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Sustaining a Healthy Environment and Healthy Communities

Environment Program Director

At the Walton Family Foundation, we are working on finding solutions that sustain a healthy environment and healthy communities. We know real change comes through collaboration and that environmental solutions that make economic sense are the ones that will stand the test of time.

The past year marked a milestone in the foundation’s efforts – along with local partners – to advance meaningful restoration projects along the Gulf Coast, where wetlands loss in the Mississippi River Delta poses an existential threat to the people of Louisiana, the Port of New Orleans and the health of the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana’s passage of an updated $50 billion Coastal Master Plan was a critical turning point. The plan, backed by a broad coalition of coastal stakeholders, includes projects for Mississippi River sediment diversions that have the potential to rebuild wetlands at the scale needed to protect the region.

In the Colorado River basin, the foundation supports market-based conservation solutions to address over-allocation of water that threatens the health of the Colorado River ecosystem and the water supply for almost 40 million people who depend on the river every day for drinking water, agriculture, industry and recreation.

Last year, we celebrated a new nine-year agreement between the United States and Mexico on how to manage the Colorado River’s water. The deal will increase water security for users in both countries and help restore the Colorado River delta.

It is a model for collaboration, involving partnerships among the United States, Mexico, seven states throughout the Colorado River basin, water users and managers, non-profit organizations and philanthropy.

In the Mississippi River Basin, the foundation works with partners to improve water quality with the intention of protecting the health of the ecosystem, drinking water and shrinking the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. To do this we are seeking to change farming practices on 10 million acres of agricultural land by 2020.

In 2017, we estimate more sustainable agricultural practices were implemented on over 3.5 million acres of farmland. At the same time, private landowners, government agencies and conservation organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas celebrated the restoration of more than 700,000 acres of marginal farmland to wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests over the past 25 years. The foundation directly helped restore more than 85,000 of those acres.

Our oceans conservation work focuses on building healthy, sustainable fisheries across the Americas – the U.S., Mexico, Peru and Chile – and Indonesia to contribute to healthy oceans and provide sustainable livelihoods in healthy communities. Collectively these five countries account for 25% of the fish caught in the world. At the same time, we work in the U.S., Japan and Spain to create demand for sustainable seafood. Japan’s ratification in 2017 of the Port State Measures Agreement, an international treaty aimed at eliminating illegal fishing, was a significant step toward global seafood sustainability.

We believe that we should use the natural resources of the planet responsibly, so the benefits of healthy ecosystems are available for current and future generations. The progress we’re making toward a more sustainable future is exciting – and it’s being made possible through collaboration among diverse coalitions.