California’s State Park System represents the most diverse state park system in the nation, providing important recreational and educational experiences for Californians, protecting California’s diverse natural and cultural resources, and contributing significantly to California’s economy through tax revenues and jobs. However, in recent years the system has come under considerable stress from a number of directions that threaten its long-term financial sustainability and ability to meet the needs of California’s growing population and changing demographics.
To address these issues, Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) worked with the California Natural Resources Agency and the Department of Parks and Recreation to create an independent, multi-year collaborative effort to develop and implement a new vision and long-term plan for a financially sustainable State Park System that meets the needs of California’s growing and changing population. Supported by significant charitable funding and public commitments, the Parks Forward Initiative is led by a multidisciplinary Parks Forward Commission and includes the participation of the nonprofit community, other stakeholders, and members of the public. The Initiative has been undertaken in accordance with the goals, commitments, structure, and procedures memorialized in two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and RLF, who is coordinating the Initiative’s charitable funders.
Since its founding in 2000, RLF has represented an innovation in conservation philanthropy as a donor-driven enterprise. RLF is a nonprofit public benefit (tax exempt) 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to help philanthropic institutions and individuals ensure the protection and stewardship of resilient and vibrant natural systems that support healthy communities and economic vitality. RLF works to provide its donors with a unique mix of capabilities to deliver outcomes that improve environmental sustainability in Western North America as well as in oceans and fisheries worldwide.
RLF and the charitable organizations supporting the Initiative are dedicated to improving California and its environment. They share a commitment to protecting and preserving California’s state parks, as well as a conviction that the time is right for transformative change that ensures the long-term sustainability of the State Park System. Philanthropic funding allows the Parks Forward Initiative to make use of significant outside expertise, talent, and resources and enabled a thorough assessment of the current system, as well as the development and implementation of a focused, innovative vision for the system’s future.
Following is an overview of the contributing philanthropic foundations supporting this effort.
S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation is dedicated to advancing a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California. The Foundation’s grant programs focus on two primary efforts: preparing California’s children and youth to contribute to the state’s economy and communities, and advancing management of California’s water and land resources. The Foundation has been supporting California’s state parks as part of its effort to strengthen land stewardship in urban and rural communities.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to solve social and environmental problems in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, and philanthropy, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation’s environmental objectives include preventing the worst effects of climate change, conserving the ecological integrity of the western United States, improving and expanding Bay Area urban parks, and supporting outdoor recreation programs for youth.
James Irvine Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation’s mission is to expand opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful, and inclusive society. Established in 1937, the Foundation bases its grantmaking in three main program areas – Arts, California Democracy, and Youth. Funding priorities include advancing effective public policy that tackles challenges on the economy, education, health care, environment, public safety, and infrastructure. One of the Foundation’s goals is to engage a broad cross-section of Californians in the civic and cultural life of their communities and the state, which has included support for the development of urban river parkways on the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers.
The Marisla Foundation was established in 1986 as a private, non-operating charitable institution. The Foundation focuses its grantmaking in two program areas—Human Services and Environmental. The Environmental Program concentrates on activities that promote the conservation of biological diversity and advance sustainable ecosystem management. Marisla has provided support to conserve marine habitats and fisheries, farmland, open space areas, as well as policy reform efforts relating to climate change, clean energy, and programs to assist disadvantaged communities throughout California.
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is committed to making a meaningful difference in environmental conservation, patient care, and scientific research. Intel cofounder Gordon, and his wife Betty, established the Foundation in 2000 to create a positive, lasting impact around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through the Environmental Conservation Program, the Foundation works to promote sustainability, protect critical ecological systems, and align conservation needs with human development. The Foundation specifically focuses on land conservation in the San Francisco Bay Area and seeks to protect the region’s unique landscapes and ecosystems. A thriving State Parks system is important to the continuing vibrancy of the Bay Area and California.
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
For more than 45 years, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has worked with partners around the world to improve the health and education of children, enable the creative pursuit of science, advance reproductive health, and conserve and restore the earth’s natural systems. The Foundation has a long history of supporting land and water conservation in the West and particularly California, and currently has a focus on protecting and restoring biologically important and iconic areas of the North American West in ways that help create sustainable communities and build broader and more effective conservation constituencies.