Conservation & Sustainable Development

Our Goal

Active in conservation since 1982, MacArthur has committed more than $690 million to preserving ecosystems and species, recognizing the benefits the environment provides communities, and promoting development that respects the environment.

What We Fund

With the shift in MacArthur's grantmaking approach to focus on deep investments in Big Bets and Enduring Commitments, the Conservation and Sustainable Development Program is now exiting.

Grantmaking has concluded in the Tropical Andes, Great Lakes of Africa, the Mekong Watershed, and around global policy issues.  

Final grantmaking under the Conservation and Sustainable Development program will focus on completing our 10-year commitment to coastal and marine conservation efforts, with final calls for proposals in Madagascar for 2018 and in Cuba for 2019. These are regions where the Foundation has disproportionately fewer funding partners. All grantmaking will conclude by 2020.

Our Approach

We were one of the first private foundations to focus on the preservation of biodiversity. Over 36 years, we have supported conservation training, environmental law and policy, and the creation and management of protected areas, among many other interventions to sustain our natural world. We have placed particular emphasis on building the stewardship of local communities to manage resources, and develop sustainably.


The MacArthur Foundation is proud to have contributed to the preservation and conservation of our planet's resources, ecosystems, and species. Through our grantee partnerships, we hope to have created durable solutions for conservation and sustainable development.

In 1982, a $25 million grant launched and supported the early development of the World Resources Institute. Since then, the Foundation has made major investments in a number of conservation institutions in their earliest years, including a $4 million contribution to Conservation International, to the Resilience Alliance, and to Costa Rica's National Biodiversity Institute, among others. MacArthur Foundation was a founding member of the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund with a $25 million contribution that was matched by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.

Moreover, we have worked in a wide variety of geographies with high biological importance including Madagascar, the Philippines, the Maya Forest region of coastal Mexico and Central America, and regions of the U.S. tropics. In 2011, the Foundation launched a strategy to center on the conservation of ecosystems. Our geographic focus shifted to three regions: The Great Lakes of East Central Africa, the Greater Mekong and its headwaters, and the watersheds of the Andes. An evaluation of our Conservation and Sustainable Development strategy found that with our partners, we have contributed to a number of noteworthy achievements in each region.

  • Strengthened the land management capacities of indigenous groups throughout the Andes.
  • Mounted effective challenges to the relentless advance of hydropower dam construction on the Mekong.
  • Built the field of 'sustainable commodities production' with its considerable potential to both conserve forests and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Advanced collaborative shark and ray conservation, notably in Indonesia.
  • Expanded marine protected area conservation in Cuba and Madagascar, building on earlier conservation work.

We are truly grateful to each of our partners throughout the past 36 years and inspired by the work they continue to do on behalf of our natural world.


Updated February 2018


Portrait of Stephanie Platz

Stephanie Platz

Managing Director, Programs
Portrait of Kate Barnes

Kate Barnes

Senior Program Officer
Portrait of Claire Poelking

Claire Poelking

Program Associate
Portrait of Elsa Leon

Elsa Leon

Grants Manager

Media Contact

Portrait of Sean Harder

Sean Harder

Senior Communications Officer

Evaluation Contact

Portrait of Chantell Johnson

Chantell Johnson

Managing Director, Evaluation
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