Proulx purchased the square mile of land that she named "Bird Cloud" from The Nature Conservancy, an organization incorporated in the USA in 1951 with a mission to take "direct action" to save threatened natural areas. The non-profit now has a presence in all fifty American states as well as in more than thirty other countries. It is one of the largest non-profit groups in the U.S. with over one million members and, in a 2007 Harris Poll, was shown to be one of the most trusted organizations in America.
It is the goal of The Nature Conservancy to "protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people." The group's approach to conservation is science-based; they will study and analyze what is needed in a given area to ensure the preservation of the local ecosystems, plants and animals. The Nature Conservancy strives for collaborative partnership when working with the people, cultures, and communities where it has a presence. The organization feels this method of fostering strong relationships is important to achieve the goal of enduring conservation.
All of these perceived good deeds and high levels of trust are not without detractors, though, and some serious concerns have been voiced over the methods of conservation the group supports as well as its internal practices. Some of these questionable acts include offering subsidized loans to employees, supporting drilling for gas and oil on Conservancy-owned lands, and reselling owned property to Conservancy members at reduced value. The organization acknowledged the conflict of interest that could occur in these situations, so it created new policies in 2003. These changes were a result of pressure from, not only their own members, but the American government and the media, most notably The Washington Post which ran a series of articles based on two years of investigative work.
It would appear that these policies have helped the organization redeem its standing in the eyes of the public. As already noted, The Nature Conservancy was rated one of the most trusted groups in America in a 2007 survey.
This article was originally published in February 2011, and has been updated for the
October 2011 paperback release.
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