Frequently Asked Questions
ICFC: Why and Where?Q: Why does your work matter?
A: Because nature matters. It has profound intrinsic value. And natural ecosystems and processes are essential to human wellbeing. Yet the world is losing natural ecosystems and biodiversity on a massive scale, especially in tropical regions. The loss is occurring simply because we lack mechanisms to pay for the huge economic benefits that accrue to the world from natural ecosystems, and the costs of liquidating natural ecosystems for short-term commercial gain are externalized (not borne by the party that benefits). But we needn't wait until society has more mechanisms in place to address that. Conservationists can readily step in and protect natural ecosystems in various ways, and such investments bring immediate, long-term and highly cost-effective gains. That's what ICFC does.
But here's a different answer. Watch (in full-screen mode) this video, an intimate look at the life of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper on its Russian breeding grounds. This species is Critically Endangered. Watch it and ask yourself:
- Does it matter if this species disappears forever?
- Should we let that happen?
- Or should we take action to prevent its extinction?
Q: Why do we need ICFC when there are many
existing conservation organizations?
A: ICFC enables Canadians to support nature conservation worldwide. Before ICFC there was no broad scale international conservation organization in Canada, hence no easy way for Canadians to make tax deductible donations for conservation outside Canada, with some limited exceptions (see the footnote in our About Us page). We do have good conservation NGOs in Canada, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, WWF Canada, and WCS Canada, as well as local land trusts, but their programs are almost entirely carried out within Canada.
Q: Why should Canadians support
international conservation? Shouldn't we be supporting conservation at home in
A: We should be doing both. Here's why we need to especially increase international efforts:
- Most of the loss of biodiversity and conversion of natural ecosystems is happening in tropical countries. Often those natural ecosystems have far greater value left intact than when converted for agriculture or other purposes. (We can and should achieve greater agricultural productivity on less land and higher fisheries productivity from better managed marine ecosystems.)
- The shortfall in spending on conservation is far greater in developing countries, many of which are in the tropics where biodiversity is heavily concentrated.
- Canadians benefit directly and indirectly from natural ecosystems worldwide, for example in climate regulation. See our last Q&A, below and our Conservation Fast Facts.
- Canada's migratory birds are being affected by habitat loss in their tropical wintering areas. The populations of Canada's bird species that winter in South America have declined by 53% on average from 1970 to 2010.
- Loss of biodiversity is not inevitable. While we won't be able to prevent all extinctions, we can prevent many at modest cost. And we believe there is a moral imperative to work to avoid human-caused extinctions.
- The world's natural heritage belongs to everyone. The world has a stake in our polar bears and boreal forest and we have a stake in penguins and forests of the Amazon and Congo Basin.
- Canada is an affluent country that generates its wealth as an integrated part of the world economy, and we can easily supplement the limited resources developing nations have to achieve highly desirable conservation goals.
Q: Where do you work?
A: Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Our priorities are areas of high biodiversity and/or extensive wilderness and where opportunities exist for achieving long-term conservation gains.
ICFC expenditures and modus operandiQ: What are your expenditures on programs, versus administration and fundraising?
A: Management and administration expenditures composed 11% of expenses in 2013, and fundraising 1%. The balance (88%) went to programs. ICFC's two managing directors work without remuneration.
Q: Why is the ICFC
staff so small, with most staff working part-time?
A: ICFC works with local field partners who carry out program activities based on work plans and budgets that we develop together. ICFC develops and oversees the project, manages finances, reviews results and makes adjustments to work plans as needed. We also make site visits and communicate regularly with our field partners. By not maintaining our own staff to carry out field activities, ICFC is able to stay lean and flexible, picking and choosing the best current conservation opportunities and taking advantage of the experience, track record, local expertise and relatively low salaries of local partners.
ProgramsQ: How do you decide what projects to support?
A: After applying our selection criteria, we assess which opportunities offer the best value for money in terms of lasting conservation gains, while factoring in risk. We consider conservation significance (presence of threatened and endemic species; threatened ecosystems; ecosystem services; and broader conservation context); the severity of threats; expected project outcomes; and risk. We hear of project opportunties from an informal network of advisors/friends who are highly experienced in nature conservation. We also review unsolicited project proposals and investigate opportunities proactively.
Q: What kind of projects do you do?
