Our Record

In the past 20 years, RLF has worked with donors and partners to advance environmental achievements that include:

  • Enabling protection of more than five million acres of land across the American West and Mexico.
  • Leading efforts that generated over $30 billion in new public funding for water, land, climate resilience, equitable parks access, and ocean conservation with increasing spending in urban and disadvantaged communities.
  • Partnering with California to protect nearly 17 percent of the state’s offshore waters.
  • Brokering landmark renewable energy development policy for the American West.
  • Convening coalitions that are leading environmental and climate justice policy reform at the state and local levels.
  • Collaborating to transform retired commercial salt ponds along San Francisco Bay into long-term, multi-billion-dollar, regional climate resilience strategy.
  • Driving policy and public outreach effort that led to California passing historic legislation to sustainably manage its groundwater extraction.
  • Supporting 50-plus commercial fisheries worldwide in achieving sustainability certification.

 

Historic Moments & Milestones

Scroll through our timeline below.

timelinephoto
1996

David Packard, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company and innovating conservationist, dies at age 83 and leaves his family foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a multi-billion-dollar bequest. Jeanne Sedgwick and Michael Mantell begin mapping out a strategy to conserve large areas of California’s Central Coast.

timelinephoto
1997

Michael Mantell leaves his job as Undersecretary for the California Natural Resources Agency mid-year to provide legal consulting expertise on a number of environmental projects, including work with the Packard Foundation.

timelinephoto
1998

The Packard Foundation launches the Conserving California Landscapes Initiative, a five-year, $175 million program to conserve at least 250,000 acres in three California regions—the Central Coast, the Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada—build supportive public policies, and capacity and expand public funding for the environment. Led by Jeanne Sedgwick and Michael Mantell, it was one of the largest private land conservation programs ever created. Ultimately, the program would protect nearly 500,000 acres and leverage almost $800 million in additional public and private funds.

timelinephoto
2000

Jeanne Sedgwick and Doug Varley create Resources Law Group and Resources Legacy Fund for Michael Mantell to lead. Steve McCormick joins Michael as partner in the law group, before leaving to accept the position of President of The Nature Conservancy. Mary Scoonover joins RLF the following year and helps lead the organization for 18 years.

timelinephoto
2001

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein asks RLF to facilitate a deal among federal and state governments and philanthropy to purchase, protect, and restore 16,500 acres of salt ponds around the San Francisco Bay. RLF finalizes the $100 million transaction in 2003—with state and federal funding and contributions from the Goldman Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation—transferring ownership of the Cargill Salt Company lands to the federal and state authorities. Over time, the philanthropies provide a total of $38 million for acquisition, planning, stewardship and restoration. RLF helps lead several successful campaigns that create over $700 million (as of 2021) in new federal, state and regional funds for SF Bay restoration.

timelinephoto
2002

RLF launches the Sustainable Fisheries Fund to support fisheries around the world move to more sustainable, credentialed practices. Led by the Packard Foundation and joined later by the Walton Family Foundation, it remains active and to date has supported 50-plus commercial fisheries worldwide in achieving sustainability certification. Bringing in diverse interests, RLF also leads the successful $2.6 billion bond—Proposition 40—for land, water and coastal conservation in California.

timelinephoto
2003

RLF launches Preserving Wild California Program with a $150 million, five-year effort to preserve wildlands in California. It helps achieve protection for 1 million acres of new Wilderness and other federal designations, acquire over 210,000 acres of land, and it supports over 170 organizations. At this time, RLF also expands its to work to include select parts of the Western US and on key federal policy issues.

timelinephoto
2004

RLF signs a formal agreement with the State of California to advance a phased strategy and public-private partnership for implementing California’s Marine Life Protection Act on behalf of several foundations. The rigorous process results in a statewide network of 124 marine protected areas, completed in 2012, that covers almost 17 percent of state waters including 9.5 percent in no-take protection. This becomes the first network of marine protected areas in the US and is now a recognized global model for ocean conservation.

