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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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500 Square Miles of Forest In Montana To Be Permanently Protected

Comments (15)

I’m a huge believer in land conservation.  I believe one of the best ways to protect our environment is to take wide swaths of land permanently out of circulation.  I was delighted to read an article Amy forwarded me from the New York Times today titled Deal Is Struck in Montana to Preserve Forest Areas.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land have put together a deal to pay $510 million to buy about 500 square miles of forest currently owned by Plum Creek Timber.  Half of the money will come from private donations; the other half will come from a new tax-credit bond mechanism that was recently passed.  I’m delighted our government is spending – via a tax-credit bond – $250 million on land conservation.  I’d like to allocate 50% of my taxes next year to stuff like that.

I’ve been involved directly in some land conservation; we have a conservation easement on all of our land in Eldorado Canyon, I am a trustee for the Colorado Conservation Trust, I’m a huge fan (and beneficiary) of all the Boulder and Boulder County Open Space activity, and I’ve been involved in several very contentious land use issues.  The political and economical dynamics of public property rights, land use and development rights, and conservation are incredibly complicated and often extremely polarized. 

It’s gets especially messy in areas that are fragmented (or "checkerboarded") like the land in Montana.  In these situations, the amount of work to figure out how to get all the land in one contiguous area into an actual deal can be mindboggling.  The Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Land are pros at this and it looks like they’ve pulled off something amazing this time around that will have long term benefits for a beautiful part of our country.

  • Lori

    Cool! Yes, TNC did something similar with International Paper lands in Maine.

  • http://vruz.tumblr.com vruz

    well, that's a nice sentiment.

    anyway.. your intro comment sounds to me like…
    “I'm a huge believer in that suicide is bad for one's health”

    duh ??

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      My understanding is that there are people in the world that think it’s a good idea to build houses, resorts, and shopping malls on every available piece of land.  

  • Matthew Trifiro

    Brad,

    I had no idea you were such a land conservationist! I have been on Trust for Public Land's national board for seven years. It is a terrific organization and this is one of the largest land conservation projects I have ever seen. I have been wondering how to connect land conservation to the technology generation; it seems a good fit, but there is a surprising lack of overlap. Any ideas?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      It’s a tough one.  We’ve tried some in Boulder – first through something called the Front Range Alliance and secondarily through the Colorado Conservation Trust.  In both cases there was initial interest by the broader tech community that fizzled out pretty quickly and resulted in a few people taking a leadership role, but no broad engagement.  This seems indicative of a larger issue around philanthropy and people in the technology industry (especially in their first few companies) and was the motivator behind starting the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado – which is off to a great start.

      • Matthew Trifiro

        The Entrepreneurs Foundation looks like a terrific program. My anecdotal experience is that philanthropy seems to have an age-driven component. When you are young, your main goal is accumulating wealth to secure your unknown future (will I have health problems? How many kids will I send to college? Will my startup need more cash?). As you get older, you get more visibiity into the end of your life and you can envision giving up a larger portion of your wealth.

        In the meantime, young entrepreneurs can help charitable causes in a number of practical ways, and I believe it is important to show leadership in these areas:

        1. Yearly giving. Even if the gifts are small, I propose a culture of philanthropy that starts with yearly giving. Every year, list your top 10 causes and commit to giving something to each. In bad years, your giving might be measured in hundreds of dollars. In good years, tens of thousands. The point is 100% of your causes get a gift every year. If you want a small donation to make a huge impact, find a local organization with a tiny operating budget.

        2. Future gifting. I love the EFC model where entrepreneurs are encouraged to give early, something that is relatively painless to offer up (equity) which could pay off largely down the road. It would be extraordinary if the EFC model could be replicated within the VC community.

        3. Corporate In-Kind. Startups underestimate how much they can help non-profits with the donation of their services. A good model that comes to mind is ESRI. Their software gifting program has empowered the land conservation community with some amazing mapping tools… For those wearing the green eye shades, I am sure the program has paid dividends to ESRI in the form of PR and downstream sales.

        • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

          Matt – great comments.  Re: the EFCO model being replicated in the VC Community – it can!  Foundry Group has contributed 1% of its carried interest to EFCO – http://www.foundrygroup.com/blog/archives/2008/05… We are hopeful that other VCs in Colorado will do the same.

  • http://www.graduatedTaste.com/ Steven Place

    Down here in Florida, the state is buying back 75,000 hectares from U.S. Sugar for the everglade restoration project.

  • Steve Murchie

    Do we get to allocate our taxes next year to specific programs? How cool is that! ;-)

    I'm right there with you, though: public/private partnerships seem to be the most efficacious solution to land-use battles.

