Commitment to Land

Stories From Our Work

Program-Related Investments for Impact

  • The impact of PRIs is exemplified by the story of Independence Lake, in California’s Sierra Nevada. One of the most pristine alpine lakes west of the Rockies, Independence Lake is a critical source of fresh water for the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area and home to one of the world’s last two wild lake populations of the Lahontan cutthroat trout. The Northern Sierra Partnership identified the lake as a priority preservation target as part of a larger collaborative effort also supported by the Foundation to protect and restore the environmentally sensitive Truckee River watershed.

  • When the opportunity was presented to purchase more than 2,000 acres of land surrounding Independence Lake, it was a perfect match for the mission and goals of our long-time partner, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the objectives of the Foundation’s land conservation program. TNC, in partnership with the local land trust, Truckee Donner Land Trust, secured the right to purchase the land for $15 million from NV Energy — the electric utility serving northern Nevada and northeastern California. The acquisition would protect the full extent of the lake’s shoreline and nearly a mile of Independence Creek, which flows into the lake.

  • With a closing deadline looming, the deal was jeopardized after California bond funding for the project was put on hold due to the state’s budget crisis. The contractual deadline for the sale had already been pushed back a year, and further delays threatened to derail the agreement with NV Energy. In April 2010, The Nature Conservancy turned to the Packard Foundation for bridge financing to keep this important acquisition on track.

    “At the time, it would have been very hard to find any other bridge money, especially at the low interest rate that Packard was able to provide. The Foundation was really nimble to meet our needs. Without the PRI, there would have been no deal.”
    Mike Conner, Senior Project Director at The Nature Conservancy.
  • The Independence Lake project is a prime example of how the Packard Foundation’s PRIs have provided needed capital for a long-time nonprofit partner to seize an important strategic opportunity. An initial request from TNC for a $3.5 million PRI was approved by the Foundation and then increased to $5 million when it became clear that additional funds from the state of California would be delayed, a nimbleness that became important in assembling all of the project funds by the fast-approaching closing date.

  • In the end, the long-term result of the investment is what counted for the Packard Foundation: habitat for a rare species was protected, a vital water supply for Nevadans was secured, and a critically important and iconic wilderness area was preserved, for this and future generations.