Conservation International Gets $261 Million Windfall

December 10, 2001

In the largest grant ever awarded to a private environmental organization, Conservation International will receive U.S. $261 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation over the next ten years.

The money will be used to identify and protect large tropical wilderness areas and "biodiversity hotspots"—25 regions in 40 countries that together make up only 1.4 percent of the planet's land surface but harbor more than 60 percent of all terrestrial species on Earth.

Many of these hotspots have lost more than 90 percent of their original habitat. There is tremendous concern that without protection, these areas could disappear in the next few years, said Russell Mittermeier, president of Washington-based Conservation International.

The grant will enable Conservation International to offer communities in developing countries an economically viable alternative to logging and mining interests, which often harm the regions' rich biological resources.

"Often communities in developing countries sell forests to support health and education needs," said Gustavo Fonseca of Conservation International. "With this new grant, we can compete directly with logging interests by offering communities the same or greater level of revenue to protect their forests."

The conservation group plans to establish trust funds that will give the newly protected areas a stream of steady income to support park management and further land acquisition.

Fonseca said one of the biggest impediments to conservation is the lack of local expertise and management skill in biologically rich regions that are threatened by logging, mining, and slash-and-burn agriculture.

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