  • Blake

    A bit late to the party but nonetheless…

    I think land conservation is great; something to celebrate. However, your comments are disturbing, but not surprising. Like most left leaning, socially elite politicos, you seem OK to own 3 houses in or near national forest land, but have a problem with others seeking their own slice of paradise. I realize this particular 500 acres of land in Montana was saved from the grasp of an evil lumber company. This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.

      Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.

      As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

  • Lori

    Cool! Yes, TNC did something similar with International Paper lands in Maine.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    My understanding is that there are people in the world that think it’s a good idea to build houses, resorts, and shopping malls on every available piece of land.  

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_murchi418 steve_murchi418

    Do we get to allocate our taxes next year to specific programs? How cool is that! ;-)

    I'm right there with you, though: public/private partnerships seem to be the most efficacious solution to land-use battles.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Matt – great comments.  Re: the EFCO model being replicated in the VC Community – it can!  Foundry Group has contributed 1% of its carried interest to EFCO – http://www.foundrygroup.com/blog/archives/2008/05… We are hopeful that other VCs in Colorado will do the same.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    It’s a tough one.  We’ve tried some in Boulder – first through something called the Front Range Alliance and secondarily through the Colorado Conservation Trust.  In both cases there was initial interest by the broader tech community that fizzled out pretty quickly and resulted in a few people taking a leadership role, but no broad engagement.  This seems indicative of a larger issue around philanthropy and people in the technology industry (especially in their first few companies) and was the motivator behind starting the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado – which is off to a great start.

  • Steven Place

    Down here in Florida, the state is buying back 75,000 hectares from U.S. Sugar for the everglade restoration project.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MatthewTrifiro MatthewTrifiro

    Brad,

    I had no idea you were such a land conservationist! I have been on Trust for Public Land's national board for seven years. It is a terrific organization and this is one of the largest land conservation projects I have ever seen. I have been wondering how to connect land conservation to the technology generation; it seems a good fit, but there is a surprising lack of overlap. Any ideas?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MatthewTrifiro MatthewTrifiro

    The Entrepreneurs Foundation looks like a terrific program. My anecdotal experience is that philanthropy seems to have an age-driven component. When you are young, your main goal is accumulating wealth to secure your unknown future (will I have health problems? How many kids will I send to college? Will my startup need more cash?). As you get older, you get more visibiity into the end of your life and you can envision giving up a larger portion of your wealth.

    In the meantime, young entrepreneurs can help charitable causes in a number of practical ways, and I believe it is important to show leadership in these areas:

    1. Yearly giving. Even if the gifts are small, I propose a culture of philanthropy that starts with yearly giving. Every year, list your top 10 causes and commit to giving something to each. In bad years, your giving might be measured in hundreds of dollars. In good years, tens of thousands. The point is 100% of your causes get a gift every year. If you want a small donation to make a huge impact, find a local organization with a tiny operating budget.

    2. Future gifting. I love the EFC model where entrepreneurs are encouraged to give early, something that is relatively painless to offer up (equity) which could pay off largely down the road. It would be extraordinary if the EFC model could be replicated within the VC community.

    3. Corporate In-Kind. Startups underestimate how much they can help non-profits with the donation of their services. A good model that comes to mind is ESRI. Their software gifting program has empowered the land conservation community with some amazing mapping tools… For those wearing the green eye shades, I am sure the program has paid dividends to ESRI in the form of PR and downstream sales.

  • vruz

    well, that's a nice sentiment.

    anyway.. your intro comment sounds to me like…
    "I'm a huge believer in that suicide is bad for one's health"

    duh ??

  • Blake

    A bit late to the party but nonetheless…

    I think land conservation is great; something to celebrate. However, your comments are disturbing, but not surprising. Like most left leaning, socially elite politicos, you seem OK to own 3 houses in or near national forest land, but have a problem with others seeking their own slice of paradise. I realize this particular 500 acres of land in Montana was saved from the grasp of an evil lumber company. This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      Regarding my houses – all of them existed before I bought them.  In the case of my house in Eldorado Springs, the land we live on was homesteaded in the 1890’s.  While I can’t rewind the clock on the homestead act (and the grant of the land in Eldorado Canyon in the 1890’s), I could proactively do something about it.  In the early 2000’s, we put a conservation easement on the entire property, removing a building site from one of the parcels (where there previously was a building site zoned but no house on it) and limiting building only to the other two places on the property where there are existing houses.Also, I’m not sure I understand your assertion that “This policy, taken to its extreme, results in a bunch of millionaires owning multiple homes that sit empty for a large % of the year.”  I’m not sure which policy you are referring to as my understanding of the TNC / TPL deal does exactly the opposite of this.As for being a “politico” – gosh, I hope not.  As of now, I haven’t held a single elected office that I can recall, not even in high school.

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