Making an investment in Mother Nature | SierraSun.com

Making an investment in Mother Nature

When the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation completed its first community assessment in 2001, the results were not surprising: Truckee and North Lake Tahoe residents value the environment and the natural beauty of the region, and they want to see both protected.”We did a community assessment about four years ago and we surveyed both permanent residents and part-time residents, and across the board they said that the thing they were most concerned about was how to protect our quality of life while we’re growing,” said Lisa Dobey, CEO of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.The next question, Dobey said, was what could the foundation do to promote environmental conservation locally? The answer came with the establishment of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation’s Nature Fund, a “field of interest fund” with a mandate to finance groups and projects that will help conserve and restore local natural resources.Not long after its establishment in 2003, the Nature Fund received a shot in the arm from local philanthropists and Squaw Valley residents Fred and Barbara Ilfeld, to the tune of a $500,000 challenge grant.”We’ve been homeowners here since 1979 and full-time up here for the last five years,” said Dr. Fred Ilfeld, who also sits on the foundation’s board of directors, “so we’re familiar with the area and we’ve gotten a lot more familiar with the people and some of the issues facing us up here.”We love the beauty. We think it’s really, really fragile with the pressures from the population that’s nearby… and we wanted to help understand and preserve this beauty as much as possible.”

Once it was decided that the Nature Fund was a group priority, given the couple’s interest in the outdoors, Ilfeld said that’s when he and Barbara “stepped up.”The Ilfelds’ challenge grant, which promises to match dollar-for-dollar any donations to the Nature Fund up to $500,000, immediately allowed the foundation to entice other donors to essentially double the effect of their contributions. That was just the result Ilfeld said he had hoped for.A matchNo one at the foundation was surprised that the Ilfelds’ challenge helped their fund-raising efforts. But when a $500,000 pledge came in from East West Partners this month through the company’s Tahoe Mountain Resorts Environmental Fund, everyone involved was blown away, Dobey said.According to Aaron Revere, the director of the Tahoe Mountain Resorts Environmental Fund, East West’s pledge came about after current Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation board chairman Scott Ryan lobbied Roger Lessman, the managing partner for East West’s Tahoe operations, about the potential of the Nature Fund.In essence, The Tahoe Mountain Resorts Environmental Fund “has very much the same mission and goals as their Nature Fund here,” Revere said. “And so the ability to match these dollars and lever them over the next year or two is a great idea.”

With donations and pledges totaling over $1 million so far, Dobey said that the Nature Fund is well on its way to providing a funding source for local conservation projects for the foreseeable future.”We’re excited for a couple of reasons,” she said. “I think the board was very excited to launch the project in the first place because it felt like they had found the right project to address the needs of the community and felt like we could really do some good things with those dollars.”Dobey said that when the Ilfelds put up their $500,000 challenge grant, the board was “ecstatic.””I think there was a real sense of this was going to happen and it was a real vote of confidence from Fred,” she said. “And then when we started raising money for it, we got a great response from people in the community – both permanent and part-time folks.”And then East West Partners came to the table.”It was sort of unbelievable,” Dobey said. “And again, [it was] something that said we were going in the right direction. And now we have all these funds that will be able to support conservation forever in the region.”

Granting grantsAccording to Dobey, the revenue generated by the Nature Fund’s endowment, which they hope to grow to $2 million-plus through ongoing fund-raising, will help fund large-scale projects that produce tangible results the community can see. Grants will be awarded based on the recommendations of the Nature Fund Grants Committee, which will be comprised of scientists, donors, members of the committee and concerned citizens. Ultimately, grants will be handed out upon the approval of the foundation’s board. Dobey said that she expects grants to be awarded in the range of $15,000-plus to groups doing environmental conservation, education and restoration in the Truckee and North Lake Tahoe region.”The goals include enhancing responsible recreation as well,” said Fred Ilfeld. “It’s not just preserving the pristine; we realize that human impact is going to be happening around here, so we want to have people get out and enjoy the wilderness without destroying it or harming it in a significant way.”The foundation will make its first grants from the Nature Fund in the spring of 2005.For more information on the Nature Fund and Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, visit http://www.ttcf.net or contact Lisa Dobey at 587-1776. For more information on Tahoe Mountain Resorts, visit http://www.tahoemountainresorts.com or contact Aaron Revere at (530) 587-2222.