve charitable benefit. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service allows a foundation to provide a PRI if the investment fulfills all three of the following criteria:
- The primary purpose is to accomplish one or more of the foundation’s exempt purposes
- Production of income or appreciation of property is not a significant purpose, and
- Influencing legislation or taking part in political campaigns on behalf of candidates is not a purpose.
The IRS provides additional guidance that further clarifies each of these criterion. We encourage you to consult with your legal counsel and review the IRS guidance and other resources about philanthropic PRIs before you submit an application.
A PRI is a financing tool that allows foundations to provide funding to for-profit businesses to create solutions to social problems in furtherance of that foundation’s charitable purposes. PRIs can take many forms, including loans, equity investments or financial guaranties. Foundations do expect a PRI to be repaid according to the terms of the investment. When that happens, a foundation distributes the returned funds to other charitable purposes within one year.
Yes, we consider applications from organizations that are not based in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. In your application, you should be clear about why and in what ways the project will serve economic development in these counties.
The Foundation will not fund ideas that include regranting to individuals. The Foundation may fund applications that include regranting from a lead agency to other agencies who are identified in the submission as participants in a collaboration. In this case, the regranted funds are solely to support the collaborative activities described in the submission. We will consider ideas in which organizations provide technical assistance in areas where they have expertise or are working with pre-identified partners, who will then assist with the implementation of the proposed project.
For organizations that are eligible to receive support for indirect expenses, we do not have a recommended ratio.
Yes, you can include indirect expenses in your proposed budget if your organization is not a postsecondary or research institution.
We define indirect expenses as those expenses categorized as “Management and General;” “Administrative and Management;” or “Fundraising” according to the IRS and FASB functional expense allocation guidelines.
The Foundation is generally not providing multi-year grants at this time. The majority of our grants are twelve to eighteen months.
Questions about a declined application may be submitted via email to [email protected]. The Foundation aspires to reply to all inquiries but, given the volume of applications the Foundation receives, we cannot commit to answering every such inquiry.
The Foundation normally has Board meetings in the Spring, Summer and Winter.
You will immediately receive an email confirming that your application was successfully submitted. There are not specific timelines associated with the review of a funding application.
The first step is to check your organization’s tax status and verify that you are eligible to receive philanthropic funding. After that, you can submit an application through our online portal. We will only consider applications submitted through this portal.
It is unlikely that you can meet with a program officer before submitting. In general, program officers are not available for a discussion until after a proposal has been submitted. You can also email [email protected] with questions.
Grants are the primary form of financial support utilized by the Foundation, but it encourages innovative approaches to conservation such as program-related investments. Given the scale of the nation’s conservation challenges, partnerships with public agencies and for-profit companies are looked upon favorably.
Yes. The Foundation bases its decisions whenever possible on data-driven, scientifically backed evidence, and therefore supports and recognizes the importance of research. Planning efforts also are supported with the expectation that they will lead to programs that advance the Foundation’s Conservation strategy.
While Southwest Pennsylvania is our home and an area of particular interest to the Foundation, the Conservation program is national in scope and has made and will continue to make investments throughout the nation.