Richard King Mellon Foundation Looks Beyond Pennsylvania

Success Pond in Coos County, New Hampshire, is more than a pool of water. This 290-acre lake is surrounded by rich forests that are home to several endangered species, including the Canada lynx, American marten, the common loon, and osprey.

The Conservation Fund (TCF) has deemed the Success Pond area an important spot for conservation and sustainable woodland management, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation (see IP's profile here) appears to agree. In 2013, the foundation gave $5 million to TCF for the purchase of property surrounding Success Pond. This move is indicative of the Mellon Foundation's larger giving strategy.

Acquiring land is a straightforward way of keeping important ecological areas in the hands of conservationists and away from developers. Such land acquisition can include outright purchases or work with private landowners to form conservation easements. In the case of conservation easements, the property owner retains ownership of the land but agrees to certain rules as outlined by a land trust or government body. TCF often works with local communities and landowners to create easements, and in the past it has facilitated purchases of land by the National Park Service.

The purchase of lands around Success Pond is part of TCF's larger New Forest Fund — a tool serving as a source of bridge capital for the conservation of America's forests. The program is well established, with $45 million committed from various organizations and more than 230,000 forest acres already under management. That the Mellon Foundation gave funds to TCF for the conservation of Success Pond is both surprising and not surprising. It's surprising in that Richard King Mellon tends to focus narrowly on the state of Pennsylvania. It's unsurprising given this funder's passion for conservation. Also, the foundation tends to give to established organizations with clearly defined goals. TCF certainly falls into this category, having been active in the conservation arena since 1985.

The Mellon Foundation also has supported conservation easements over the years. In the past, Mellon has helped organizations such as the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, and the Land Trust Alliance purchase easements, assess land trusts, and purchase property. The Richard King Mellon Foundation will always be an uncertain bet for grantseekers interested in land conservation outside of Pennsylvania. The Keystone State will always comes first at Mellon, but clearly projects in other states can get in the door.

Be sure to have a strong proposal backed up with clear goals and evaluation criteria. TCF has been working in the Success Pond area for years, and the purchase of lands was a long time in the making.