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MacArthur Fund Unveils New Approach to Environmental Grants

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today a new grant-making effort that expands its environmental giving beyond efforts to preserve land, seascapes, and species to tackle major threats to ecosystems, such as climate change, overfishing, and harmful agricultural practices.

The Chicago fund, one of America’s biggest philanthropies, plans to spend roughly the same amount on conservation issues—$176-million over the next decade—as it has been devoting to the cause in the past.

MacArthur’s president, Robert Gallucci, has been conducting a review of the foundation’s work since joining the fund in 2009. This is the first major grant-making change he has unveiled.

With the plan, the MacArthur fund is narrowing the regions where it focuses its environmental giving from eight to three.

They are: the East Africa’s Great Lakes region, Asia’s Greater Mekong area and the Mekong River’s headwaters, and the watersheds of South America’s Andes mountain range.

The foundation will also support work to protect coastal marine areas around the world and to encourage research and policy changes on issues such as China’s use of natural resources.

In addition, the foundation will now make more grants to protect freshwater resources and aquatic life, a concern that Jorgen Thomsen, the fund’s director of conservation and sustainable development, says has been overlooked for too long by donors.

“Freshwater and water conservation will really be one of the defining issues over the next couple of decades,” he says.

Proposals for new grants will be accepted beginning in 2012, the foundation said.

MacArthur has been making grants to conservation since 1979.

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