In dynamic times, we must explore new approaches to broaden support for conservation.

Increasing Public Funding for Natural Resources


California’s population has tripled over the last half-century, to 36 million people, and it is expected to increase by another 12 million by 2020. Investments in the state’s environmental infrastructure—its drinking water systems, clean water, coastal protection programs, and parks and forestlands—have not kept pace with this growth. Seeing this challenge, we accepted the opportunity to lead the 2006 campaign committee seeking voter approval of Proposition 84—the Safe Drinking Water Bond Act.

This ballot initiative was aimed at investing in California’s collective future. The effort was similar to one we led for Proposition 40, a $2.6 billion natural resources bond measure approved by voters in 2002.

Our role in the Prop. 84 campaign was threefold:

Fundraising: We assembled a fundraising team that developed and implemented a coordinated, multisector strategy to build the financial base to prevail in a challenging election environment.

Management: We provided legal and financial management services, including budget oversight, review and approval of expenditures, and contract negotiation with consultants and service providers.

Strategy: We provided strategic direction on many issues, such as obtaining key endorsements, coordinating with other campaigns, and outreach to California’s diverse electorate.

A focus of our effort was establishing an executive committee of leaders from the state’s agricultural, business, water, underrepresented, and environmental communities. Reflecting a cross section of California’s population, committee members offered invaluable advice and assistance on fundraising, polling, advertising, media, communications, and outreach. Perhaps most important, these leaders provided a reality check to make sure Prop. 84 would address the state’s most compelling environmental infrastructure problems.

Prop. 84 passed with nearly 54 percent of the vote, ensuring $5.4 billion to protect and enhance California’s natural resources. It remains the largest natural resources bond approved to date in the United States.