Photo: Acoma Pueblo Traditional Farm Corps

How Public Lands Gives Back

Here’s how the Public Lands Fund works to protect and preserve our greatest shared outdoor resources, who it serves and why it exists.

There’s one key to understanding how Public Lands lives up to its name. It helps the brand and outdoor resource fulfill a bold mission—that is, to protect, celebrate, and explore America’s 640 million acres of public lands, while working together to leave a lasting impact on the communities that define them. To find the means that can effect such broad change, look no further than 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, reducing barriers and getting more people (and different types) out to experience them. Public Lands donates a full 1% of all its sales (based on purchase price) to the fund, which annually names a list of partner-grantees. 

The fund’s goal, says Carla Fox, Public Lands Corporate Responsibility Manager, is to provide financial support to select organizations making a real impact on those dual fronts of public lands conservation as well as 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, “keeping the focus on hyper-local impact while continuing the work with key national and landscape-level partners.”

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 the CLF points out, teaching sustainable techniques honed by generations of local Indigenous farmers is more relevant than ever in a drought-beleaguered region. 

On other local levels, the partner-grantee Student Conservation Association (SCA) expanded its Urban Green program in Pittsburgh with a Young Adult BIPOC Roving Crew that rehabilitated trails and transformed local hiking corridors in greenspaces across the city. Meanwhile, 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.  

Photo: Acoma Pueblo Traditional Farm Corps

What’s Next

The organizations listed below constitute this year’s current roster of Public Lands Fund partners. More Info: publiclandsfund.org

The Conservation Alliance

  • Mission: Harnessing the power of business to fund and advocate for the protection of North America’s wild places via critical grants to conservation programs nationwide.
  • Partnership: The Public Lands Fund is a Pinnacle-level member, contributing $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.

Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

  • Mission: A consortium of the sovereign Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni tribes working to advance Indigenous perspectives and ways of stewardship in the collaborative management of Bears Ears National Monument (BENM). Now, following President Biden’s restoration of the BENM in October 2021, the BEITC supports the Bears Ears Commission, which will position tribes equitably in the design, planning, and implementation of co-management and will promote reciprocal knowledge-sharing within and between Indigenous communities and with federal and state land management agencies.

The Honnold Foundation

  • Mission: Advancing solar energy access to reduce environmental impact and increase social and economic equity.   

Outdoor Afro

The Trust for Public Land  

  • Mission: Creating parks and community greenspaces, preserving land to create healthy, livable communities for generations to come.
  • Partnership: The Public Lands Fund has granted Trust for Public Land $50K to support their creation of a Community Schoolyard Program in the Pittsburgh region.

Alaska Wilderness League  

  • Mission: Protecting Alaska’s public lands by advocating for and acting in support of biodiversity, wilderness, Indigenous communities, and cleaner energy. 
  • Partnership: The Fund is supporting their work in advocating for the protection and conservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Student Conservation Association   

  • Mission: Building the next generation of conservation leaders through paid service and stewardship jobs for youth and young adults on U.S. public lands. 
  • Partnership: The Public Lands Fund is supporting the group’s community youth/young adult crews in Pittsburgh; Long Island/NYC, and Atlanta.

First Waves Pittsburgh

  • Mission: Empowering underserved Pittsburgh youth with SUP skills and opportunities and educational workshops that create a basis for healthy and active lifestyles, watershed conservation, education in the art of filmmaking, and diversity in outdoors recreation.
  • Partnership: The Public Lands Fund is supporting the group’s SUP paddling programs in Pittsburgh.

Green Columbus 

  • Mission: Promoting sustainable living, environmental education, and community involvement in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Partnership: The Public Lands Fund is supporting the group’s tree nurseries and tree plantings in Columbus.

Rivanna Conservation Alliance

  • Mission: Conserving the Rivanna River in Virginia and its tributaries through water quality monitoring, restoration, education and advocacy.   
  • Partnership: The Fund is supporting the group’s programs increasing access and exposure to paddling, focused on underserved communities.

Wildrock

  • Mission: Serving Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding areas in Virginia with by promoting nature play for health and happiness through a natural area that provides recreation, learning, public play days, summer camps and more
  • Partnership: The Fund is supporting the group’s work in increasing access to experiencing the outdoors, focused on underserved communities. 

Wild Virginia

  • Mission: Protecting and connecting Virginia’s wild places through improving habitat connectivity and ensuring all waterways are fully protected in accordance with the law.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

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