PSTX Seal

Land

Let me say first that it's a privilege to be here with my colleague, Larry Selzer. It's a special honor to be with some of my

Texas conservation heroes—Jessica Catto, Ed Harte, Terry Hershey, young Chris Harte, and, most important, Andy

Sansom.

You don't know what a rare individual you all have in Andy Sansom, and I want to thank him for being a very special conservation leader here in Texas and across the nation.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that to live fully is to be engaged in the passion of one's time. I submit to you that the passion of our time is land conservation.

For many reasons land has meant a great deal to this country. And after September 11th, I suggest to you that it will mean even more in terms of solitude and recovery. In a recent survey the two most important institutions after those events were our churches and our parks.

In America the challenges before us are substantial for conservation. In my grandchildren's lifetime, the U.S. population may very well double.

I think it's important to understand the history of the environmental movement to understand where we are today and where we're going. I suggest there are three eras in the environmental movement. When we became a nation in 1776, the first 200 years were years of resource exploitation--resources were treated as a commodity. The next era began with Earth Day in 1970, which led to an era of unprecedented environmentalism.

Today the environmental movement has grown to some 10,000 nonprofit 501c(3) organizations. There's one coming every day, and they're growing extremely rapidly and, most important, at the grassroots level.

When I began in conservation 30 years ago, we in the environmental field received less than 1 percent of the charitable dollar. Today we receive over 3 percent of the charitable dollar, or, to put it another way, $6 billion is flowing into those 10,000 organizations. A recent Roper poll of Americans concluded that the top issue in the 21st century will be the environment.

Today I suggest to you we're now moving into a third era for conservation--an era of sustainability--and it is this era that I want to talk to you about this afternoon.

We in the Conservation Fund believe that the real opportunities for land conservation in this great land we call America lie with the free enterprise system. They link with private stewardship, as Andy Sansom has suggested.

We need to partner with the greatest motivator the free world has ever known—the free enterprise system. And so what we are about today at the Conservation Fund is working with businesses and entrepreneurs in ways we had never dreamed of before. We are supported by over 250 corporations, along with foundations and individuals. Every day we preserve over 1,000 acres of land. The great majority of that land is not fee ownership; it's easements and working landscapes, and it's done with private capital.

The opportunities to work with the free enterprise system are indeed significant because we have found that haphazard conservation is worse than haphazard development. That's what we've had in this great land we call America—haphazard conservation.

You cannot stop growth, and you cannot stop development. But you can channel growth on those lands that have the carrying capacity and away from lands that we've identified as conservation priorities. In the Chesapeake Bay area where I come from, states have just come together and agreed on a historic compact.

The governors signed a compact, the 2010 compact, to inventory and prioritize all the river watersheds flowing into the Chesapeake Bay—64,000 square miles will be inventoried and prioritized for conservation over the next decade.

We will identify those lands and those watersheds that are critical for conservation, and then we will work with developers to encourage development in targeted areas that have the carrying capacity, those which we have identified for growth.

That is what I call not "smart growth" but "smart conservation." And in the 21st century this is the kind of thinking we are going to see more of as we attempt to collaborate with the free enterprise system.

One of my overriding concerns in the conservation field is leadership capacity. Do we have the capacity to lead in our field? Because today we are not dealing simply with ecological issues and ecosystem management information systems; rather, we're dealing with business issues.

We're dealing with new drivers for conservation, including Wall Street, tax credits, and joint ventures as we integrate our thinking with the business community.

Recently, the chairman of Du Pont advised that as the CEO of Du Pont, he is the chief environmental officer, not the chief executive officer. And more and more corporate executives, from small, medium-size, and large corporations, are embracing conservation as an opportunity for a competitive market advantage in the 21st century.

As you think about the future of conservation in Texas, I would suggest three areas to focus upon.

The first is education--for our youth and for yourself--and becoming engaged as a volunteer in this great land effort of conservation.

The second is good public policy. The farm bill now pending in Congress has tremendous opportunities for cross-compliance, a concept that environmental groups embrace. We are going to support major price supports for farmers and ranchers. In return, we seek cross-compliance for conservation and streamside conservation by easements.

And we will see the largest farm bill in the history of America, in part because the environmental community has embraced the farm bill as a partner with the farmer to get it passed.

The third and perhaps most important area is embracing the idea of new conservation capital with the private sector, including joint ventures with the private sector.

We recently acquired some 300,000 acres for $80 million in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. As the land came on the market, we wanted to protect only a portion. The bid required the buyer to buy all the property, thus we went into the market and we bid against Wall Street firms. We were the successful bidders, paying over $76 million in cash.

We then created a master plan with conservation groups in the three states, and you know what we found? There was only 100,000 acres that really needed to go into public ownership for parks and wildlife. The great majority—200,000 acres—was better managed by the private market, and that's just what we did. We put the 100,000 acres into parks and wildlife refuges, and we remarketed the 200,000 acres in the private market, subject to conservation easements.

We found willing buyers for the 200,000 acres, and today those lands are back in private ownership and on the tax rolls, providing jobs and tax revenues in those rural communities.

Recently John Hancock came to us representing pension funds and said, "We want to invest in the Chesapeake Bay, and we are concerned about environmental issues in the bay. Would you help us do an environmental scan of a large tract that's just come on the market?" Hancock did not want to own endangered species habitat. So we conducted environmental scans, and we determined that within those 400,000 acres, only about 15 percent really had environmental sensitivity and belonged in conservation.

So we said to John Hancock, "Let's bid together. Let's acquire this property together. You take down the majority of it, the 80 percent that should be in timber production. We'll take down the remaining 20 percent for conservation." We submitted a joint bid and together we were the successful bidders--a remarkable partnership between the Conservation Fund, a national, nonprofit land conservation group, and a private capital investor.

We've taken those lands, the 20 percent, and made them into parks and wildlife refuges. We could never have made that project possible without private capital, without collaboration and a joint venture.

Today the issue of climate control is very real, and we see a new opportunity for another type of conservation capital for carbon sequestration. We're working with Texaco and American Electric Power, using their cash and their capital to buy lands in Mississippi and Louisiana and then reconverting those lands into timberlands as carbon banks.

We have formed a partnership to acquire degraded farmlands and replant the lands as tree farms to capture carbon credits.

Again, private capital is employed to achieve conservation objectives through a joint venture. So I would suggest to you, as we move forward in the 21st century and examine how we leverage our time and our capital, that we look to the private sector as an unparalleled opportunity for conservation in the future.

I do believe that landscapes and special places in Texas are very worth preserving. They are fragile and unique, and they are also emblematic of Texas. You have an enormous challenge before you to think collaboratively and encourage private stewardship.

You all know the adage that 1 percent makes things happen, 9 percent watches things happen, and the great majority, 90 percent, says, "What happened?" You are the 1 percent that can make things happen.

A conference like this has never been held, to my knowledge, and I congratulate the organizers, for I believe there is real leadership here to sponsor these forums across America. I can assure you that in every state there are people like you who care about their state and the future of private lands.

I urge you to consider not only the future of land conservation in Texas but also how you can challenge other states for similar conference across this great land we call America.