Texas possesses an ecologically diverse and biologically significant network of lands, waters, and habitat at a scale that only Alaska rivals. About 95 percent of Texas land is privately owned and managed, which means that private landowners have enormous influence over the long-term health and sustainability of the Texas landscape.
It also means that private land conservation—permanent protection, stewardship, and restoration—plays a critical role in ensuring that future generations of Texans will enjoy and benefit from a broad range of natural resource values provided by these lands. Values associated with healthy land include wildlife habitat and migration corridors, clean water and air, watershed health, soil productivity, recreational access, and so many more.
Unfortunately, Texas's private lands face grave threats from explosive population growth and poorly planned development, which are exacerbated by a set of challenging ‘on-the-ground’ conditions—scarce public conservation funding, weak regulatory and legal infrastructure, poor public awareness, and lack of conservation capacity and sophistication. These circumstances have created a very difficult operating environment for land conservation in Texas. On the flip side, this presents tremendous opportunity for change and improved stewardship of the state’s fantastic vistas and habitat.
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation aims to conduct targeted, leveraged intervention in key issues to transform land conservation in Texas. The Land Conservation Program includes a set of strategic and overlapping initiatives, supported through both philanthropic resources (grants) and investment capital (program-related investments), to address deficiencies in the current land conservation system and build foundational elements to help ensure a healthy, ecologically diverse, productive, and sustainable landscape for future generations.
The Land Conservation Program’s goal is to permanently conserve priority lands in Texas through systemic, science-driven stewardship of private lands that ensures healthy waters and abundant habitat. Our focus on water and habitat is intentional and purposeful. It reflects the foundation’s values and priorities as well as expert opinion around the most pressing issues related to land in Texas, recognizing that land is inherently connected to habitat and water, which are at the greatest, immediate risk.
To achieve this larger goal in the context of current conditions, the program’s focus includes:
- Land Conservation Capacity Building: Create a strong, well-functioning network of conservation organizations and public agencies in Texas that advocate for and significantly advance land conservation and stewardship.
- Conservation Finance & Stewardship Incentives: Increase conservation funding in Texas tenfold, including permanent state resources.
- Hill Country to the Gulf Coast Land Protection: Permanently protect and expand science-based stewardship of priority lands in the region and statewide.
- Infrastructure Siting and Habitat Impacts: Minimize adverse impacts on wildlife and habitat and accelerate restoration efforts of degraded land associated with energy, including renewable energy resources, transportation, and other infrastructure-related development.
- Program-Related Investments for Conservation: Further the CGMF mission and amplify impact of the Land Conservation Program through the creative deployment of resources, specifically through the utilization of PRIs in conjunction with grantmaking.
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is not currently accepting proposals for the Land Conservation Program. The foundation expects to launch this grantmaking program and be fully-operational in 2019.