Introduction: Nature, Animals & Parks

Many of America’s most iconic natural attractions are the products of philanthropy. Hundreds of national parks, urban green spaces, zoos and aquariums, public waterways and shorelines, wildlife and pet protections, gardens, and arboretums have been created or bolstered by private givers. The first major patrons of nature giving in this country were John Rockefeller Jr. and then his son, Laurance. Their focused, timely support established or enlarged national parks like Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Virgin Islands, Yosemite, Big Bend, Rocky Mountain, Acadia, Olympic, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Haleakala, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, and Shenandoah, as well as Antietam, Big Hole, Fort Donelson, and other battlefield parks, various state parks, the Marsh-Billings farm, the Blue Ridge Parkway, numerous historic sites and monuments, and local parks. But smaller donors and many grassroots voluntary philanthropic efforts have been even more important, helping save creatures like the peregrine falcon, swift fox, wild turkey, wolf, snowy egret, bluebird, and numerous fish, creating outdoor oases for everyday citizens to enjoy, conserving rare trees and plants, uncovering fresh solutions to ecological dilemmas, even pushing the boundaries of natural science through privately supported physics and biological research. Donated money flows to these causes today at rates higher than ever before. The Environmental Grantmakers Association is able to identify billions of dollars of annual funding by U.S. donors. 

— Section research provided by Karl Zinsmeister with assistance from Brian Brown, Evan Sparks, Justin Torres