author + Barry Gold
Barry Gold

Environment Program Director


Conservation solutions that promote economic and environmental prosperity

A strong, resilient environment is the bedrock of a thriving economy. The foundation supports conservation projects that sustain vibrant communities and natural resources.

Our ocean conservation work focuses on securing healthy, sustainable fisheries in the Americas – the U.S., Mexico, Peru and Chile – and Indonesia.

Healthy oceans benefit individuals and communities. Over the past year, the foundation’s grants advanced international efforts that promise to restore our oceans and reduce overfishing in these target geographies. New and unexpected partnerships formed, including an alliance between scientists and eight of the world’s largest seafood companies to combat illegal fishing and improve supply-chain transparency.

Through freshwater conservation initiatives, the foundation made tangible progress toward improving the health of the Mississippi and Colorado rivers, which provide drinking water to 55 million people and generate more than $1 trillion of economic activity.

Throughout the Mississippi River Basin, the foundation is working to improve water quality by changing farming practices on 10 million acres of agricultural land over five years. Last year our work encouraged farmers to plant tens of thousands of acres with cover crops, which help protect soil quality, improve the land’s ability to hold water and lower the amount of excess nutrients that wash into the river.

With the foundation’s backing, a coalition of leading agricultural and food companies, major retailers and environmental groups also united to promote better conservation practices on farms in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. The new Midwest Row Crop Collaborative will raise $4 million for projects that reduce nutrient loss and improve soil health in those three states.

In the Colorado River basin, over-allocation of water resources and climate change threaten the economy and the environment of the basin.  The foundation is supporting market-based reforms to policies that drive overuse of water and damage an ecosystem ravaged by drought. Last year brought important progress.

For example, the foundation worked to secure a federal-state agreement to help avoid an environmental calamity in the Imperial Valley region surrounding California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea. The lake is shrinking from years of drought and faces increased salinization.

The federal-state agreement was made possible in part through the Water Funder Initiative. The foundation and several philanthropic partners committed $10 million over five years that will help protect public health and promote drought resilience in the Salton Sea. In both the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin, we are helping improve river flows compromised by habitat loss and invasive species.

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsed a foundation-backed plan to recover patches of natural habitat along the Gila River to protect bird species threatened by vegetation loss.

In the coastal Gulf of Mexico, where the foundation is working to restore wetlands and other coastal ecosystems, we joined with partners to ensure that governments prioritized the renewal of a comprehensive plan that will guide billions of dollars committed to repair damage caused by the 2010 oil spill.

The updated plan provides a framework for making Gulf restoration a reality and ensuring resilient coastal communities over the long term.

The foundation approaches its conservation work with urgency because healthy oceans and rivers are the key to our society’s long-term prosperity.

The decisions we make over the next five to 10 years – for the water we drink, the ocean and coasts – will determine what kind of world we leave to our children and grandchildren.

– Rob Walton, Environment Program Committee Chair

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