Conservation issues that cross national borders pose a unique challenge that well-run foundations and nonprofits can be particularly well suited for. One Laguna Beach-based environment funder has reached out and made grants up and down the West Coast of the Americas, most notably to conserve land in Northwest Mexico in recent years.
The Marisla Foundation calls California home, and indeed, most of its giving is on the Pacific Coast of the United States. But one of its huge grantees has been a program to protect sensitive land in Mexico, on the western side of the Gulf of California and further south along the Pacific. The program was crafted by the Resources Legacy Fund, one of the most prominent California oceans nonprofits, and one of Marisla’s favorite grantees.
RLF has spent around $20 million a year on this program recently, making it one of the group’s biggest causes. Marisla alone has given around $20 million to the issue since 2007, as one of its three co-funders along with David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Sandler Foundation.
The region is particularly important for conservation efforts since, not only is it a stunning and unique landscape, but its white beaches and rocky coasts have drawn development that’s endangered the region and its habitats. The Resources Legacy program has been working with Mexican conservation nonprofits, scientists and policy makers to help protect the area. The nonprofit cites nearly 600,000 acres of protected land the program has helped to establish as of the end of 2013.
The Northwest Mexico program is notable for the sheer size of funding it's received, more annually than most Marisla grantees will see, but the foundation gives to a wide range of ocean and land conservation causes, as well as fighting toxic pollution. The funder gives nearly $50 million annually, with other big grantees including Oceana, the Nature Conservancy and Global Greengrants. But Marisla also gives to several smaller, place-based or species-based nonprofits. The RLF program isn’t the only international program either, with other local nonprofits in Chile and Mexico receiving funding.
And it’s impossible to talk about Marisla without mentioning that the source of its funds is third-generation oil wealth. The donor is Anne Getty Earhart, granddaughter of the founder of Getty Oil, and she's decided to use her portion of the family’s money to save the oceans. Which is just fun.