Introducing The Conservation Alliance’s Confluence Program

In 1989, a small group of outdoor industry leaders formulated a plan for preserving the natural places they loved. They wanted their own industry to support environmental protection efforts, and their idea became known as The Conservation Alliance—now one of the premier nonprofits taking care of people and the planet.

 

Since then, the alliance has helped protect 73 million acres and 3,580 river miles, remove or halt 37 dams, purchase 21 climbing areas and designate five marine reserves. More than 270 member companies contribute annual dues that help fund over 50 nonprofits every year.

But historically, the traditional conservation movement has excluded racially diverse voices from the conversation. This exclusivity has stunted progress and hurt communities; diverse perspectives are essential for holistically and inclusively addressing the climate crisis.

To shift the narrative, The Conservation Alliance launched the Confluence Program(Opens in a new window) in 2021, awarding four multi-year grants to grassroots groups led by Asian, Black, Brown, Hispanic, Indigenous, Latin American and additional communities who identify as People of Color.

Indeed, the inaugural cohort was diverse. As The Conservation Alliance enters its second year of grant-making through the Confluence Program, we wanted to honor the work of the first four organizations: Apache Stronghold, Monumental SHIFT Coalition, Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission and Valentine Conservation Community Project.

“They’re each really exciting for different reasons,” says Josie Norris, Grant Program Director at The Conservation Alliance. “I couldn’t have chosen a more diverse range of projects if I tried, and I wasn’t even part of the decision. It was all the committee.”

In this five-part series, you can expect to learn more about the program itself, each unique organization, the people behind the projects and their progress over the past year.

In anticipation of the next stories, here is a brief overview of the 2021 projects:

  • Apache Stronghold(Opens in a new window) is working to protect Chi'Chil Bildagteel (Oak Flat), located in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. As part of ancestral Apache territory, the area has significant religious, cultural, historical, and archeological value. But it was taken by the U.S. government during five reductions of the tribes’ land base.
  • Monumental SHIFT Coalition(Opens in a new window) is a collaborative network of eight BIPOC-led groups growing the traditional conservation movement to better represent and honor lands and places sacred to its communities. They are working to secure Wild and Scenic River designation for 450 miles of New Mexico’s Gila River and national monument designation for Texas’s Castner Range and Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame.
  • Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission(Opens in a new window) is a consortium of 15 federally recognized Tribal governments protecting Tribal lands and waterways for future generations. They are creating an Indigenous-led framework for co-managing transboundary watersheds.
  • Valentine Conservation Community Project(Opens in a new window) is a group of 30 residents, led by a multi-generational Black family who have maintained land ownership for over 74 years. To restore an area neglected by the city of East St. Louis, Illinois, they are seeking to create the Valentine Street Park and Trails: Nature, Conservation, Confluence to give community members access to high-quality, close-to-home outdoor experiences.

 

 

More about the Confluence Program

Tasked with reviewing applications and selecting projects, a seven-member advisory committee sets out to reflect the diversity of leaders in the conservation movement.

The 2021 committee was comprised of: Teresa Baker, of In Solidarity Project; Hannah Abuzaineh, of The North Face; Bray Beltrán, of Heart of the Rockies Initiative; Teresa Martinez, of Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Next 100 Coalition; Aaron Mike, of Native Outdoors and Access Fund; Soraya Shattuck, of Adventure Travel Conservation Fund and The Conservation Alliance; and Dan Walker, of Arc’teryx.

The 2022 advisory committee is made up of: Gabaccia Moreno, of Outdoorist Oath and Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project; Janelle Hillhouse, of REI Cooperative Action Fund; Natasha Hale, of Catena Initiatives; Noël Russell, an outdoor industry, media, and NGO consultant; Siva Sundaresan, of Wilberforce Foundation; Tony Richardson, of Rock Creek Conservancy; and Whitney Clapper, of Patagonia. Learn more about them here(Opens in a new window).

“The Confluence Program is a first step in our efforts to help create new systems and structures that bring all of the groups, organizations and businesses committed to this work closer together to protect our shared natural places,” writes The Conservation Alliance.

Each of the first grantees receives $50,000 in 2021 and another $50,000 in 2022 in order to grow and sustain the separate projects. Over the two years, funding totals $400,000. The same amounts will be allocated to the new groups in 2022 and 2023.

The Conservation Alliance also supports the projects by sharing resources and staying in communication with organizations. Additionally, the alliance shares the list of applicants with other funders in their network to help shed light on the volume of qualified groups in need of funding.

 

What’s Next

 New to the Confluence Program this year, the alliance will prioritize projects that embrace an intersectional approach to conservation by addressing the social and environmental needs of a community. That includes nearby nature initiatives accessible by public transportation, projects where communities come together to honor ancestral lands and groups working in collaboration with others to protect land or water.

Like last year, each project will receive $50,000 in 2022 and another $50,000 in 2023. For the first time, The Conservation Alliance is looking for groups with under $500,000 of annual operating revenue for the biggest financial impact. Additionally, groups are not required to have a 501(c)(3) tax exemption to qualify, which opens up the process to more grassroots groups.

 They are currently accepting applications through October 2. The committee will review applications and select the next four groups by the end of this year. Apply here(Opens in a new window).

To learn more about The Conservation Alliance, visit their website(Opens in a new window), keep up with their news(Opens in a new window), or encourage your employer to join(Opens in a new window). You can also give them a follow on Instagram(Opens in a new window) and LinkedIn(Opens in a new window), or donate to the support their work(Opens in a new window).