A Gift in Legacy Has Transformed Washington and the World

By Mike Schaefer, steward of Ric Weiland’s legacy and trustee for the Washington chapter of The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy received two transformative estate bequests from Ric Weiland — one of Microsoft’s first employees — in 2007. His generosity and passion live on through The Conservancy’s collaborative and breakthrough efforts on a global scale.

The first gift was $6.4 million in support of The Conservancy’s global programs and was directed to drive significant marine and freshwater conservation. This gift enabled development of comprehensive conservation strategies in the marine world, the identification of political players and appropriate policy goals, and scientific studies that served as the foundation for decisive action in several areas. On the freshwater side, funding was deployed to develop a global “Blue Water Certification” program that recognizes water utilities and cities for practices that promote responsible water stewardship. This work includes outreach, training and case studies in Australia, South America, Africa, China and the United States.

The second gift, also $6.4 million, was directed specifically to The Conservancy’s work in Washington state. Celebrated at the Washington chapter's 50th anniversary gala in 2010, Ric's bequest followed precedents set by other Pacific Northwest philanthropists such as Patsy Collins and Paul Allen and the legacies of families such as the Rawsons in the 1960s and the Feldenheimers in the 1970s — all of whom led the way toward ensuring sound stewardship of Washington's forests, sagelands, oceans, rivers and shorelines for future generations. During a time of economic recession, Ric’s bequest maintained The Conservancy’s ongoing care for its preserves across the state. 

The Conservancy’s work in the Olympic rainforest has expanded into the Hoh River watershed. Ric’s legacy has made possible our work on the Washington coast. (Photo by Keith Lazelle).

The Conservancy’s work in the Olympic rainforest has expanded into the Hoh River watershed. Ric’s legacy has made possible our work on the Washington coast. (Photo by Keith Lazelle).

The funds also supported protection and restoration of vital salmon habitat along the Hoh, Queets and Quinault rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. The Conservancy’s expanding efforts on the Washington coast over the past 10 years have led to unanticipated and inspiring new partnerships with local tribes and communities in pursuit of tangible benefits for people. These partnerships are now connecting with more and more communities up and down the coast.

Ric’s extraordinary support for The Nature Conservancy has helped take conservation to the next level, both in the place he called home and far away. Thanks in part to him, The Conservancy is working with many more partners in a greater variety of places toward much greater impact than ever before. Together, we’re making our world a better place for both nature and people. In this very real sense, we all benefit from Ric’s legacy every day.

Mike Schaefer on Yellow Island

Mike Schaefer on Yellow Island

Meet Mike Schaefer 

Mike Schaefer has been involved in The Nature Conservancy for more than 10 years — first, as the steward of his partner Ric Weiland’s legacy gift to support The Conservancy, second, as a member of our Leadership Council and, since 2015, as a member of our board. As a trustee, Mike has the distinction of serving as our “Trustee Legacy Club ambassador,” championing the work of our estate and planned gifts for donors and members wherever and however he can. His passion for conservation is infectious, and he has used his “bully pulpit" to champion the work of The Conservancy, here in Washington and throughout the world.

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