Confluence Program Grant Announcement

Photo: Drew Coffman

We’re excited to announce the Confluence Program grantees: Apache Stronghold, Monumental SHIFT Coalition, Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission, and Valentine Conservation Community Project. Each of these four groups will receive $50,000 in grant funding in December 2021 and another $50,000 in 2022, as well as resource sharing and communications support over the next two years. Learn more about our newest grantees and their projects below.

About the Program

We developed the Confluence Program in 2021 ​​to intentionally connect to historically racially marginalized people for the protection of natural places. After 32 years of conservation grant making, we recognized that our network of grantees and business partners did not represent a coalition of everyone working to protect natural places. The Confluence Program is a first step in our efforts to help create new systems and structures that bring together all of the groups, businesses, and people committed to this work.

The program aims to achieve its goal through multi-year grant funding and relationship-building founded in trust and resource sharing. While the first round of funding is being distributed this month, the next phase will take place over the coming months and years. We will conduct listening sessions in January 2022 and will shape the next two years of the Confluence Program to meet the specific needs of each group. 

Selection Process

The Confluence grant program was directed by seven advisory committee members. This committee established the funding criteria, project types, application process, and also reviewed applications and chose the grant recipients. Our staff played a support role in guiding the advisory committee, working collaboratively to facilitate meetings, share organizational knowledge, and prepare documents and communications.

The initial launch of the grant program in October brought in 80 applications. From there, the advisory committee selected 18 finalists, which were given a more in-depth questionnaire. Among these finalists, the advisory committee chose four to become the first Confluence Program grantees. View all 80 applicants.

Why four grantees? We decided to fund four grantees at $50,000 per group, per year, for a few reasons. One, we have a staff of six people and one person running our grant program. We needed to keep the total number of grantees limited in order to effectively manage and grow our new partnerships, as well as our relationships with roughly 50 other grantees in our general grant program. We chose $50,000 to match the funding amount that grantees in our general program are able to receive.

Overview: Grantees and Projects

Photo: Robin Silver

Apache Stronghold: Protect Chi’Chil Bildagoteel (Oak Flat)

Located in San Carlos, Arizona, Apache Stronghold is a community organization of approximately 50 youth, adults, and Elders. Apache Stronghold builds community through neighborhood educational programs and opportunities for civic engagement, connects with Native and non-Native allies worldwide, and works with conservation organizations and all those who share a love for natural places.

Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (also known as Oak Flat) is a sacred site for Apache people and many other Native Americans. It is a place where people pray, collect water and medicinal plants for ceremonies, gather acorns and other foods, and honor those that are buried there. All who treat the area respectfully are welcome at Oak Flat. 

Oak Flat is threatened by a proposed underground mine that would cause Oak Flat to collapse into a mile-wide, 1,000-foot-deep crater. The Save Oak Flat Act (SOFA) would protect the 2,422-acre site known as Chí’chil Biłdagoteel. SOFA is currently included in the House version of the budget reconciliation legislation.

Photo: Mark Clune
Monumental SHIFT Coalition: BIPOC leaders protecting our public lands

Based in the southwest, the Monumental SHIFT coalition is a collaborative network of BIPOC-led groups working together to grow the traditional conservation movement to better represent and honor lands and places sacred to its communities. The organization is currently running two National Monument Endorsement Campaigns: Avi Kaw Ame, or Spirit Mountain, in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas.

Spirit Mountain, called Avi Kwa Ame by the Mojave Tribe, is a mountain within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Laughlin, Nevada. The entire area is considered sacred by ten Yuman speaking tribes as well as the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute.

Castner Range is located in the Franklin Mountains in the majority-Latinx community of El Paso, Texas.

Photo: Colin Arisman
Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission: Saving Our Way of Life

The Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) is a consortium of fifteen federally-recognized Tribal governments that formed in 2014 to protect their customary and traditional ways of life throughout Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Their mission is to protect Tribal lands and waterways region for future generations.

The transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia (BC) into Southeast Alaska nourish the communities and fuel a multi-billion dollar economy that depends on clean water and healthy habitat. For Indigenous peoples, the land is called the Sacred Headwaters, because water is the foundational element for all life. For the BC government and mining companies, this same area is known as the Golden Triangle for its mineral wealth.Two mines are operating and at least nine more have completed environmental review, including one of the largest open pit mines in the world. SEITC has been educating communities, Tribes, and lawmakers, as well as petitioning the federal government regarding alleged violations and to ensure that Tribal voices are heard on issues impacting transboundary rivers and their downstream communities. 

Photo: Lillie Douglas
Valentine Conservation Community Project: Valentine Park and Nature Trail: Nature, Conservation, Confluence

The Valentine Conservation Community (VCC) is a group of 30 residents, led by a multi-generational Black family, who have maintained land ownership in the East St. Louis, Illinois, Valentine Street neighborhood for more than 74 years. VCC is seeking to imbue a historical culture of conservation and love for nature in their neighborhood, which is located within a mile of the Mississippi River. Their mission is to preserve the land, protect the wildlife, and restore the Valentine Street neighborhood through the creation of Valentine Street Park and Trails: Nature, Conservation, Confluence.

Learnings: Funding Demand and Next Steps  

One of our goals in the application review process was to capture and share our learnings regarding the gap between financial needs and available funding. We want to help shed light on the volume of qualified groups that need funding and help make connections to our network of partners that might offer direct funding or other resource support.

As stated above, we received applications from 80 groups that are led by Asian, Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, and other People of Color working to elevate voices and perspectives of people working to protect a natural place. This represents a need for $4 million in funding. With this round of funding, we are able to meet just 5% of the need among our applicant pool. 
 We hope the Confluence Program can help demonstrate the need for additional funding and serve as a model for other grant makers. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about the groups that applied and how you might directly support them.