Few organizations can fully fund everything that is needed for a conservation project to be successful, much less fund it indefinitely. The only way for a protected area to be successful in the long term is for it to find permanent revenue streams.

Tourism is one good way to do this, as is a mix of government support and private funding. It’s best to have multiple revenue streams in case there is a problem with one of them. We’re dedicated to making sure that each of our GPD projects has sustainable funding in place by the time we conclude our program.

Non-profit funding is often the first type of funding available to a protected area in a developing country, aside from government funding. Some NGOs, like us at Global Conservation, provide a fixed-length program like Global Park Defense, or just targeted support like ranger training. In some cases, NGOs will fund science but do not have extra resources for forest and wildlife protection.

Early in the process of deploying Global Park Defense, we evaluate the level of current funding from the government and revenues from tourism to support ranger salaries and park operations.

In general, Global Conservation does not fund vehicles, salaries or capital costs like new ranger stations, bridges or roads. In some cases, we have built Command Centers (Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda) and in very special cases, we have provided the first truck in the park’s history, like the Mitsubishi 4x4 in Carpathians, Ukraine.

Global Conservation funding has a number of advantages over government bi-lateral or multilateral funding. Firstly, none of our money goes to governments. Secondly, we can fund programs immediately, not after 1-2 budget cycles, and finally, our funding is specific to our Global Park Defense program and most costs are clear from the onset.

Some non-profits, like African Parks, will secure an exclusive concession with a national government and take over complete budget and responsibility. But, very few UNESCO World Heritage sites and top national parks will be protected under this model, and the national government/ministry of environment must work to secure both domestic and international funding. In any case, non-profit funding is usually limited and programs tend to run for a fixed length of time. Consequently, long-term funding needs to be secured from other sources in order to sustain park protection after an NGO concludes their program.

Government budgets should match GC funding, or governments should at least start kicking in major funding and improvements in the first two years. We request matching before we begin our 4-5 year program, knowing some parks will need 2-4 years to secure new funding. Most governments in developing countries have small budgets for nature conservation and park and wildlife protection, and national park leaders must advocate and negotiate stronger budgets from their governments.

We work with park leaders before committing funding to request matching support for GPD deployment - improving roads, buying vehicles, increasing staff, building ranger stations and visitor centers, etc. A tip: the best time to get new budget concessions from the government is before we kick off the Global Park Defense program. Early government buy-in is important to increase the probability that they will continue to invest in the park long-term.

Tourism income plays a crucial role in the long-term sustainability of a project. UNESCO World Heritage Sites often have great opportunities for tourism, and long-term protection can often be paid directly from visitor fees.

One strategy is to focus on three key destinations within the park where ranger and tourism presence can deter poaching and illegal logging, and where business can be sustained, generating critical revenues and employment. However, as we have seen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, longer-term government funding is always critically important in case there is a temporary drop in tourism. This government funding must be able to temporarily sustain protection, ranger salaries and patrol operations. Unfortunately, in times of crisis, ministries of environment and culture tend to be the first to be gutted by budget cuts, despite already having limited funding.

Philanthropic support from private entities or foreign aid is critical for our greatest national parks. Global Conservation works with park leaders to find and organize all funding sources, and introduce our partners to donors, both foundations, foreign governments and international programs, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Coca-Cola. Park leaders must be uncorrupted and dedicated, and know that longterm funding takes years to secure.

Emergency/reserve funds for patrol support are invaluable. Often in government bureaucracies, getting cash to buy food and fuel takes months, and no money is readily available for emergencies (fires, helicopter, boats, injuries).

Non-profit funding can assist with this; Global Conservation funds have an advantage over government funding, because we can fund programs immediately, not after multiple budget cycles.