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Potomac Conservancy crowd-funding to save WV landscape

  • By Whitney Pipkin on March 25, 2015

Save White Horse Mountain: Indiegogo Campaign Film from Potomac Conservancy on Vimeo.

The Potomac Conservancy is entering into uncharted territory. The nonprofit focused on the Potomac watershed has never purchased land before — and certainly not $3 million worth of land in West Virginia — but it's doing so now with the help of a public crowdfunding campaign (see video). 

"This is a transformational opportunity for the organization and for conservation," said Aimee Weldon, senior director of land conservation for the Conservancy. 

After spending more than a year quietly raising funds to exercise an option to purchase and conserve key lands in West Virginia, the Conservancy launched an Indiegogo campaign on March 17 to help push it over the fundraising edge. In less than two weeks, that campaign has raised more than 40 percent of its $35,000 goal. 

The funds will be used as cash-in-hand to help the Conservancy close on its planned purchase of 1,700 acres of a forested mountain in Hampshire County, WV, called White Horse Mountain. As the video explains, the mountain was purchased by a developer who recently put the property back up for sale. The Conservancy realized that this represented a unique opportunity to preserve a swath of undeveloped land at the Potomac River's headwaters, which propelled the organization to consider making the $3 million purchase.

What will a conservation group do with this land once purchased? They explain on the Indiegogo page:

"Potomac Conservancy has negotiated an option to purchase the mountain but we must raise more than $3 million to make it happen. If we are able to exercise our option by the end of March, we can purchase the property and transfer it to the WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to become the State's newest public Wildlife Management Area. This land, rather than divided into 70 residential lots as proposed by the current owner, will instead be opened to the public for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other enjoyment."

Weldon said her organization has been fundraising for more than a year since negotiating for that option to purchase, raising more than half of what's needed and securing a loan to finance the rest. The Conservancy's goal is to have at least $600,000 in cash to take to the closing in April, almost all of which is already in hand. 

"You can help us raise the remaining $35,000 to take us across the finish line," the campaign page reads.

Weldon said using a crowd-funding website like Indiegogo — which allows hundreds of individuals to contribute in exchange for perks like REI binoculars — helps raise funds while spreading the word about the conservation effort. 

"It seemed like a good way to launch the project publicly," said Weldon, who wanted to wait to do so until the purchase was nearly final. 

So far, most of the donations have been in amounts of $50 or $100, but a few individuals have chipped in up to $1,500. The campaign has more than 35 days left to reach its goal, and the platform allows fundraising to continue beyond that goal.

If all goes well, Weldon said her organization — and perhaps others — could more crowd-funding campaigns for conservation.

Follow the progress of the fundraising campaign, or contribute, at this link

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About Whitney Pipkin
Whitney Pipkin, writes about food, agriculture and the environment. She lives in Alexandria, VA, and is a fellow of the Institute for Journalists of Natural resources and blogs at thinkabouteat.com.
Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin

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