Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Nature Conservancy’s Mission?

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.

How Did The Nature Conservancy Get Started?

The Conservancy emerged from a professional association of ecologists seeking to turn their knowledge of nature into positive action for conservation. The Conservancy was incorporated in 1951 in the District of Columbia for scientific and educational purposes.

In 1955 the Conservancy began its tradition of conservation through private action with a modest 60-acre land purchase in New York State. It was the Conservancy’s first land acquisition, a protection tool that became the hallmark of the organization in subsequent decades.

Where Does The Nature Conservancy Work?

The Nature Conservancy is a global organization that works in all 50 states in the United States of America, and more than 30 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, and countries throughout the Asia Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

How Does The Nature Conservancy Identify Lands and Waters for Protection?

The Conservancy takes a systematic, science-based approach to identifying sites for protection. Called Conservation by Design, this approach begins by identifying ecoregions, or distinct divisions in the natural landscape, such as the Sonoran Desert along the U.S.-Mexico border or Brazil’s Pantanal wetland. Typically defined by climate, geography and species, these ecoregions reflect nature’s own borders, not political boundaries.

For each ecoregion, the Conservancy identifies a portfolio of high priority sites those places that collectively capture the biological diversity of the region. The Conservancy then develops customized conservation strategies, ranging from outright acquisition to environmental education, to ensure lasting protection of these target sites.

Taken together, these portfolios of sites represent a sort of “conservation blueprint” – a detailed picture of the places that must be protected and the strategies for achieving their protection. It represents a benchmark against which the Conservancy can measure its progress and is a tangible means of identifying mission success for the organization.

How Does The Nature Conservancy Work?

Working with businesses, communities and individuals, the Conservancy pursues nonconfrontational, market-based solutions to conservation challenges. In the United States, working only with willing sellers and donors, the Conservancy protects habitat through gifts, exchanges, conservation easements, management agreements, purchases and management partnerships. Outside the United States, the Conservancy works with government agencies and like-minded partner organizations to provide scientific know how, infrastructure, community development, professional training and long-term funding for legally protected but underfunded areas.

Since 1951, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide and we operate more than 100 marine conservation projects globally. The Nature Conservancy will protect nearly 360,000 acres in Michigan by 2009 through purchase, partnerships and easements with 35 preserves totaling 45,887 acres throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to protect its associated resources. The easement is either voluntarily donated or sold by the landowner and constitutes a legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on the land in perpetuity while the land remains in private hands. Conservation easements protect land for future generations while allowing owners to retain many private property rights and to live on and use their land, at the same time potentially providing them with tax benefits.

Once The Nature Conservancy owns the land, do you just lock it up?

No. Many of our preserves are open to local communities or the public for non-consumptive recreational activities such as walking, photography, bird watching, and numerous educational uses. Some preserves are closed due to the sensitive nature of certain species located in the area. We encourage members to join us for naturalist-guided field trips or volunteer stewardship days.

Does the Conservancy finance its land purchases with taxpayer money?

The vast majority of The Nature Conservancy's funds come from private individual donors, private foundations, and the Conservancy’s 1.1 million members. The organization is actively supported by the business community and has more than 1,900 corporate partners. The Conservancy spends over 85% of its funds each year directly on conservation projects.

Because it is a nonprofit group, does the Conservancy have to pay taxes on its lands?

Laws vary from state to state. But under federal law, many nonprofit groups universities, churches, conservation groups, schools, etc. are exempt from paying income taxes, and are granted nonprofit, tax-exempt status. States such as Michigan offer similar status. This is because these groups serve the public good and contribute to quality of life. The Conservancy is exempt from most income, sales and property taxes by Michigan law. Additionally, donors may deduct gifts from their federal income taxes.

Does The Nature Conservancy receive funds from the federal government?

The Nature Conservancy receives contracts and grants from federal, state and local agencies. Much of this money is for the Conservancy to purchase land, conduct specific conservation work, restoration or stewardship activities, or for scientific research to help us learn more about how to approach our conservation activities. Some of the work supported by these grants is required by law. For example, agencies are required to conduct plant and animal inventories on government property such as military bases and these agencies often turn to the Conservancy because of its scientific expertise.


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