About the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

January 1, 2017

About the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

In 1998, Leonardo DiCaprio established his foundation with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our day.

Through grantmaking, public campaigns and media initiatives, LDF brings attention and needed funding to four focus areas—protecting biodiversity, oceans conservation, wildlands conservation, and climate change. Several successful fundraising events have enabled LDF to scale up our grantmaking strategy, successfully driving support for innovative and impactful conservation projects around the globe.

Leonardo’s website and social media platforms are also dedicated to inspiring the public to take action on key environmental issues. Growing in reach from just 500,000 followers in 2007 to over 25 million in 2015, Leonardo’s fans have engaged on an array of issues protecting key species — sharks in California, tigers in Asia, elephants in Africa — and calling on world leaders to address climate change.

In acknowledgement of LDF’s impactful work over the last 15 years, Leonardo recently was designated as the United Nations Messenger of Peace for Climate Change and received the 2014 Clinton Global Citizen Award. In addition to founding LDF, Leonardo also serves on the board of several environmental organizations, including: World Wildlife Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic’s Pristine Seas, the funders’ collaborative Oceans 5, and International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Currently less than 3% of global philanthropic dollars go to the environmental sector. LDF is on a mission to radically scale up funding for the most effective and cutting-edge conservation projects that protect oceans, land, and wildlife while working directly to address the climate crisis.

LDF believes that we can create a world where both nature and humanity coexist in harmony. Not only do we believe this can be done, we know it must be done in order to ensure the long-term survival of vital species and ecosystems. Our planet provides all the basic elements that allow life to thrive—clean air, clean water, abundant food, and other life-giving resources. Without a healthy planet our future is bleak.

After centuries of exponential population growth and the creation of unsustainable industrial development models driven by dirty, carbon-intensive fuels, we have radically altered not just the face of the planet but our climate. Many scientists believe that we have just five years to reverse the trend of rapidly increasing pollution and encroachment on vitally important terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

If we do not change our course, we could soon be on an irreversible path towards severe climate instability, resource scarcity and environmental degradation, resulting in a planet no longer capable of sustaining life as we currently know it.

We have a short window to change our fate, but we can succeed. In addition to curbing carbon emissions and shifting to renewable forms of energy like solar and wind, LDF believes we must act quickly to protect our oceans, our forests, and our wildlands—the natural systems that, when left intact, ensure adaptability and resilience in the face of devastating climate change.

There is much work to be done – only 12% of natural wild lands are formally protected and less than 2% of our oceans. Protecting wild places is difficult, complex, and often dangerous. Our partners on the ground are up against big and powerful forces— global industries that want free and unfettered access to our planet’s resources. These forces can be overcome, and innovative solutions can be implemented, but only if the right individuals and organizations are empowered to do so.

Our Grants Program
The Foundation has gradually built a significant grantmaking operation, awarding over $30 million since 2010 to fund 78 high-impact projects in more than 44 countries across South-East Asia, Central Asia, Africa, North, Central and South America, the Eastern Pacific, the Arctic, Antarctica, the South Pacific, and the Indian Ocean.

Through active collaboration with a broad network of environmental leaders and experts, effective organizations, and committed philanthropists, the foundation is able to support the best, results-driven projects in the world’s most wild and threatened ecosystems.

Core Areas of Focus
Protecting Wildlife. In nearly every wild place on Earth, an increasing number of species face extinction as their habitat is destroyed. LDF’s grantmaking strategy aims to improve the future for vulnerable species on land and in our oceans by reintroducing native populations to the wild, expanding natural habitats, and ending poaching, illegal hunting and overfishing in critical regions.

Saving Our Oceans. Oceans are critical to our survival. They provide half of the world’s oxygen, regulate the global climate system and directly support the life of nearly 50% of all living species. Yet, only 2% of the oceans are formally protected. LDF’s partnerships, most notably with the ongoing international initiative Oceans 5, aim to safeguard endangered ocean habitats and species, constrain overfishing, and establish and expand marine protected areas.

Restoring Wildlands. Only 12% of our world’s forests and natural wildlands fall under formal protection. As global demand for timber, oil, minerals and industrial-scale agricultural products like palm oil continues to rise, exploitation of these natural resources have encroached deeper into the natural habitats that are home to dense biodiversity. LDF works to protect these last remaining wild places before it’s too late, by implementing concrete conservation solutions that protect nature and directly engage and benefit local people.

Empowering Communities. The clearing of forests and wildlands for the exploitation of resources like oil, timber and palm oil does not only impact the planet’s ecosystems—it ravages countless local communities and indigenous tribes. LDF is committed to empowering these populations with the tools and resources to defend their lands and cultures.

How We Prioritize Projects
Our strategic grantmaking is guided by five priority values, focusing on projects that:

  1. Implement concrete and innovative solutions to protect key species and threatened marine and terrestrial ecosystems rich in biodiversity;
  2. Empower local communities and Indigenous leaders and Nations to be the long-term stewards and protectors of their natural resources;
  3. Prove how protecting our environment directly benefits human welfare;
  4. Demonstrate that multiple stakeholders can work together effectively, and how collaboration can lead to larger, more enduring impact;
  5. Incorporate innovative, sustainable financing mechanisms to cover long-term conservation and management costs.

The LDF Team

Terry Tamminen
Chief Executive Officer

Justin Winters
Executive Director

Milutin Gatsby
Global Fundraising Chairman

Karl Burkart
Director of Media and Technology

Jill Gravender Matteson
Director of Innovative Partnerships

Morgan Moore
Program Manager

April Gilbert
Executive Assistant


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