Protecting oceans and rivers for future generations 

Water is essential to life. Families, communities, farms and businesses depend on access to clean and reliable fresh water. The ocean covers 70% of our planet, and ocean life is critical to much of the air we breathe and food we eat. And our overall health and well-being is directly linked to the health of our rivers and oceans. The conservation of our environment is a responsibility and a necessity, but it can’t come at the expense of a family’s livelihood.

The foundation’s approach to conservation grantmaking has as much to do with the economy as it does the environment. We believe that bringing together conservation, business and community interests creates the long-term solutions that protect natural resources and build local economies.

Overfishing is one of the greatest threats to ocean health – which means it’s also threatening local economies and communities. This is a solvable problem.

Barry Gold, Environment Program Director

For example, overfishing is one of the greatest, yet manageable, threats to ocean health. Following almost a decade of work in using sound science, markets and catch share programs to reform the way fisheries are managed, the United States is on track to end overfishing. We see hopeful signs for America’s commercial and recreational fishermen and the communities that depend on fishing jobs, and intend to take the lessons learned to other parts of the world.

In the Mississippi River Basin, where the foundation promotes farming practices that protect drinking water while supporting agricultural economies, we have seen progress on 1 million acres of cropland over the last five years. These farming practices have been so successful that we are expanding our work with a goal of changing practices on 10 million acres over the next five years.

In the Colorado River Basin, we are building toward a future that has healthy rivers, riparian habitat and groundwater supplies for the benefit of the environment and communities alike. We support a water management system that rewards efficiency and enables enhanced flexibility. For example, in 2015 our grantees facilitated 10 demonstration projects to enable saved agricultural water to benefit river flows and enhance system resiliency.

While there is significant, tangible progress being made, there is still a great deal more work to do. Last year, we invested $79.8 million in conservation efforts, and over the next five years, we anticipate investing $455 million in the people and ideas that create the economic incentives to conserve our oceans and rivers – our most valuable, irreplaceable resources.

Environment Program Highlights

85% of


More than 85% of the world's fisheries are overfished or on their way to being overfished.



The Colorado River provides water to 36 million people, but its main storage reservoirs, Lakes Mead and Powell, are less than half full.

50% of


Over the past 80 years, five U.S. states along the Gulf of Mexico are estimated to have lost more than 50% of their wetlands.

Grantee Stories

Ecotourism Protects Livelihoods and the Environment in Indonesia


Restoring the Escalante River One Mile at a Time


For the Sake of the Soil, Farmers Look Beyond Soy and Corn