Public Lands’ mission is to celebrate and protect public lands for all. They work together to leave a lasting impact in local communities and those that define the 640 million acres of public lands. Public Lands is a member of 1% for the Planet, and donates a full 1% of all its sales (based on purchase price) to the Public Lands Fund. This 501(c)(3) charity, a program of The DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation, fuels a diverse suite of nonprofit organizations that are actively protecting public lands, and increasing access & equity in the outdoors.
The Fund’s goal, says Carla Fox, Public Lands Corporate Responsibility Manager, is to provide financial support to organizations making a real impact on that intersection of public lands conservation and both access to and equity within the outdoors. That support is layered to help organizations working at different levels: the national level; the grassroots level in local communities; and the critical-landscape level in areas of iconic value facing existential threats, such as Bears Ears National Monument and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Ultimately, the number of organizations doesn’t matter as much as the impact,” says Fox, “we recognize that the outdoors hasn’t historically been a diverse and accessible place for all but that is starting to change, and conservation doesn’t succeed unless everyone, especially at the local level is involved.”
What exactly does that impact look like?
Take the Conservation Lands Foundation, which used 2021 partnership funds to support ecological restoration efforts and educational programming in New Mexico via the Acoma Pueblo Traditional Farm Corps of the Indigenous-led Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps (a member of CLF’s Friends Grassroots Network). The programming helps keep traditional land practices alive while providing the community (especially youth participants) with paths forward in leadership roles—not to mention healthy, fresh vegetables. And as CLF points out, teaching sustainable techniques honed by generations of local Indigenous farmers is more relevant than ever in a drought-beleaguered region.
The Public Lands Fund also is a Pinnacle-level member of the Conservation Alliance, an organization that harnesses the power of business to fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s wild places via critical grants to grassroots conservation organizations nationwide. Pinnacle members like The Public Lands Fund contribute $100,000 annually for CA to invest carefully in vetted projects based on their biological diversity, success history, political viability, and benefits to people and wildlife. It also increases outdoor recreation opportunities and helps provide climate change solutions.
To support more families and children in getting outside safely, The Public Lands Fund began supporting Outdoor Afro’s Making Waves program that provides Swimmerships (swim lesson scholarships) to Black children. Outdoor Afro established this program because Black youth drown in swimming pools at a rate more than six times that of white children, due largely to decades of segregation and exclusion from public pools and beaches.
On the local levels, the Allegheny Land Trust leveraged Public Lands Fund support to continue its transformation of the Churchill Valley Greenway (east of Pittsburgh) from a formerly blighted property into an invaluable community and environmental asset to be forever preserved, free and open to all. The Greenway has provided access to greenspace in an area where there previously wasn’t any for nearby residents.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance is conserving the Rivanna River in Virginia and its tributaries through water quality monitoring, restoration, education and advocacy. The Public Lands Fund is supporting the group’s programs increasing access and exposure to paddling, through free paddling events serving 60 underserved youth & free community paddling events supporting 90 local residents in experiencing paddling for the first time