Conservation International Foundation

CIF works strategically with scientists, economists, communicators, educators and citizens to protect those areas with the richest biological resources. CIF receives financial support from private and public donors to fund its programs, and in turn awards grants to other partners implementing work supporting biodiversity preservation.


The mission of Conservation International is to conserve the Earth’s resources and to demonstrate that humans can live in concert with nature. In order for future generations to survive and flourish spiritually, culturally and economically, the vast numbers and varieties of plant and animal species living on our lands and in our waters must be protected.

The purpose of the organization is to identify and eliminate threats to all forms of life around the globe. When nature’s ecological cycles are disturbed, people’s quality of life is, in turn, adversely affected.

Conservation International works strategically with scientists, economists, communicators, educators and citizens to protect those areas with the richest biological resources that are home to a disproportionate number of species according to land mass or water area. Conservation International has prioritized biodiversity hotspots, high-biodiversity wilderness and key marine ecosystems in their efforts to show how people can coexist in these sensitive areas. While promoting sustainable development, local residents are informed of the need for conservation and shown how to reduce human pressure in these areas. Development, pollution and overuse of natural resources all contribute to the demise of natural systems and are especially damaging in biodiverse areas (Conservational International).

Historic Roots

Conservation International, headquartered in Washington D.C., was founded in 1987 by Peter A. Seligmann, current chairman of the board and chief executive officer. In existence less than twenty years, Conservation International has conserved biodiversity while benefiting local communities worldwide.

Since Conservation International published its first hotspot map in 1990, over twenty-six areas around the world have been identified which are home to over fifty percent of the world’s biodiversity in only two percent of the Earth’s land surface. Numerous publications have been made available, effectively communicating and disseminating knowledge on biodiversity to a wide variety of audiences. Conservation International has fostered agreements with people in forty indigenous communities to identify and record plant and animal resources used for traditional medicines and other applications. Instituting the world’s first debt-for-nature swap in Bolivia, other organizations have followed their lead, giving developing countries financial resources while preserving traditional lifestyles of native peoples. Conservation International has linked conservation efforts to improving the standard of living for those in rural communities around the globe, and was recognized by the United Nations Environment Program for Sustainable Development (Asahi).


According to Conservation International’s Annual Report, despite progress in protecting the world’s natural resources, global diversity is in crisis. Rising human populations in the developing world and increasing resource demands from industrial nations continue to stress and exploit nature on an overwhelming scale.

Global warming is causing glacial melt, changing habitat ranges and throwing off nature’s delicate balance. Unsustainable agriculture, unregulated industry, urban sprawl, rampant coastal development and over-fishing by giant industrial fleets continue to destroy habitat, which is the principal cause of threatened, endangered and extinct species.

Conservation International prioritizes and implements a highly focused approach in safeguarding natural assets that ensures a higher quality of life for all.

Ties Related to the Philanthropic Sector

CIF, with an annual budget of $100 million, receives financial support from private and public donors to fund its programs. The Conservation Funding Division in turn awards grants to other partners implementing work supporting biodiversity preservation. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, a joint initiative of government, multilateral agencies and Conservation International, receives funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank and supports civil society groups in conserving hotspots in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Global Conservation Fund, established with a $100 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, protects the world’s most biologically important regions by creating and expanding long-term management of identified areas.

Conservation International also partners with the following conservation alliances: Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, Climate Trust, Ecosystems, Protected Areas and People, Equator Ventures, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Rare, Save the Tiger Fund, The World Conservation Union and the WWF Caucasus.

Key Related Ideas

Biodiversity is the variety of all forms of life within an ecosystem. This natural resource base includes species and genes within ecosystems.

An ecosystem is a community of species living within a certain environment. These natural systems perform critical roles such as controlling erosion, cleansing air and water of natural and human introduced impurities, enriching soils, pollinating crops and storing carbon (Conservation International, 2005).

Endemism indicates those species that are found nowhere else in the world (Conservation International).

Habitat is the area in which an organism normally lives.

Indigenous peoples, plants, or animals are those native to an area.