timelinephoto
2006

With support from the David and Lucile Packard, Irvine, and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. foundations, RLF launches the Children and Urban River Parkways program, to help underserved communities and community organizations in Los Angeles, San Diego, the San Joaquin Valley engage in public decisions about funding, design, and implementation of local river parkway projects. RLF leads the effort to secure over $10 billion dollars for water, ocean, parks and land conservation in California through two successful ballot measures: Proposition 84 and 1E.

timelinephoto
2008

With support from the Marisla, Packard and Sandler Foundations, RLF launches the Northwest Mexico Program to protect priority coastal areas on the Baja California Peninsula. Through 2020, this program has protected more than 3.5 million acres.

timelinephoto
2010

RLF creates the Renewable Energy Working Group to guide federal policy to break the gridlock between renewable energy, utilities, developers and conservationists. The working group’s recommendations guide the Department of the Interior’s decisions to site tens of thousands of megawatts of clean energy production across the Southwest in harmony with land and habitat protection priorities. RLF helps lead the campaign in California to uphold its precedent setting climate change law.

timelinephoto
2011

RLF begins incubating the Water Foundation, an effort that was critical to the passage of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The organization becomes an independent entity in 2017.

timelinephoto
2015

With support from the Packard Foundation and building on prior experience, RLF launches the California Conservation Innovations program, as a new approach to conservation that centers on the strategy of building new conservation constituencies more reflective of the state’s increasingly diverse population and developing a cohort of young and diverse new leaders advocating for conservation funding and policies that meet their communities’ needs.

timelinephoto
2016

With a $50 million investment from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, RLF launches the Open Rivers Fund, which supports local communities to remove obsolete dams, modernize infrastructure, and restore rivers across the American West. The Fund works closely with Tribes to restore ancestral fishing practices and helps bring together groups with often polarized opinions to find win-win solutions.

timelinephoto
2016

RLF helps launch Fund for a Better Future (FBF), a 501(c)4 platform for donors who want to invest quickly in activities that strengthen democratic institutions as a mechanism to secure enduring progress on issues related to conservation, equity, and climate. Between 2016 and 2020, FBF invests more than $80 million supporting efforts that advance voting rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, access to healthcare, and environmental protection across the country while advancing successful ballot measures to increase public funding for parks, outdoors access, safe drinking water, climate resilience, and ocean conservation.

timelinephoto
2016

RLF begins fiscally sponsoring high-impact initiatives that lack 501(c)(3) status. Initial projects include the Center for Western Priorities and the Western Energy Project. This area of work quickly expands to include the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and several international projects, including the Argentine Protected Areas, International Boreal Conservation Campaign, Campaign for Nature, and South American Conservation Fund.

timelinephoto
2018

RLF leads a coalition of partners to design, pass, and implement the $4 billion safe parks and clean water bond, Proposition 68, that California voters passed on the June 2018 ballot. It dedicates at least 40 percent of funding to urban and disadvantaged communities, more than any previous statewide natural resource bond. Fund for a Better Future chaired the campaign to pass the bond.

timelinephoto
2019

RLF helps launch the Shared Ascent Fund (SAF), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) designed to provide sustained support for efforts to confront the growing threat to American democracy. SAF invests in initiatives that advance a vision of shared prosperity, women’s equality, racial equity, and a healthy democracy.

timelinephoto
2020

Building on its success in formal public-private partnerships in California and Montana, RLF enters into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Hawai’i and the Hawai’i Community Foundation to help Hawai’i achieve its commitment to marine managed areas. RLF also helps gain broader state funding for land conservation and public access in Montana by building a diverse coalition and working with FBF to invest in a successful ballot measure.

timelinephoto
2021

RLF builds new synergies in its fight against the climate crisis by formally partnering with the state of California to meet its 2030 biodiversity goals and working to build new capabilities to advance strong climate policies. RLF also sponsors Climate Power, a strategic communications organization building political will and public support for climate action. These efforts complement other climate-targeted RLF projects and programs, including the Campaign for Nature, a global 30×30 initiative; the Hawai’i marine 30×30 effort; and Indigenous-led conservation efforts like International Boreal Conservation Campaign.