Giving and the Environment

The desire to protect and sustain the environment has long inspired American giving. Environmental activists and organizations, often in partnership with government agencies, have helped to expand Americans’ understanding of—and the debate about—our living planet. 


Hat with Ostrich and Egret Feathers

Gift of Mrs. Henry Kirk Porter

Hat with Ostrich Feathers

The popularity of feathered hats led to the slaughter of millions of birds and endangered many species. In the late 1800s women activists launched a successful boycott and contributed to the founding of the National Audubon Society. 

Gift of Mrs. Alice Matthew Terry Love

Carriage Road Sign, Acadia National Park
Around 1917

Acadia National Park—established in 1919—was America’s first national park east of the Mississippi River, and the first created solely from private land donations. In the early 1900s George B. Dorr, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and others worked to preserve the islands off Maine’s coast. Members of Friends of Acadia continue to support the park.

Loan from Acadia National Park

Fishing Pole
Around 1930

In the early 1900s hunters and anglers were some of the earliest contributors to new nonprofit conservation organizations in the United States. Today these enthusiasts contribute more than $1.1 billion in membership dues and contributions to conservation or wildlife-related organizations each year.

Gift of Mrs. Jefferson Patterson

Photograph of Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park
Taken Around 1946

Photographer Ansel Adams, with support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, captured magnificent images of the West. His work fostered appreciation for America’s natural wonders. 

Freshwater Work Gloves

In the 1980s countless volunteer organizations dedicated to the environmental stewardship of long-neglected communities formed. These groups emerged because of a growing awareness of the rights of all to a clean environment. Since 1989 the Anacostia Watershed Society has worked to protect and restore the Capital region’s Anacostia River. Volunteers used these gloves to pick up trash, and students used the test kit to test river water.

Gifts of Anacostia Watershed Society

Freshwater Test Kit

Gifts of Anacostia Watershed Society

Buttons for Conservation Causes

By the 1960s and ’70s public awareness about the environment was growing, as were threats like pollution, species extinction, and population growth. Americans founded organizations dedicated to a wide variety of environmental causes.

Gifts of Gerald H. Meral, Ph.D