- The Native Americans in Philanthropy and the Biodiversity Funders Group launched a funding pledge to support tribal-led restoration and conservation efforts in the United States.
- Fifteen funders have already committed $102.5 million to support the Tribal Nations Conservation Pledge goals since its launch in March.
- Projects to benefit will be selected by funders and could include natural resource and conservation projects, regrants and tribal-led conservation NGOs working in direct partnership with tribes, among several others.
- Erik Stegman, the Native Americans in Philanthropy’s chief executive officer, said the pledge ensures that Indigenous groups continue to lead the way in conservation efforts in the U.S. as well as meet the vision of conserving 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030.
Fifteen funders have committed $102.5 million over the next five years to support Indigenous-led restoration and conservation projects in the United States. This is occurring through the Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) and Biodiversity Funders Group (BFG) recently launched Tribal Nations Conservation Pledge.
Launched in March, the pledge calls on foundations and philanthropists to allocate a self-determined percentage of funds to support the biodiversity and conservation efforts of tribes, inter-tribal organizations, and tribal consortia, according to the two founding groups.
So far, the pledge has seen commitments from 15 groups, including the Alaska Conservation Foundation, Christensen Fund, Decolonizing Wealth Project, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The NAP and BFG both say they are hopeful that more funders will commit to the pledge.
The pledge is designed to make it easier for funders to invest in tribal-led conservation efforts as well as increase philanthropic support for these types of initiatives, Erik Stegman, Native Americans in Philanthropy CEO, told Mongabay via email. Funders can also donate directly to the fund.
Funders have the prerogative to select projects that will benefit from the pledge. These could include Indigenous-led natural resource and conservation projects, programs that regrant and offer technical assistance, tribal-led conservation NGOs working in direct partnership with tribes, and nonprofit fiscal agents recommended by a tribal nation for natural resource and conservation projects. Tribes developing co-stewardship and co-management projects with the federal government can also benefit.
Funders have not yet announced the projects to benefit from increased financing.
However, Stegman added that NAP and BFG will work directly with each individual funder to support impactful investments. The two pledge founders have also established a Tribal Nations Funding Collaborative — a tribal-led support system and forum for funders who participate to share knowledge and quickly move resources to various tribes.
According to recent studies, Indigenous peoples are forefront of the climate and biodiversity crises, and although they are recognized as stewards of 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, they have received limited funding for conservation efforts throughout the years. This includes within the United States. The two pledge founders noted that the collaboration of funders represents a shift in philanthropic support for tribal-led solutions in conservation work, as less than 0.5% of philanthropic dollars have been allocated to Native American communities, and fewer of those dollars have gone toward Indigenous-led conservation.
Over the years, tribal conservationists have been calling for more financial support from the U.S. government. In the U.S., some $5-6 million is available per year for the 574 Indigenous tribes that manage more than 56 million hectares (140 million acres) of land. Due to this, tribal leaders were hoping that the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act that aimed to provide $97.5 million annually to tribal nations for protecting animals and plants from extinction would have passed in the Senate. Having expired last year, sponsors of the bill reintroduced it last month for a new round of voting.
“This pledge is a turning point in climate funding that recognizes and supports Indigenous communities who have long been leaders in this work,” the two groups said in a joint statement.
“Conservation is not just about safeguarding land. It’s about prioritizing people, especially those who hold the traditional knowledge on how to combat our climate and biodiversity crisis, and recognizing that they can chart a path forward,” said Stegman.
Sam Gill, the president and chief executive officer of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, also said in the statement that the organization is proud to support tribal and Indigenous groups in conservation efforts. “Conservation led by tribal and Indigenous communities is one the biggest opportunities to assure a more sustainable and just future for all,” he stated.
The pledge is seen as critical in helping the U.S. also meet the post-2020 U.N. biodiversity framework goal to protect 30% of the planet’s land and waters by 2030. Although the U.S. is not a party to the global agreement, the Biden-Harris administration has absorbed the idea into a nationwide conservation vision called “America the Beautiful.”
Stegman told Mongabay that U.S. agencies and foundations, like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting tribal-led conservation efforts by setting aside 10% of funding for tribal-led projects in the America the Beautiful Challenge, for example.
“By shoring up funding to support conservation work led by tribal nations, we can protect and restore important ecosystems while promoting cultural preservation and respect for Indigenous knowledge,” he said.
“Tribal-led conservation methods are already focused on protecting and preserving biodiversity,” stated the two founders, “and the pledge will help accelerate progress towards the global goal over the next seven years.”
Banner image: Elizabeth Azzuz and Margo Robbins, leaders of the Cultural Fire Management Council, have been helping Yurok Tribal members burn their land to improve the growth of basket materials and other traditional plants. Photo by Jane Braxton Little for Mongabay
Related listening from Mongabay’s podcast: A conversation with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Zack Romo about Indigenous rights and the future of biodiversity conservation. Listen here: