Conservation Exchange

The Conservation Exchange is broad-based framework for mutually-beneficial conservation funding agreements. It was created to reflect values that have always been constitutional to Diablo Trust: collaboration, inclusivity, creativity, and fairness. It allows for both existing and potential conservation partners -- state and federal entities, local and regional businesses, foundations, non-profits, and emerging ‘enviro-preneurs’ who see market potential related to the reality of our limited ecological resources -- to craft highly-customizable agreements that benefit the land and community, using the Dollar Per Acre mechanism.

Founding and constant partners:


Derrick Widmark
former Diablo Trust Communications Coordinator & Diablo Burger founder
Published in Ground Truth - Spring 2012 issue

Design and concept by Julie Sullivan and Derrick Widmark

Imagine for a moment that the way environmental conservation has been funded is changing.

Instead of philanthropy -- a paradigm in which the environment is lumped in and has to compete with other non-profit or social service needs -- imagine that dollars are invested in conservation work because it makes good business sense, and because it offers an array of potential returns beyond the reward of contributing to a good cause.

This simple proposition is at the heart of Diablo Trust’s new Conservation Exchange, recently launched in a series of meetings with local businesses.  The Conservation Exchange is broad-based framework for mutually beneficial conservation funding agreements.  Simply put, it allows for both existing and potential conservation partners to craft agreements that benefit the land first and foremost, all using our existing Dollar Per Acre mechanism, and that offer a range of returns customized to suit specific business needs and long-term goals.

The diagram above illustrates how the Conservation Exchange works from the ground up and from the inside out: active Conservation Stewardship results in Conservation Benefits, and participants in the Conservation Exchange can leverage their position between those benefits and Conservation Beneficiaries -- the wide range of local, regional and national entities that benefit, in real and measurable ways, from this holistically managed landscape-scale area called the Diablo Trust.

Design and concept by Julie Sullivan and Derrick Widmark

Examples could include:

  • A big water user investing in a spring restoration project on Diablo Trust; their dollars would help us launch a project and in turn they would receive both public relations benefits and pre-credits or credits to mitigate their water-usage footprint;
  • A utility company asking regional users to voluntarily pay an extra few cents a month on their bill in return for their investment in a wildlife habitat restoration project; 
  • A regional bank offering a ‘conservation credit card’ where instead of earning miles or bonus points on their purchases, customers could choose to have their cash back dollars directed to a conservation project;
  • An outdoor outfitter or recreation entity sponsoring ‘leave no trace’ signage;
  • A sustainable developer off-setting lumber usage by including local conservation credits in the price of a new home;
  • A legacy gift that involves not just tax benefits but a dedicated annual scholarship award;
  • Or a local business that wants ‘eco-labeling’ to associate itself with our conservation practices.

And here’s the catch: the funding of environmental conservation work is changing right now.  Both as a result of the worldwide economic downturn reducing the amount of philanthropic dollars that benefit the environment and, more critically to our endeavor, because there is an ever-increasing awareness in the world of business that, in an age of resource scarcity, environmental conservation and the bottom line are connected.

For Diablo Trust, this paradigm shift is also somewhat fortuitous.  Truth is, we always struggled (for a host of reasons) to raise dollars under the philanthropic model.  But we believe we are uniquely poised to benefit from this shift because of some hard-earned assets that we can offer up to our partners: an almost 20-year track record of on-the-ground accomplishments; a legitimate forum for innovative and collaborative land management; an unusually lean overhead that allows our partners to see the significant majority of their dollars spent on the ground; and a robust monitoring system that can quantify the measurable results of those on-the-ground investments.

What we need next are deals, no matter how humble, to get the Conservation Exchange off the ground, to show that it works for all parties involved and to legitimize this proposition to every new potential partner with whom we have the privilege of entering into discussion.

And with that intention, we are going to end this article with a question: if you own a business, or if you know someone who does, how can the Diablo Trust Conservation Exchange connect environmental conservation and the bottom line in a way that benefits you?

We’re all ears.

Imagine for a moment that the way environmental conservation has been funded is changing . . .
— Derrick Widmark, former DT coordinator and founder of Diablo Burger