Diane Edgerton Miller, Blue Moon Fund

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Conservation

CONTACT: Diane.miller@bluemoonfund.org, 434-295-5160

IP TAKE: Miller employs big-picture thinking and occasional risk taking to save major ecosystems across the globe from the destructive impacts of human overdevelopment and climate change.

PROFILE: The pro-environment, anti-nuclear-proliferation W. Alton Jones Foundation closed in 2001. That philanthropic giant had operated for 56 years and earned distinction as America's 11th-largest funder of international causes. Its closure led to the formation of three new "Baby Jones" foundations.

Diane Edgerton Miller, formerly president of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, formed one of those three "baby" foundations, the Blue Moon Fund, with her mother, Patricia Jones Edgerton. Today, as Blue Moon's president and CEO, a position she has held since the fund's debut in April 2002, Miller leads the ongoing mission to build resilience in human communities and natural ecosystems to climate change.

Conservation is a huge component of that mission. Blue Moon funds land protection and restoration initiatives across South and Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and North America's Appalachia, Chesapeake, and Louisiana Gulf Coast. Miller and her colleagues also stay on the lookout for innovative new ideas for saving the planet, and they are known to be less risk-averse than many other philanthropic organizations. They will take occasional chances on bold new proposals, even ones that haven't yet proven themselves. An early investment in 2001-2002 into a renewable fuel-cell project for scooters in China was one such venture.

The fund's Asia outreach includes programs to steer land developers, farmers, ranchers, and miners away from forest-depleting activities and toward more sustainable practices. Bhutan, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and southern China are among the countries in which the fund's beneficiaries work. Where rapid industrialization is taking a toll on the environment, as is the case in many parts of China, the fund supports initiatives to reconcile development and conservation by counseling business leaders on how to incorporate conservation into their business models and, in the process, actually enhance their overall bottom lines.

The fund has given multiple grants, for example, to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which leads habitat-protection programs in Burma and China, plus a REDD program (financial incentives to a government to discourage deforestation within its borders) in Laos. The Natural Resources Defense Council has received financing for its efforts to minimize the environmental harms of unconventional oil and gas development in China. So has the Energy Transition Research Institute, a U.S. think tank, to facilitate cooperation between Chinese and U.S. policymakers and researchers on sustainability and energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, in North America, programs that seek to preserve major river and mountain ecosystems also receive substantial Blue Moon Fund largesse. So do efforts to up production of clean energy and manage natural resources more sustainably. The fund considers the Mississippi River region and the Chesapeake Bay area to be North America's two most environmentally important watersheds, and it targets its grants toward these two bodies and the waterways and regions that interconnect with them accordingly. It also prioritizes projects to guide and moderate construction and development in Louisiana's coastal areas.

The Forest Stewardship Council and the Dogwood Alliance, two organizations that promote sustainable forest stewardship in the Appalachias, are among the fund's U.S.-focused beneficiaries. The Environmental Defense Fund, which partners with local Louisiana NGOs to conserve their state's Gulf Coast region, has also received Blue Moon Fund grants.

The fund pursues three more conservation goals in South America. The first is to identify and protect the lowland and forest zones in the eastern Andes and western Amazon that appear to be the most susceptible to the disruptions of climate change. The second is to stem the destruction of Amazon forest areas due to ranching and farming, and to strengthen the capacity of the Amazon's indigenous peoples to assert ownership over their land and legally challenge development interests. Third, the fund sponsors biodiversity initiatives in southern Mesoamerica.

In recent years, Miller's fund has contributed a $500,000 grant to Friends of the Osa to create a first-ever Biodiversity Trust Fund, which would serve as a financing arm for protecting tracts of privately held conservation sites in Costa Rica. The fund also gave $345,000 in grants to the Amazon Conservation Association, which is implementing a "comprehensive strategic plan" for conservation in the Bolivian-Andes-Amazon region, and community-based initiatives on watershed management and pollution controls. Another $500,000 in Blue Moon grants went to the Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund, which establishes protected land sites in Costa Rica and trains locals to work as biodiversity managers and oversee the sites.

Sustainable development has always been an area of keen interest for Miller. She earned a master's in architecture at Washington University in Saint Louis and practiced architecture while she served on the W. Alton Jones Foundation's board. She has also served on boards for Planned Parenthood of Virginia, the Childrens’ Discovery Museum, the Architectural Review Board of Albemarle County, Building Goodness Foundation, Urban Vision, Tandem Friends School, and the Global Environmental Institute.