We are Sunsetting the Public Lands Defense Fund

Photo: Jekol
Photo: Jeko
The Public Lands Defense Fund (PLDF) was launched in 2017 in anticipation of attacks on our public lands system during the Trump Administration. During the last four years, we learned a lot about how to protect and defend wild places during an administration that made countless attempts to undermine our bedrock conservation laws and roll back protections for our public lands. While there have been some bright spots—like the passage of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (the public lands package of 2019), the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and permanent, full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund—the concerns that caused us to launch the PLDF were certainly warranted.

We believe the incoming Biden Administration shares our conservation ethic and will work to uphold our bedrock conservation laws. While threats to our public lands system will never disappear entirely, transitioning to a friendly administration greatly diminishes the need for a second grant fund. Shortly after the 2020 election, The Conservation Alliance Board of Directors voted to sunset the PLDF, allowing us to turn our full attention to funding groups working to secure new protections for wild places. We have disbursed all funds from the PLDF and we are no longer accepting applications.
We are proud to have played a role in defending our public lands and conservation laws during the last four years. Below is a snapshot of the impact of the PLDF:
  • Total PLDF Grants Awarded 2017–2020 – We awarded 43 grants totaling $777,000 to groups defending bedrock conservation laws and existing protected areas, and groups working to stop the transfer of federal land. Funding for the PLDF was raised specifically for defense, allowing us to direct 100% of our members’ annual dues into pro-active conservation efforts. 
  • Defending National Monuments – We awarded $294,500 in funding to groups working to defend National Monuments. In an unprecedented public response to the National Monument review, more than 3-million people submitted comments in support of national monuments. While Bears Ears and Grand Staircase National Monument boundaries were significantly reduced, the other six monuments believed to be on the chopping block remain intact. Additionally, Grand Canyon Trust is currently using our funding to ensure no illegal activity is taking place in lands once included in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
  • Defending Bedrock Conservation Laws – We awarded $257,500 in funding to experienced environmental law firms working to defend our bedrock conservation laws, including the Antiquities Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. This funding is being used for litigation in response to actions taken by the Trump Administration to weaken these laws or use them inappropriately. We expect a ruling soon by Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District Court for the District of Columbia for the “ HOPI Tribe vs. Donald J Trump” case that will determine if the administration had the authority to use the Antiquities Act to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument in December 2017. Our partners are optimistic that we will win this one, and if we do, we expect an appeal.
  • Roadless Rule Defense – We awarded $125,000 to five groups working to defend the Roadless Rule in Alaska and Utah. While efforts to undermine Roadless Rule protections in Utah have fizzled for the most part, nine-million acres in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is in immediate danger of being logged. The Trump administration released the final Record of Decision for changes to Alaska’s Roadless Rule thus solidifying access to road building and old-growth timber harvesting in the Tongass. Read more on our blog.

  • Stopping Land Transfers – We invested $45,000 to stop the transfer of Public Lands to state or private ownership. While this did not turn out to be the biggest threat our public lands would face during the administration, grants awarded to Wild Salmon Center and Outdoor Alliance helped stop the transfer of the Elliot State Forest in Oregon and public lands in Utah. Our only Canadian PLDF grant was awarded to CPAWS Alberta working to stop the closure of 40% of Alberta’s parks.

  • Urgent Requests – The fund allowed us to quickly respond to urgent requests for funding. We awarded $15,000 to help the Montana Wilderness Association respond to a legislative proposal that threatened to release protections for 800,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas, and another $40,000 to provide support to groups working to stop oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Refuge.

Thank You! 

We’d like to thank Patagonia, The North Face and Arc’teryx for making significant contributions to the PLDF each year for the last four years. We are also grateful to all of the brands that contributed to this effort, including: Boco Gear, Farm to Feet, GRAYL, GU Energy Labs, KEEN, Last Exit Goods, New Belgium Brewing Company, Ruffwear, Smartwool, Velocio Apparel and Zappos. Your collective investment has mobilized countless public lands advocates and helped us defend what we love in court. We are grateful for your support.