Conservation endowment established to preserve Swaner EcoCenter’s future
Nell Larson, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter executive director, knows there is more to land conservation than just setting it aside as open space.
She knows the 1,200-acre Swaner Preserve wetlands are continually impacted by visitors — both human and nonhuman — noxious weeds and weather, which can erode trails.
“There are also bigger issues such as a change in climate and changes in hydrology that would also affect the wetlands,” Larson said. “As a nature preserve, we are focused on water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation for our community.”
That is why Larson and her staff have been working to raise a $2.25 million Swaner Preserve Conservation Endowment, which would help the long-term stewardship of the land, she said.
The idea of a conservation endowment came in 2017, after Swaner’s staff and board looked at the basis of the kids camps, adult-education classes and exhibits the nonprofit offers, Larson said.
“We see this enormous growth in our education program, and it’s hard to keep up with the demand,” she said. “So we wanted to make sure we continue to expand, and in order to do that, we need a rock-solid foundation to help keep the preserve healthy. And that is where the conservation endowment comes in.”
The staff first turned to the EcoCenter’s longtime supporters to see if they would be willing to support an endowment, said Development Director Peregrine Bosler.
“We are very lucky to have amazing donors who love our mission, and they gave us some generous gifts early on,” she said.
The staff and board settled on the $2.25 million total because of the large donations that had come in, Bosler said.
Because the Swaner Preserve and EcoCEnter are extension programs of Utah State University, Larson and her board asked the school to help sponsor a new position of conservation manager, who would oversee stewardship projects, according to Bosler.
“USU said yes, and then we looked at how much a basic budget of actual projects cost each year at Swaner,” she said. “We averaged around $90,000, which is about 4 percent of $2.5 million.”
Of the $2.5 million, the EcoCenter only has $45,500 left to raise. The deadline is Aug. 1. And every donor who gives before the deadline will be considered a founding member and have their name on a plaque in the EcoCenter’s tower, Bosler said.
And while raising the money seems like a steep goal, donations will be matched by David Moore and Suzanne Pierce-Moore, Larson said.
“David and Suzanne have been long-term volunteers, and we are lucky to have them,” she said. “David is on our board and saw the value of having a conservation endowment, and wanted to bring it home.”
“Over the years, we’ve witnessed the continual work put into maintaining and restoring this rare habitat,” the couple said in a statement. “We’ve seen how adults and children alike are able to learn from the revitalization of natural lands. This land is conserved forever, and we wanted to be a part of making sure that someone was always looking after it and keeping it healthy.”
Also, larger donations can be made over a period of time, Larson said.
“A lot of people, especially our larger donors, are doing a pledge with their contribution that will span over three years,” she said.
Bosler said she would like to see local businesses also support the endowment.
“We work with a lot of businesses who volunteer with us,” she said. “It would be great to have them show interest in the campaign.”
For more information, visit swanerecocenter.org.
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