Louis Bacon Goes From Land to Leadership

Hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon is best known in conservation circles for his massive land protection efforts. Now he’s aiming his philanthropy at the next generation of environmentalists with a new Harvard fellowship program. 

Bacon and his Moore Charitable Foundation (no relation to Gordon and Betty Moore) have become synonymous with land. He’s one of the leaders in a pool of American rich guys buying up massive tracts of open space for protection. In fact, he’s protected 210,000 acres from development at last count, and he made the largest land donation in the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He’s been instrumental in all kinds of deal-brokering and land trusts, won a bunch of awards, etc. 

Related: Louis Bacon IP Profile

Now, it seems, he’s looking to pass the torch. A unique grant for the Moore Foundation, the funder made a $3.5 million pledge to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. The grant establishes the Louis Bacon Environmental Leadership Program, deliciously nicknamed The Bacon Fellowship. 

The program will be run by the CPL and will award up to five fellowships at once, mostly to students pursuing graduate degrees at the Kennedy School, and provide them with tuition, health coverage and a living stipend. The fellowships will operate in close contact with the Harvard’s Center for the Environment and Environment and Natural Resources Program.  

The first fellowships will be awarded for the 2015-16 academic year, and students can apply through the Kennedy School starting now and up until Feb. 26, 2015

Now, it’s not entirely unusual for Bacon’s foundation to make non-land-trust grants. It has another program devoted to water, and Bacon founded the Waterkeeper Alliance. In fact, the foundation gives a large number of small grants every year to various conservation groups. But this is a very large contribution that differs quite a bit from Bacon’s other high-profile gifts, in that it’s all about movement building.

Related: The 9 Top Finance Guys in Environmental Philanthropy

A lot of these large land conservation funders are really drawn to the idea of carving out huge swaths of open space with their wealth, a very concrete, businesslike take on conservation. But the Harvard gift stands out in that it shows an attitude toward environmentalism as an ongoing struggle, or permanent field of work.