Moore Foundation pledges $261 million to conservation group

By Matthew Fordahl, Associated Press Writer
Monday December 10, 2001

Silicon Valley pioneer’s organization makes one of biggest donations in history 


SAN JOSE – In one of the largest gifts ever to an environmental group, a foundation set up by Silicon Valley pioneer Gordon Moore has pledged $261 million over 10 years to Conservation International. 

The grants, announced Sunday, will help researchers identify and protect biodiversity hot spots — areas that cover 1.4 percent of the Earth but are home to more than 60 percent of its terrestrial species. 

Moore, who co-founded Intel Corp. in 1968, said his interest in the environment stems from the changes he noticed while returning to favorite vacation spots in Mexico over the years. 

“Places like Cabo San Lucas have become high-rise hotels and golf courses — not at all like it used to be,” he told The Associated Press. “Just seeing how fast the changes were got me interested in the problem.” 

The grants mark the second major gift from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in just over a month. In late October, the foundation announced a 10-year, $600 million donation to the California Institute of Technology. 

The gift to Washington-based Conservation International will help fund a global initiative based on the theory that conservationists can be most effective by targeting imperiled areas of the greatest biodiversity. 

The money will help the group, which was founded in 1987, set up field stations in several at-risk areas, said Peter Seligmann, Conservation International’s chief executive. 

The grants also will help forge alliances with other conservation groups and fund emergency actions. Seligmann hopes to use the money to leverage a total of $6 billion from private and public sources. 

“We have always played a defensive game in conservation,” he said. “We’ve always been in just little battles. Now we think we’ve got enough resources to fight a war.” 

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation also has given sizable gifts to protect the environment. They include a $50 million grant in 2000 to the Peninsula Open Space Trust to protect the San Mateo coast and a total of $180 million to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute from 1992-1998. The William Penn Foundation gave a $26.6 million grant to the Fairmount Park Commission in Philadelphia in 1996 for restoration of city parks and to expand environmental education and stewardship opportunities, according to the Foundation Center, a New York-based nonprofit. 

Moore, who serves as chairman Conservation International’s board of executives, said he was drawn to the group because of its systematic, scientific approach to conservation. 

“I find this very attractive rather than a completely emotional one,” Moore said. “You want to find out what’s there before you decide where you want to focus your effort.” 

In 1998, he and his wife contributed $35 million to set up Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science in Washington. 

The success of the latest grants will be measured by conservation outcomes, such as the number of extinctions prevented and habitats saved, Seligmann said. 

One of the biggest challenges will be persuading local politicians and business leaders of the importance of saving their ecological treasures and the money they can generate through tourism and research among others. 

“Those revenues continue forever as opposed to the 10 years it takes to log a place entirely,” Seligmann said. 

Moore served as chief executive of Intel from 1979 until 1987 and retired from its board in May. He is best known for “Moore’s Law,” his 1965 prediction on the future performance and pricing of semiconductors. 

He and his wife created the foundation in November 2000, funding it with half their Intel holdings. 

“I’ve got more than I need,” he said. “My family won’t starve to death and the government wants a very good portion if you do it that way.”