Essential Reads – A Field Guide to Conservation Finance

A Field Guide to Conservation Finance by Story Clark. Published in 2007 by Island Press.

Two years ago I had the privilege of hearing Story Clark speak at the annual Seminar Series hosted by the Land Trust Alliance of BC. In addition to being an engaging, dynamic speaker, Story has authored an excellent book that is a must have for anyone who is involved in the land conservation movement.

A Field Guide to Conservation Finance works from the premise that if land trusts are to be successful at protecting land, they must be successful at raising money. While many people involved in land trusts see conservation finance as a means to an end, the stories and techniques outlined in Clark’s book make it clear that when done well, conservation finance can in fact be the underpinning of the land trust movement itself. As the opening line of the books says “Conservation finance is the best place where people, land and money meet.”

The best features of Clark’s book are those that extend beyond the usual land acquisition fundraising tools, either by providing tools that can extend beyond a specific campaign, or by broadening the funding pool to include tools beyond donations, including borrowing. One of the specific tools that Clark outlines is the notion of voluntary surcharges, where businesses add an additional charge to their client’s bill that is applied to a conservation fund. Often done on an “opt-out” basis, customers are informed at the till of the additional charge and given an opportunity to decline.

One note of caution for Canadian land trusts in reading this book. Because Ms. Clark is an American, some of the examples she provides may not have regulatory equivalents north of the border. Nonetheless, this book is well worth a read and is bound to inspire anyone involved with a land trust to explore new ideas for funding their next land acquisition.

More information can be found on Story Clark’s website or check with your independent local bookseller to see if they can order it for you.

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