How the Campbell Foundation Supports West Coast Marine Protected Areas

While an investment banker from Baltimore may not seem like the kind of guy who would devote his wealth to protecting the waters off California, D. Keith Campbell has become a big supporter of marine ecosystems far away from his home and business.

Originally founded to protect the Chesapeake Bay, the Campbell Foundation expanded in 2003 to take on the many ills of the Pacific Ocean. The foundation has since become a major funder behind Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) off the coast of California. For example, in 2012 Campbell granted more than $3 million to the Pacific region, and of that funding, $1.4 million went to MPAs.

Much of that support has gone toward the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act in California, the controversial 14-year effort to reevaluate protected ocean habitats and fisheries in the state.

Campbell, who is still chairman of both his investment firm and the Campbell Foundation, started his career and philanthropy far from sunny California. The family has strong roots in Baltimore and the mid-Atlantic, and the foundation is still a top funder of the Chesapeake Bay waterways.

In 2003, daughter Samantha Campbell, who had been living in San Francisco since the tech boom of the 1990s, began a West Coast office for the Campbell Foundation, with a focus on the San Francisco Bay watershed. Samantha took over the foundation in 2009, and she and her family are still based in San Francisco.

The foundation's stated purpose centers on protecting the health of bays, but its portfolio has expanded to take on a more diverse set of issues.

For example, Campbell's significant investment in groups working to implement and monitor effective MPAs spans the coast and up into Oregon. MPAs are sort of like wildlife preserves or national parks for the ocean, intended to restore overfished marine habitats back to health and reverse their decline.

In California, at least, this has been a sticky subject. Since 1999, stakeholders in the state have been trying to establish a comprehensive MPA system. The network of 848 square miles finally became official in 2012, but many environmentalists find the protections far from sufficient.

Campbell has been funding groups that are working to make MPAs effective. These recipients include RLFF, Ocean Conservancy, and the California Ocean Science Trust, which is working to monitor systems in the network.

All in all, the foundation gave 70 grants for the Pacific region during 2012, ranging from $1,000 to $500,000 in size, making Campbell a continuing presence out West as well as at home on the Chesapeake Bay.