Giving Compass' Take:

• GrantCraft gives an overview of ocean conservation in California, specifically the challenges in implementing marine protection legislation. The case study here is how The Campbell Foundation successfully navigated a public-private partnership that set precedents in this area.

• What can other environmental funders learn from The Campbell Foundation's example? 

• Learn how biodiversity builds up a region's resistance to natural disasters.

The good news: legislation passes that your foundation cares about. The rub: government demonstrates limited capacity to implement it.

Situations like these often give philanthropy cause for pause. When should foundations step in to support implementation of government mandates? What circumstances make that the right thing to do? If foundations get involved, how do they best partner in a way that builds government capacity and prevents foundations from taking on what should be the responsibility of government?

In 1999, California’s Legislature enacted a law mandating the creation of a statewide network of marine protected areas. This legislation, called the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), promised a way of securing the state’s marine and coastal ecosystems, on which so many Californians and the state’s economy rely. While the law forged new ground in the protection of U.S. coastal wildlife and habitats, it came with a familiar twist. The ambition of its conservation vision was not matched by the level of resources made available to support its implementation.

When it came to the MLPA, philanthropy stepped in after two unsuccessful attempts at implementation by the state. Numerous factors, including strong opposition from fishermen to new regulations and the economic recession, kept the MLPA from reaching the finish line. In 2004, five foundations — the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, and The Campbell Foundation — set implementation of the law on a clearer course. Working with the Resources Legacy Fund, a nonprofit that advances the conservation of natural resources through creative solutions customized to the philanthropic goals of donors, the State of California and its private partners created the MLPA Initiative, formed by an initial legal memorandum of understanding that laid out a transparent implementation process with milestones and timelines that would trigger the foundation support.

Under the MLPA Initiative, foundation dollars were used to support a robust, science-based public process to design MPAs along California’s 1,000 miles of coast, taking a regional approach that divided the state into four sections: North Coast, North Central Coast, Central Coast, and South Coast. Thousands of hours were spent hosting live webcast public meetings all over the state, where all stakeholders including Native American tribes, government officials, fishermen, and interested citizens could contribute to the design of the MPAs. The public could and did weigh in on issues ranging from the technical details of marine science to the specific proposals for MPA locations, boundaries, and regulations.

Implementing the MLPA required strong collaborative effort among the participating funders, each bringing their unique strengths to the effort.

Read the full article about California ocean conservation and marine protected areas by Anna Pond at GrantCraft.