Colcom Foundation establishes $1M fund to aid land conservation
The Colcom Foundation has established a $1 million revolving fund to help 40 local land trusts buy environmentally important property.
“The opportunity to acquire a biologically significant parcel of land does not coincide with the ability to raise funds for the acquisition,” said John F. Rohe, vice president of philanthropy for Colcom.
“This fund is designed to enable the smaller local conservancies to move on a parcel even as fundraising efforts are under way and continuing,” he added. “At least they could protect the land as it becomes available.”
Colcom, established by the late Cordelia Scaife May, chose the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to administer the fund because of its expertise in evaluating a property’s environmental value.
Conservancies or land trusts buy either the easement to a property or the land itself. Then they keep it or turn it over to a municipality or the state to maintain.
Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, said this is the first time that land trusts in the region have a revolving fund to help with their land purchases.
“Many times land trusts have land acquisitions they want to do, but they don’t have the up-front funding to begin the transaction,” Saunders said. As a result, some environmentally important parcels are bought by developers and lost for public use.
The fund would be replenished for new loans as land trusts raise money for acquisitions.
Saunders said the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will not use the fund for projects that it does by itself, but it may use it for projects with other land trusts.
One land trust that could benefit from the fund is the Wild Waterways Conservancy. It is buying properties near Slippery Rock and Connoquenessing creeks.
“Our goal is to protect those two streams, and we do it one parcel at a time, not in big chunks,” said Tom Murphy, president of the Wild Waterways board.