A sustainable way of life is that which may be maintained indefinitely as the resources required are available and replenished. Timothy Young, co-owner of Food for Thought, a business with a commitment to creating foods that sustain both people and the environment, says a sustainable lifestyle requires living off the interest, not the principal of our earth’s resources.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Harrison Ford (July 13, 1942 —) Ford serves as a Conservation International vice chair, and has species of a Central American ant and spider named after him in honor of his conservation work. Considered one of the top 100 movie stars, Ford attended Ripon College in Wisconsin but never earned a college degree. He resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Internet).

  • Story Clark Resor (1953 —): Clark Resor, a Conservation International board member, is a consultant specializing in land conservation strategy. She has almost thirty years of experience working in land use planning with local and national organizations and currently serves on a number of boards. Residing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Clark Resor is writing a book on conservation finance.

  • Peter A. Seligmann (September 30, 1950 --): Conservation International’s founder, Seligmann is considered to be one of the most dynamic and innovative leaders in the global conservation movement. He holds a masters degree from Yale and honorary doctorate from Michigan State University. Strongly advocating formation of partnerships between government and industry, under Seligmann’s leadership, Conservation International has utilized sound economic tools that are also scientifically based and culturally sensitive (Stanford).

  • Rob Walton (October 27, 1944- present): Walton, Conservation International board member, has been chairman board of directors of Wal-Mart since 1992. Walton earned a law degree from the University School of Law in New York, and attended the University of Arkansas and Wooster College where he currently serves as a trustee. In 2004 Wal-mart initiated efforts to implement ecologically responsible business practices (Wal-Mart).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

The Nature Conservancy is an international organization working to protect ecologically significant lands and waters worldwide for the benefit of nature and the world’s citizens. Collaborative, science-based efforts involving corporations, conservancy partners and people living in communities around the globe are focused on tangible results with integrity and transparency

Based at the Bronx Zoo in New York since 1895, the Wildlife Conservation Society, this organization works to save wildlife and the lands in which they live. Maintaining the world’s largest system of wildlife parks is intended to show people how humans can wildlife can coexist in a sustainable manner both locally and on a global scale

Perhaps best known for its efforts to save the Giant Panda, the World Wildlife Fund is the world’s largest privately financed conservation organization and has over a million members in the United States and other 4 million worldwide. The WWF has worked in more than 100 countries in the last fifty years to save endangered species, and protect their habitats from threats such as toxic pollution, overuse and climate change.

Related Web Sites

The Center for Applied Biodiversity Science Web site, at, generates and disseminates data on biodiversity and conservation efforts. News, events, research and publications are available. Collaborations, partnerships and scientific advisors are listed.

The Center for Environmental Leadership in Business Web site, at, serves companies with a global presence wishing to transition from activities which harm the environment to serving as leaders in environmental stewardship. Programs, strategies, partners and locations of areas with high priority for biological diversity conservation are listed.

The Fifteenth International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment Web site, at,shows the 1st through 5th and special prize winners of this contest sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme. The work of these children ages 6 to 14 is presented as a slide show with each work of art featured for ten seconds on the computer screen.

The Global Conservation Fund Web site, at, (Accessed 8/3/06) provides resources for local communities, nongovernmental organizations and governments to obtain financial and strategic assistance to ensure long term protection of threatened lands and waters. News articles of funded projects, the grant application process and maps of priority areas are available on the site.

The World Environment Day Web site, at, promotes this annual event held since 1974 and sponsored by the United Nations. Six language options are available on this site which features activities taking place world wide, opportunity for enthusiasts to register their event, an information package, photo gallery and listings of previous host countries and themes.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

The Asahi Glass Foundation. “Profiles of the 1997 Blue Planet Prize Recipients.” . Accessed 3 August 2006.

Internet Movie Database. “Harrison Ford.”  Accessed 3 August 2006.

Conservation International. “Overview.” Accessed 3 August 2006.

Private Landowner Network Directory of Conservation Resources. “Story Clark.”  Accessed 3 August 2006.

Stanford University. “Peter Seligmann.” (Accessed 8/3/06)

Wal-Mart Stores. “Senior Officers.”  Accessed 3 August 2006.

Wilson Web [database online] Accessed 22 July 2006. Available from Ferris State University Library.