Celebrate the 2023 TCA Confluence Program Grantees

In 2022, The Conservation Alliance undertook the second round of its Confluence grants program. The goal of this program is to intentionally connect to historically racially excluded people for the protection of natural places. It is a first step in our efforts to help create new systems and structures that bring all conservation stakeholders together. In the spirit of expanding our community and the way we think about our funding, the second year of this program included new advisory committee members who revised the funding criteria and made an adjustment to use the terminology “historically racially excluded” to reflect those communities and people that we are trying to connect with.

A group of people standing together wearing matching shirts that read DBFLF co-founders, Shakara Tyler (and her son Moyo), Tepfirah Rushdan, Erin Johnson and Danielle Daguio with Detroit east side farmer Willie Patmon. Image via Will Brinkerhoff Photography

Changes to our criteria in year two included welcoming applications that supported immigrant and mixed-status families, increasing the maximum organization budget threshold to $500,000, and targeting projects that included an intersectional approach to conservation that addresses social, as well as environmental needs of a community. Through this lens and using the Confluence grant criteria, the four projects below were selected to receive two-year grants totaling $100,000 each: 

  • Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund(Opens in a new window) works to transition vacant land in Detroit to Black-owned urban farm landscapes. Through its successful support of over 40 acquisitions, DBFLF has reduced persistent blight and dumping and has helped restore abandoned properties to farmland with arable soil and the ability to grow healthy food. This grant will support DBFLF’s efforts to acquire 20 acres and complete 15 infrastructure projects; provide technical assistance for land purchases; and implement an educational campaign and legal support to ensure properties are protected from development in perpetuity.
  • Great Plains Restoration Council(Opens in a new window) helps people take care of their own health through restoring and protecting native ecosystems. The “Fort Worth Prairie Park(Opens in a new window)” project seeks to protect old-growth prairie inholdings adjacent to the Fort Worth Prairie Park complex. Additionally, to create the first preservation anchor for the new “Southern Great Plains Conservation & Recreation Area(Opens in a new window)”, the organization aims to secure conservation of at least 5,000 acres in the historic but unprotected Llano Estacado shortgrass prairie of the Texas Panhandle in West Texas. Confluence funding will be used to launch a national awareness and engagement campaign for the Southern Great Plains Conservation and Recreation Area, and to hire a Comanche or Kiowa organizer to ensure Indigenous voices are centered. In Fort Worth, the funding will also help secure conservation of select tracts of native prairie habitat adjacent to the Fort Worth Prairie Park, and to train and employ formerly incarcerated Black and Brown/POC youth currently excelling in their Restoration Not Incarceration™ program.
  • Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group (R2R) is working on the largest dam removal and restoration project(Opens in a new window) in U.S. history. R2R works in partnership with the Yurok Tribe in Klamath River dam removal and restoration efforts to decolonize the Klamath River. After a decades-long campaign, the dam removal project has begun preconstruction, and the 4 lower dams are scheduled to be removed by the end of 2024. R2R is providing policy and technical assistance to the Yurok Tribe during the final phase of dam removal and the start of long-term restoration efforts. In recognition that dam removal is just the beginning, R2R is also working on Basin-wide stakeholder collaboration to facilitate restoration projects and community healing.
  • Wind River Tribal Buffalo Initiative(Opens in a new window) (TBI) is a Native-led, non-profit organization with the mission to ensure that buffalo restoration and land rematriation efforts serve the needs and priorities of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. They are working to maintain and acquire land for buffalo conservation through cattle grazing retirement and conservation easements, ensuring the Tribes can restore and protect buffalo as wildlife under Tribal law. In the next two years, they aim to acquire or lease between 1,000-1,500 acres and retire cattle grazing on 17,000 acres. This grant will support costs associated with youth engagement; staff time to work with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Councils and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to shift land use from cattle grazing to wildlife conservation; and land maintenance costs.

A herd of bison in a grassy field Genetically-distinct Texas bison herd inside Caprock Canyons State Park. This photo shows the “down in the canyons” topography and conservation situation of the surviving Southern bison, who are currently confined inside the Park, where they have a relatively small grassland area, with no access to their old Southern High Plains summer range, which lies behind them up on top the Llano Estacado escarpment. Image via Le’Ann Pigg, Assistant Superintendent, Caprock Canyons State Park

We are thrilled to welcome these four organizations to our network and look forward to learning with and from them. We also want to celebrate the ongoing work of our first round of Confluence grantees.

  • Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (Oak Flat), a sacred site for Apache people and many other Native Americans, is threatened by a proposed underground mine that would cause Oak Flat to collapse into a mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep crater. As the federal government has gotten closer to approving this mine, Apache Stronghold(Opens in a new window) and its fiscal sponsor, the MICA Group, have continued to work with partners to facilitate weekly strategy meetings, launch a Sacred Sites Summit, and develop a podcast to raise awareness.
  • Based in the southwest, the Monumental SHIFT Coalition(Opens in a new window) is a collaborative network of BIPOC-led groups working together to grow the traditional conservation movement to better represent and honor lands and places sacred to its communities. Over the last year, the Coalition has done a lot of internal capacity building work, increasing indigenous knowledge and Tribal partnerships. Working closely with local, regional, and national partners, the Coalition was able to celebrate two major successes this year with the designations of Avi Kwa Ame, and Castner Range National Monuments.
  • The transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska nourish the communities and fuel a multi-billion dollar economy that depends on clean water and healthy habitat. A number of current and proposed mines put the local ecosystem at risk. Over the last year, the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission(Opens in a new window) has presented at conferences and gatherings in Alaska and Canada and had direct engagement with the Canadian government and agencies to address the interests of Alaskan Tribes and to protect Tribal lands and waterways for future generations. The Commission is applying for rights in Canada based on the recognized traditional territories of its member Tribes, that includes several of the proposed mines.
  • The Valentine Conservation Community Group(Opens in a new window), led by a multi-generational Black family, has maintained land ownership in the East St. Louis, Illinois, Valentine Street neighborhood for more than 74 years. This past year, the group successfully acquired enough land to create the Valentine Street Park. This conservation park will provide access to high-quality, local green space and outdoor experiences for generations to come.

Read more about the 2021 and 2022 advisory committees, as well as the first round of Confluence grantees here. With each round of this grant program, our staff, board, and members learn more about effective strategies to include community in funding decisions.

We look forward to kicking off the third round of the Confluence program later this year and connecting to more organizations doing critical conservation work across North America.

A sunset with a body of water in the foreground Requa sunrise, Klamath Ca, 11/2/2021. Image via Ashley Bowers