A Simple Affordable Way to Invest in Conservation
I often get asked by hunter conservationists for advice on what organizations I recommend they join. I also get asked what non-government charities would be best to donate to for helping fish, wildlife and habitat. There are a myriad of organizations asking for your conservation membership and support dollars. But let’s face it, there are a lot of them that will take your money but aren’t really moving the needle in conservation.
To ensure you are investing wisely in conservation, you will need to do you homework. But wouldn’t it be helpful if you had a principled framework to help you build your conservation portfolio?
By donating or purchasing a membership, most conservationists want their dollars to make a difference for fish, wildlife, habitat and the future of their outdoor lifestyle. But if your interests are diverse, it’s not practical to join or donate to every group or cause out there. So, what should you do?
There are three levels of conservation you should be making annual contributions to.
Level 1 – Join a Policy Influencing Organization
Good conservation outcomes are a function of legislation, government policy and funding, so investing in conservation needs to start here. It is important for everyone with an interest in conservation to join an organization that has influence over government policy and funding programs. This level is your portfolio’s foundation.
Policy influencers are organizations that have experts in policy, law, science and conservation issues and have good working relationships with governments. These organizations are respected by elected officials and are consulted on matters of interest to their members. Representatives for these organizations have access to and meet regularly with elected officials and top bureaucrats.
Policy influencer organizations should be non-partisan and have a track record of working effectively with all political parties. The larger the membership that a policy influencing organization has, the more likely they are to have standing with governments. Your membership is important to the big picture.
Level 2 – Invest in Your Own Continuing Education
Part of your annual investment in conservation must include investing in yourself. Educating yourself about conservation issues, staying on top of emerging research and trends, or learning a new skill you can apply to conservation must not be overlooked
In the article Are You A Hunter Conservationist?, I highlight several attributes of a conservationist including skills to make evidence-based decisions and an outwards-looking mindset and understanding of the bigger picture.
Being dedicated to personal learning can make you a more effective conservationist, and Canada needs effective conservationists.
Level 3 – Donate to Habitat or Research Projects
This level is where you should be donating money to an on-the-ground project. The importance of habitat can’t be overstated in conservation. Protecting, managing, enhancing, buying land and restoring habitat is where the rubber hits the road. Donating your labour is rewarding and helpful but habitat projects need your money more than anything.
Science is how decision makers get evidence to inform policy and management. Science-based management is a universal principle in conservation and a tenant of the North America Model of Wildlife Conservation. There are so many non-government organizations, conservation trusts and universities doing great conservation research in Canada that it will be easy for you to be part of the big picture with an affordable donation.
A Simple Conservation Investment Framework.
Diversify your investment. Put 50% into Level 1 + Level 2 and 50% into Level 3.
- Join a policy influencing organization
- Invest in your own continuing education
- Donate to a habitat and or research project
Here is how my conservation investment portfolio is set up for 2019 using this framework and strategy.
You don’t need to be a super wealthy person to make a difference in conservation. I roughly invested a total of $400, with combined 50% in Level 1 Policy Influencers and Level 2 Continuing Education and the other 50% in Level 3 Habitat/Research.
I recommend starting out with what you can afford. In my home province of British Columbia, if every hunter and angler invested just an extra $100 per year, there could be another $40M of funds available for conservation!
There are a lot of different ways you could approach building your annual conservation investment portfolio. I always encourage folks to find a project and organization whose ethos resonates with them. However, you need to be objective about your choices.
Clubs that mostly just write letters to the local newspaper and have closed meetings can be helpful in conservation; there is no doubting that. But you need to find the shakers and movers that are in the political arena and put your membership support behind them. The organization you join should have experts meeting with elected officials in your provincial and territorial capitals on a regular basis.
Belonging to a local club or association is totally awesome. Friendship and solving the world’s problems over beers are all part of the perks of living a healthy, old fashion outdoor lifestyle. However, if you are a member of a club that has low political impact or engagement, I recommend that whatever you spend on that membership be ancillary to your core conservation investment portfolio.
Likewise, be cautious about donating to organizations that are heavily or strictly campaign or advocacy focused. Advocacy and raising awareness are part of conservation to a point; however, there are groups asking for donations who mostly spend your money on staff salaries, overhead and marketing.
Often these groups are doing little more than just criticizing others, advocating for bans or restrictions on others, or wanting you to boycott something. Do your homework and find out how much of your dollar is used for administration and overhead in the organization you are interested in.
Finally, you can approach building your conservation investment portfolio at various scales depending on your personal interests. The framework I presented here can be applied at a local, regional, national or global level as well as combinations of these scales.
If you hunt, fish and recreate in the Canadian outdoors, I encourage you to invest in and support organizations dedicated to and projects focused on conservation in Canada.
Find out more about my investment portfolio at:
Cover Image: © Don / Adobe Stock