In the financial world, investors respond quickly to promising opportunities that arise one day but may vanish the next. In conservation, opportunities to purchase important lands -- and hence save rare and endangered species -- may arise abruptly and require an immediate financial commitment to compete with commercial interests. Often, the chance to complete a critical land purchase is lost because of the slow pace of arranging conservation investments. The (QRFN) – launching in partnership with One Earth, and the Weeden Foundation – is providing a solution-oriented approach towards saving the world’s most important sites.
QRFN is a rapid response mechanism that matches scientific expertise, funds, and urgent needs with a speed unparalleled in the funding community. Our goal is to ensure that any globally significant land deal – one that protects one of the last homes for rare and endangered species – has access to the necessary funds. Importantly, applications are accepted at any time, and the turn-around from proposal to decision averages one week. While the funds that go to any one project are rarely large enough to complete a transaction, we seek to provide a funding amount that can secure the property, show commitment and investment so that the conservation buyer has the ability to make a down payment, and hold the property while remaining funds are raised.
In the first two years of piloting the QRFN, the model has been successful. Demand was strong, and awards were made to conserve 10 globally significant conservation sites in Central America, South America, Asia, and Africa. All of the projects have closed, and conserved sites include one that will preserve the rare Santa Marta parakeet and dozens of other wild species restricted to an isolated mountain in Colombia. Another project is extending the Chucanti Reserve in remote eastern Panama, a cloud forest home to rare frogs and plants new to science. QRFN has also protected the best remaining habitat for charismatic megafauna such as the northern jaguar and Sumatran orangutan and elephant. The land deals are made by local NGOs that have plans to actively manage each property after purchase, ensuring management effectiveness and property contribution to long-term conservation outcomes.
The scientific expertise draws from an Advisory Council of fifty-five top global biodiversity specialists who serve on the review panel. A key criterion in award selection is how the investment will help avoid extinction for rare species. Our Advisory Panel work on an all-volunteer basis, ensuring that all donations go to funding land acquisition. There remain critical opportunities to protect habitat for species before it is too late – through this grant we anticipate protecting 15 of Earth’s most precious and imperiled sites in 2018. Looking ahead, we hope the QRFN will become a go-to mechanism to initiating life-saving conservation deals around the world.