Will This Fast Food Billionaire Take His Conservation Giving National?

If you're looking for big new pots of money, one place to start is with super rich donors who have a track record of giving to causes at a modest or local level. With the right cultivation, these donors can sometimes be convinced to join the major leagues. All the more so if one of their kids is into that cause. 

Consider Subway restaurant chain co-founder Peter Buck, who's got $3.2 billion to his name and is 83 years old. He's got fortune to make a big mark in this area and he already has a solid track record of conservation giving at the local level. 

So far, Buck's philanthropy has been all about New York and Connecticut. This is true when it comes to the other sectors in which he gives—education, particularly charter schools and medicine—and it's true when it comes to conservation as well.

Buck does most his giving through the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, or the PCLB Foundation as it prefers to be called. He also makes individual gifts through his family office. 

In 2013, the PCLB Foundation supported a number of regional land trusts such as the Winnakee Land Trust, the Westchester Land Trust and The Land Trust of Danbury. These gifts were generally in the $25,000 range but the Hudson Highlands Land Trust received $700,000.

He's also recently given to The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in Upstate New York and he gave a sizeable $250,000 to Scenic Hudson, an organization dedicated to protecting the Hudson River and the land around it.  

There is, however, some evidence that his horizons could be expanding. The PCLB Foundation is engaged in a multi-year grant (a gift of $50,000 doled out in 2013) to the Land Trust Alliance, a nonprofit group representing some 1,700 land trusts nationwide including some of the regional ones mentioned above.

Oh, and by the way, Peter's son Christopher Buck serves on the national council for the Land Trust Alliance.

Who is Christopher Buck? Well, he's president of the board of the PCLB Foundation, and also serves on the board of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and Scenic Hudson, both of which received some of the foundation's larger gifts. Christopher previously had a career working for the National Basketball Association; as part of the council for Land Trust Alliance, he's among a near 50-member group which includes conservation giving veterans such as Ann Colley, the Executive Director of the Moore Foundation.

The younger Buck lives in New York City, but has a house in Garrison, New York, a breathtaking area in the same part of the Hudson Valley that family money has been tapped to protect. 

It's hard to say where the Buck family's philanthropy will go in regard to either conservation or the environment. But what we've seen in other families is the following pattern: Dad spends most of his life in business piling up the big fortune and, at some point, starts to give away money, mostly on a local level. But the kids grow up more worldly and may think bigger about philanthropy. So it's the next generation that often moves family giving to the national level.

One thing is clear: Peter Buck has serious resources at his disposal and eventually much bigger chunks of that money are destined for philanthropy. After all, not a lot of billionaires relish the idea of forking over large swaths of their wealth to the IRS in the form of estate taxes. 

National conservation and education groups should keep a close eye Peter Buck and, maybe even more so, his son.