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Center for Natural Capital 2013 Year End Review

 Dear Friend of the Center:

There’s a lot of talk today about the need for big projects for big change. At the Center, we’ve begun to think our best hope is the passionate heart of one youth at time.

That’s why in 2013 we launched our youth Job Corps programming, piloting StreamSweepers in the headwaters of the Rapidan watershed of Central Virginia, U.S.A. StreamSweepers is built on the belief that there is no more effective way of influencing a person’s perspective than their first real job.

We learn by doing – from mentors that understand that self-confidence is earned through self-discovery and real entrepreneurship isn’t about money – rather about passion for an idea to make or build something better. StreamSweepers takes this wisdom and injects it into the DNA of job training and the very nature of the job itself.

In 2013 we also launched what we believe to be the first crowdfunding platform specifically for conservation in the U.S. ahyayha (Cherokee for “to hold in hand”) raised thousands of private sector dollars for a handful of small eco-projects in Virginia, ranging from small family oyster growers needing capital for cages to farmers trying to restore native Brook Trout to a Shenandoah Valley High School needing support for hand built custom river water quality monitoring stations. The Center did this with no government assistance of any kind through the launch of a new experimental company with an untested business plan, and with $6000 in seed money from four passionate eco-investors that believed in the concept of a transparent online funding platform connecting people, nature, and local commerce.

Early in the year we merged with Public Policy Virginia, Inc. to add local wood and grass energy as another demand driver for Chesapeake Bay restoration. This led to a request by the Virginia Department of Forestry, using U.S. Forest Service Funding, to manage a new statewide Community Wood Energy program. The Center is perhaps the only non-profit organization in the mid-atlantic with a focus not just on renewable energy, but on energy as one part of a portfolio of new markets for agricultural and forestry products that provide jobs, improves water quality, and enhances biodiversity.

We’ve continued applied research, again working with the Department of Forestry, the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc., the Center for Sustainable Groundwater, and many other Partners to complete the Rivanna Forests to Faucets Initiative. Center staff and consultants developed an enviro-economic capital planning tool and publicly advocated for the use of conservation as a new form of cost effective water supply “infrastructure” for use by water and wastewater utilities. This work has not been without controversy with some questioning the legitimacy of the effort, in spite of the fact that leading local and regional government entities in the U.S. are now collectively spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Green Infrastructure to reduce the costs of water treatment.

Finally, we’ve significantly improved our institutional capacity – with 7 full or part-time persons on staff this year along with great consultants, like Rapidan River Kayak Company, and Audibert Photography. Our Board has welcomed new members – great “visionary doers” like David Perdue (Riverly Properties) from Somerset and Charlie Westbrook (Atoka Exchange) from The Plains. We’ve created two new Advisory Boards – one for our Job Corps Program and the other for our Energy Program. And here, we’re blessed to have folks like Mark Kington (Columbia Capital) and Daryl Bishop (Pepco Energy Services).

2013 was indeed a breakthrough year, but 2014 is shaping up to be even better. We’re increasing our StreamSweepers mileage by 300%. We’re deploying our own non-profit youth landscape service based on concepts we developed with the Rappahannock River Basin Commission in the River Friendly Yard project. We’ve got discussions underway with some local governments to help assess feasibility for local bioenergy + providing financial assistance through the Community Wood Energy Project for implementation of two bioenergy projects somewhere in Virginia + the 2014 Virginia Bioenergy conference. And a whole lot more that probably shouldn’t be mentioned just yet. And we hope some real special needs come along that we can fund through ahyayha.

Again, how does this all relate? through design and implementation of innovative small businesses that create demand for conservation and restoration of nature’s services.

We’ve gotten to the point that some businesses are lucky to get to – where their needs for capital for expansion can outstrip available resources. Our service-based revenues, like StreamSweepers, are only partially supported by fees, thus our need for ongoing donor support, especially to deal with the sunk costs involved with taking on more business. Then there is the fact that other revenue, like some of our grants, will now not pay for overhead. As one Board member recently said, how are we supposed to run an organization with the limitations and accounting expectations of these grants?

We’re doing everything we can to develop self replicating private revenue streams to restore natural (and social) capital using whatever funds we can find – but for many folks and government agencies, there’s a long arm’s length between natural capital and what they’re willing to pay for. That’s where donor support comes in – it covers the occasional gap between project cost and buyer willingness to pay for many environmental services.  And while we really do need help to cover the costs of increasing the scale of our projects we also understand that many folks would rather give through an organization rather than to it. So here are some impact categories that span both types of interests.

  • For $100/oyster cage – provide capital to a young oyster farmer to help make a living for his family & clean up the Bay.
  • For $1000/mile – employ high school and college StreamSweepers to clean the Rapidan River.
  • For any amount help launch SoilKeepers 2014.
  • For any amount help rural communities switch to local wood and native warm season grass energy.
  • For any amount help grow the 2014 Virginia Bioenergy Conference.
  • For any amount help rural communities use Green Infrastructure to solve their 21st century drinking water challenges.
  • For any amount help increase the efficacy of the ahyayha eco-crowdfunding platform for 2014 projects.

We’ll end our 2013 year in review with Margaret Mead – she’s often quoted for good reason:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has

Happy Holidays!

       2013-14 Board of Directors

Fred Circle

Smith Coleman

Julie Connelly

John English

Brad Huff

David Perdue

Richard Price

Colonel Brad Pickens

Roger Voisinet

Chandler van Voorhis

Al Weed

Charlie Westbrook

 Center for Natural Capital

P.O. Box 901, Orange, Virginia, 22960

www.naturalcapital.us

A 501 c-3 charitable organization

 

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