A: Please see our selection criteria for the work we undertake. We engage in direct conservation action rather than research or what are called "integrated conservation and development projects". Projects variously involve:
- protecting nature reserves, which typically involves employing personnel from local communities;
- acquiring land for conservation;
- increasing the capacity of indigenous people to protect their lands and their traditional way of life from increasing threats;
- protecting critical habitat by (1) supporting the development of local laws and agreements and (2) involving communities in protection and management;
- educating local communities about the needs of their local wildlife, particularly threatened species of plants and animals, where that has a clear conservation benefit.
Q: What kind of oversight of projects do you
A: We work closely with local partners who carry out the field activities of a project. We are involved in project planning and oversight, adjusting plans as needed, maintaining financial records and ensuring that project activities and outcomes are well documented. We also make site visits as warranted and share this information with collaborating organizations.
Q: What kind of followup of projects do you
A: Some of our programs are long-term efforts and are monitored on an ongoing basis. We follow up on short-term projects through various means including site visits, communications with project partners, and independent evaluations.
Donations to ICFCQ: Is my donation tax-deductible in Canada?
Q: Is my donation tax-deductible in
the United States?
A: Americans wishing to support our work with $1000 or more may donate through Tides Foundation (see our donation page) and receive a U.S. 501(c)(3) official donation receipt that can be used for income tax purposes. And we would be happy to recommend U.S. conservation organizations worthy of your support — just about this.
Q: I'm making a donation on someone else's
behalf in lieu of a gift. Can you send the receipt to that person?
A: No, the Income Tax Act does not allow that. We must issue the receipt to the person making the donation. But we will send a letter of thanks to the "giftee".
barrage of mail from you?)
A: ICFC will not sell, trade or give your information to any third party. We keep mailings to a minimum and respect donors wishes regarding frequency and means of communications. We typically send: your donation receipt; the Annual Report for the year in which a donation was received; and an end-of-year Newsletter and invitation to make further donations to ICFC. There may also be the occasional special communication regarding a specific program that you support.
Tough questionsQ: Does conservation in developing countries come at the expense of poor people?
A: Nature conservation actually aligns well with the interests of the world's poor. About 1.1 billion people depend on protected areas for their livelihoods (source). And natural ecosystems are essential for maintaining the Earth's life support systems (see the next question/answer), including agriculture and fisheries, on which many rural people depend for their livelihoods.
There have been instances in which long standing human communities have been expelled from protected areas. ICFC is opposed to such action. Protected areas providebenefits to rural communities, including: access to non-timber forest products (such as Brazil nuts, fruits, fuelwood, and medicinal plants); maintenance of local water regimes and climate; provision of habitat for crop/horticultural pollinators; ecotourism; and payments for ecosystem services. ICFC is particularly keen on involving local communities in what tropical ecologist Dan Janzen calls "biodiversity development" (protection, monitoring, restoration, scientific research, nature interpretation, etc.).
Conservation is not only about protected areas. It also involves helping rural communities adapt to living in harmony with nature. A few examples: planting of trees to prevent erosion and improve water regimes; innovative ways to avoid conflicts with elephants or other wildlife; and deploying solar or high-efficiency stoves to preserve woody vegetation. Such actions help both poor rural people and nature.
Q: If we conserve more natural ecosystems, how
will we feed the world's growing population?
A: First, we can and must produce more food on less land, and we can produce much more fish biomass from better managed fisheries. Second, natural ecosystems are essential to maintaining productivity of existing farmland, pasturelands, and marine ecosystems. Coral reefs, mangroves and other marine ecosystems provide essential habitat for commercially important fish species. Terrestrial ecosystems prevent soil erosion, improve water quality and maintain ground and surface water regimes. They also provide habitat for insects, bats and birds that pollinate crops, vegetables and fruit and nut trees. Forests put massive amounts of water into the atmosphere through transpiration, which results in rainfall over a much broader region (the western U.S., for example, is dependent in part on the Amazon for its rainfall). In sequestering carbon and regulating climate, forests are a bulwark against climate change.
One way or another, the human population will level off this century and humans will of necessity move to sustainable use of natural resources. How much nature will be left after that transition depends on what we do now. We must draw the line somewhere. Let's draw it such that both nature and humankind have a better future.
IS YOUR QUESTION NOT ON THIS LIST? and let us know.