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washingtonpost.com > Nation > Special Reports > The Nature Conservancy


Sun shines on the Arlington headquarters of the Conservancy, whose portfolio includes 2 million acres and some risky undertakings in recent years. (Sarah L. Voisin - The Washington Post)
About This Series

This Washington Post series describes The Nature Conservancy's transformation from a grassroots group to a corporate juggernaut.

Continuing Coverage
 IRS Toughens Scrutiny of Land Gifts (The Washington Post, 7/1/04)
 Overhaul of Nature Conservancy Urged (The Washington Post, 3/31/04)
 Nature Conservancy Retools Board to 'Tighten' Oversight (The Washington Post, 3/4/04)
 IRS to Audit Nature Conservancy From Inside (The Washington Post, 1/17/04)
 Land-Trust Boom A Boon for Habitat (The Washington Post, 12/21/03)
 Senate Panel Intensifies Its Conservancy Probe (The Washington Post, 11/10/03)
 Land Trust Alliance Rewriting Its Ethics Standards (The Washington Post, 10/25/03)
 Nature Conservancy Faces Panel Review (The Washington Post, 7/17/03)
 Conservancy Abandons Disputed Practices (The Washington Post, 6/14/03)
 12 Home Loans at Conservancy (The Washington Post, 6/13/03)
 Charity Hiring Lawyers to Try to Prevent Probe (The Washington Post, 5/16/03)
 Nature Conservancy Suspends Land Sales (The Washington Post, 5/13/03)
 Charity's Land Deals To Be Scrutinized (The Washington Post, 5/10/03)
Letters and Opinions
 Balancing The Nature Conservancy Story (The Washington Post, 5/13/03)
 Big Green Blues (The Washington Post, 5/12/03)
 Forces of Nature (The Washington Post, 5/11/03)
 Unnatural Relations? (The Washington Post, 5/10/03)
 Nonprofits: Not So Transparent (The Washington Post, 5/7/03)
Multimedia

Washington Post Reporter Joe Stephens talked about the Conservancy series in this video interview.

_______ Live Onlines _______
Jim Petterson, Director of Communications at the Nature Conservancy, took questions about the organization.
Joe Stephens fielded readers' questions online.

Reporter's Query
What do you think about the Nature Conservancy?
Do you have any comments or information on the organization? Do you have any responses to this investigative series? Send your thoughts to: TNC@washpost.com.
Reporting on This Series

The Washington Post began reporting for this series of articles on the Nature Conservancy in 2001. This was interrupted by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and war in Afghanistan, and again by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Staff writers David B. Ottaway and Joe Stephens visited Conservancy operations and sites in Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Texas. They interviewed Conservancy President Steven J. McCormick four times and spoke with scores of staff and senior officials at local, state and national levels.

The reporters also conducted hundreds of interviews with former Conservancy employees, representatives of other environmental groups, federal environmental officials, academic and legal nonprofit specialists and tax experts inside and outside government.

The Post obtained thousands of pages of internal documents and e-mail communications between Conservancy officials. A number of current employees, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, were interviewed.

The reporters also reviewed thousands of pages of documents obtained elsewhere, including court and property records in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Texas and Wyoming.


Part One : Inside the Nature Conservancy
Nonprofit Land Bank Amasses Billions
The Conservancy is the world's richest environmental group, amassing $3 billion in assets by pledging to save precious places. But recently it has aligned closely with corporations. In addition to land conservation, it pursued drilling, logging and development. Its approach has led to strange bedfellows.

$420,000 a Year and No-Strings Fund
Officials at the Nature Conservancy say their finances are an open book, a stance charity experts describe as essential to promoting public trust. Still, simple answers can prove difficult to get.

Image Is a Sensitive Issue
A look inside the Nature Conservancy reveals a whirring marketing machine that has poured millions into building and protecting the organization's image, laboring to transform the charity into a household name.

Part Two: When Conservation and Business Fail to Mix
How a Bid to Save a Species Came to Grief
Mobil Oil gave the Conservancy a patch of prairie that encompassed the last native breeding ground of the most endangered bird in North America. The Conservancy wanted to turn the site into a national model of environmentally compatible drilling. But the results illustrate how the organization's philosophy and profit pursuits can put its core mission at risk.

For-Profit 'Flagship' Hits Shoals
Five years after the Nature Conservancy converted an abandoned U.S. Coast Guard station building into a rustic inn on Virginia's Eastern Shore as part of a $3-million for-profit venture, the group has declared the project a waste of money.

The Beef About the Brand
Of all the products that carry the Nature Conservancy imprimatur, perhaps the most unexpected is beef.

Part Three : A House in the Woods
Nonprofit Sells Land to Allies at a Loss
The Nature Conservancy has often resold raw land at a loss to supporters as part of a program to limit intrusive development, but the sales generally allow buyers to construct sprawling homes with swimming pools on the environmentally sensitive sites.

Landing a Big One: Preservation, Private Development
When the Conservancy acquired rare open sandplain on Martha's Vineyard it hailed it as "an important victory for conservation." While the Conservancy placed restrictions limiting some development, it also resold half of it, paving the way for Gatsbyesque vacation homes.

Part Four: Conserving Land and Wealth
Developers Find Payoff in Preservation
Mike Kahn, a Florida business consultant and former golf pro, advises celebrities and sports stars how they can save millions in taxes: Buy a golf course and prohibit building on the fairways.



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