The Nature Conservancy joins forces with governments, non-profit organizations, local stakeholders, indigenous communities, corporate partners, and international organizations to find solutions to conservation challenges. Their conservation tactics include the protection of private lands, the creation of conservation-minded public policies, and the funding of conservation projects around the world.
Among The Nature Conservancy's more innovative conservation approaches is the debt-for-nature swaps. Such transactions ensure biodiversity conservation in exchange for debt owed by a developing country. Such debt-for-nature programs have been successful in many countries including Panama, Peru, and Guatemala.
The Nature Conservancy was formed in 1951 by a group of scientists who wanted to take direct action to save threatened natural areas around the world. In 1955, The Nature Conservancy acquired its first parcel of land, a 60-acre tract along the Mianus River Gorge which lies on the border of New York and Connecticut. That same year, the organization established the Land Preservation Fund, a conservation tool that is still used today by The Nature Conservancy to help provide funding for worldwide conservation efforts.
In 1961, The Nature Conservancy formed a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management that was aimed at protecting old-growth forests in California. A gift from the Ford Foundation in 1965 made it possible for The Nature Conservancy to bring on its first full-time president. From that point on, The Nature Conservancy was in full swing.
During the 1970s and 1980s, The Nature Conservancy setup key programs such as the Natural Heritage Network and the International Conservation Program. The Natural Heritage Network collects information about species distributions and natural communities throughout the United States. The International Conservation Program identifies key natural regions and conservation groups in Latin America. The Conservancy completed its first debt-for-nature swap to fund conservation work in Braulio Carillo National Park in 1988. During that same year, the Conservancy joined forces with the US Department of Defense to help manage 25 million acres of military land.
In 1990, The Nature Conservancy launched a large-scale project called the Last Great Places Alliance, an effort aimed at saving entire ecosystems by protecting core reserves and establishing buffer zones around them.
In 2001, The Nature Conservancy celebrated its 50th year anniversary. Also in 2001, they acquired Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, a protected area on the edge of Hells Canyon in Oregon. In 2001 through 2005, they purchased land in Colorado that would later form the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, as well as expand the Rio Grande National Forest.
Most recently, the Conservancy organized the protection of 161,000 acres of forest in the Adirondacks of New York. They also recently negotiated a debt-for-nature swap to protect the tropical forest in Costa Rica.