Partner Spotlight: Resources Legacy Fund

Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) is a non-profit organization based in California and Montana, with a worldwide impact that strives “for conservation of land, ocean, and water resources, climate change resilience, and conservation funding and policies that benefit all communities.” With an emphasis on healthy communities and social equity, they fund partners and projects in the conservation space to ensure that philanthropic funds are spent for greatest impact. RLF has funded two innovative projects in recent years that are improving the ability of participating RCDs to respond to resource challenges and opportunities in their local communities.

Durable Collaborations

Resources Legacy Fund recognized early on that Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are uniquely positioned to work with landowners to implement on-the-ground projects that clean up California’s land and waterways. However, the ability of RCDs to work effectively can be hindered when the districts compete—rather than work together—for dwindling funding amid ever-growing conservation and climate challenges.

An investment from RLF in 2017 was crucial in supporting a pilot project called the North Coast Resource Conservation District (RCD) Durable Collaboration. The purpose of project was to bring together ten RCDs in the North Coast region to develop a scalable and transferable model for sharing staff, programs, and resources while reducing unnecessary competition. Their aim was to achieve conservation objectives at a regional scale in pursuit of improved water quality, water quantity, and a heightened stewardship ethic for the benefit of communities, watersheds, and wildlife. In 2019, the North Coast region of RCDs signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining their goals and how they intended to work together going forward.

The North Coast Durable Collaboration has proven to be an inspiring model for other RCDs throughout the state. There has been a wave of enthusiasm and interest—from both RCDs and partners—in identifying new opportunities for similar explorations. RLF has made additional investments in RCD durable collaboration efforts in recent years, resulting in another successful regional collaboration and MOU signing in the Sacramento Valley region. A similar process is also currently being explored on the Central Coast. RLF’s support and partnership has made it possible for RCDs to develop formal collaborations amongst each other, broaden the scope and deepens the impact of their watershed-scale conservation efforts on private lands, and has made it easier for RCDs to navigate shifting cultural and environmental challenges in their regions.

Conservation in Cannabis

Cannabis is a newly legal agricultural sector in California that is still rapidly evolving. With generous funding from RLF made possible by the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, CARCD is assisting RCDs in the development of Fee-for-Service programs related to conservation in cannabis by connecting local and state stakeholders, financial support, legal counsel, and partnership opportunities.

The funding has enabled CARCD to monitor the regulatory, political, and industry movement for cannabis while creating partnerships and enhancing RCD visibility in this rapidly evolving sector. Valuable relationships have been made with the environmental agencies involved in cannabis, as well as with the California Growers Association and local chapters. A few RCDs are collaborating with CARCD in the development of a fee-for-service program for the 8 RCDs that are within counties with outdoor and greenhouse cultivation.

“Resources Legacy Fund has been an incredible partner for CARCD and RCDs. Their Durable Collaborations funding has allowed RCDs to build capacity on a regional level, and their funding around watershed impacts of cannabis cultivation has allowed RCDs to fill a need gap in their communities. Both funding opportunities have been significant because they are both critical to RCDs’ growth, but have very few alternate funding opportunities available. RLF has shown that they believe in RCD’s work and we are so appreciative for their partnership!” —Karen Buhr, Executive Director, CARCD