Lina Farias, Doris Duke Conservation Scholar with the Yale School of the Environment and Highstead Fellow, attended the 2021 Conservation Finance Bootcamp during her time at Highstead this summer. Lina recounted her her crash course at the 2021 Conservation Finance Boot Camp for the Conservation Finance Network website from her perspective as an Organismal Biology and Ecology major at Colorado College. An excerpt and a link to the full article are provided below.
I’m someone who has always seen conservation as the work done by field biologists on restoration properties and in wildlife rehabilitation centers. As I sat through sessions on debt and ratios, I couldn’t help but think to myself “are all these numbers really that important?” It turns out: yes they are.
That’s the main lesson I registered as I dove into my internship at the Highstead Foundation by joining the virtual 2021 Boot Camp. It felt worlds away from the work I did as a biologist in college. Green bonds, carbon offsets, private equity investors, conservation easements, corporate social responsibilities, and voluntary surcharges were swirling through my mind as I stared at my computer screen seeing presenter after presenter. Each was giving me new vocabulary, but more centrally, each was giving financial advice to dozens of other conservation organizations. I now know that these terms drive strategies and that these strategies drive the capital that enables research and restoration projects to continue.
That’s a profound lesson for me. I have always envisioned myself as the wildlife field biologist who camps in the woods or sleeps on a boat for months on end observing the ways the natural world works. The idea of crunching endless numbers in the effort to come up with the money for a project was a side of conservation I had brushed away as if it were somebody else’s job. But while attending the boot camp, I found that there was a difference between fundraising and financing and this difference seemed to reflect in whether an organization could bring in enough capital to sustain its projects. This clarity came from Peter Stein, Managing Director of the Lyme Timber Company and co-founder of the Conservation Finance Network, when he stated, “Fundraising is money you do not need to pay back while financing is money you do need to pay back – often with interest.” The field of conservation finance, he said, is “an emerging sector that seeks to find new financial vehicles and approaches to attract funding for conservation.”