2020 Restoration & Resilience Fund

Helping Our Public Lands Recover from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way Americans go about their lives. With social distancing regulations in place and recreation centers closed, people are turning to the outdoors more than ever for exercise and rejuvenation.

At the same time, the agencies and organizations responsible for maintaining public lands are hampered by reductions in staff, volunteers, and resources, leaving them ill-equipped to keep up with increased human presence in these delicate ecosystems on top of existing maintenance backlogs.

As one of the nation's leading supporters of public lands engagement, NEEF is dedicated to helping America's public lands recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, we have established the Restoration & Resilience Fund to distribute resources and mobilize volunteers to help restore these special places once the pandemic subsides.

What is the Restoration & Resilience Fund?

NEEF's Restoration & Resilience Fund is aimed at supporting the agencies and organizations—both locally and nationally—that maintain America's public lands. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these outdoor spaces have seen a surge in usage—two to three times as many visitors in some areas—as well as a sharp reduction in staff and volunteer projects that keep them open and available for all Americans to enjoy.

With help from our corporate partners at Toyota Motor North America and International Paper, NEEF established the Restoration & Resilience Fund to aid the public lands that need it most. We plan to work with our federal, state, and nonprofit partners to identify critical volunteer projects at public lands sites across the U.S. and provide them with additional funding once it is safe for those projects to resume.

“Outdoor spaces play such an important role in the health and wellness of people and in the resilience of the communities in which we live and work,” said Dr. Alissa Campbell Shaw, senior manager of community engagement at International Paper and executive director of the IP Foundation. “International Paper is committed to strengthening the resilience of our communities. We hope others join us in supporting NEEF so that together we can provide the funding and volunteers needed to maintain our public lands during these uncertain times.”

Why donate to the Restoration & Resilience Fund?

NEEF offers a variety of grants and awards to help organizations engage their local community to improve the environment, increase diversity, and expand their work locally. Additionally, for the past 26 years NEEF has coordinated National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the nation's largest single-day volunteer event for public lands. In 2019, over 156,000 volunteers contributed $15.9 million in service at more than 2,000 public land sites across the country. NPLD plays an important role in mitigating the maintenance backlog on public lands, which totaled more than $19 billion in 2019.

We believe the key to a healthier, more engaged public is by making the natural environment accessible and relevant to the daily lives of all Americans. Throughout our history, we have worked to mobilize communities to care for their local environment through awards, grants, and events like NPLD. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to halt this critical work for the foreseeable future.

"Though we celebrate National Public Lands Day once a year, its effect can be felt year-round as volunteers return to sites to keep giving back and enjoy time with family and friends,” said Kevin Butt, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Toyota North America, the corporate sponsor of NPLD for over 20 years. “The Restoration & Resilience Fund will not only contribute to improving conditions at our public lands once it's safe for us to return, it will also help our communities heal as we work together to care for the places we all treasure."

How can I help America's public lands?

If you would like to support the recovery of public lands threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, please consider making a charitable donation to the Restoration & Resilience Fund.