Michael Mantell
CSPRA Honorary California State Park Ranger 2015


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Michael Mantell is the founder of the Resources Legacy Fund and Resources Law Group. Through RLF and RLG, Michael has pioneered new approaches to strategic conservation philanthropy, habitat and land use planning, park and open space protection, ocean and fishery policy, and conservation finance. RLG is a unique law and consulting firm representing clients to achieve enduring conservation outcomes. RLF is a donor centric, nonprofit organization that works with philanthropic partners to craft cutting-edge solutions to conserving natural resources, improving environmental sustainability, and diversifying conservation leadership and capacity. In my opinion, RLF is, without question, the most influential and most important conservation organization in California, and has been for some time.

Michael has worked with the philanthropic community for more than a decade to craft conservation strategies and strengthen the nonprofit sector. He helped design and implement the Conserving California Landscapes Initiative for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Preserving Wild California program, and the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative for the Annenberg, Campbell, Marisla, Moore and Packard foundations.

Michael's effort have led to many park and open-space successes in and around state parks, federal lands, and wilderness areas throughout California as well as the Cargill Salt Ponds in the San Francisco Bay. Michael brought together the private funding required to protect the 5,800-acre Coast Dairies property in 1998 from luxury estate development, resulting in the donation of over 400 acres of rocky coastal bluff and beaches to California State Parks, now open to the public as Coast Dairies State Park.

Additionally, since 2001, RLF has worked closely with the Anza-Borrego Foundation and other nonprofits to protect near 17,000 acres of desert natural resources in and around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, including the Lucky 5 Ranch, which connected (for the first time) Anza-Borrego to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and over 10,000 acres of park inholdings that ease management challenges within a complex matrix of public and private land ownership.

These are just a few examples of how Michael has contributed to on-the-ground protection of natural space around the state. Many districts could describe so many more examples, particularly in the Bay Area. All of these projects protect important natural systems, provide trails and recreation opportunities for Californians, and contribute to local economies.



Michael also helped create a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas along the California coast from Mexico to Oregon, making California the only state in the nation with such a network and creating marine parks. All Michael's conservation work is science-based, systematic, taking into account likely impacts of climate change. Michael also works to broaden the leadership and participation in conservation by younger, diverse Californians, many of whom do not have access to safe, clean places to recreate.

Recently Michael worked with the Department, Natural Resources, and major California philanthropies to create the Parks Forward Initiative, identify leaders from parks, education, health, and business to serve as independent volunteer commissioners to lead the effort, and raised several million dollars for outreach, research, analysis, public engagement, and all the efforts needed to craft a plan to create a stable, healthy park system serving the needs of all Californians for decades to come. Michael is working to raise additional funds to invest in implementing solutions, broadening the parks constituency, building the political leadership, and ensuring voter support now and into the future for parks.

Michael was the chair of the Proposition 84 campaign, a 2006 measure that provided $5.4 billion to protect and enhance California's natural resources. Proposition 84 was the largest natural resources bond ever approved in the United States. Additionally, Michael has been instrumental in the success, both politically and financially, of other Parks bonds including Proposition 40, a 2002 measure that provided $2.6 billion for parks and open space. He also chaired the campaign to prevent the dismemberment of California's climate change legislation.

Prior 1991 until 1997, Michael was Undersecretary for the California Natural Resources Agency, where he "discovered" Donald Murphy and selected him to be Parks Director in the Wilson administration. Michael was very supportive of DPR in a very difficult economic period. During this time, Michael was also influential on water policy, habitat and endangered species protection, and developing partnerships with other public agencies and private funders to protect significant landscapes.
He has been honored by the Department of the Interior Conservation Service Award, its highest award for a private citizen's conservation work, and honored by National Audubon and California League of Conservation Voters, among others.

He has worked behind the scenes with governors, departmental directors, legislators, and key DPR staff to promote DPR goals.

Michael's support for parks has been unwavering and highly valuable for State Parks and for the people of California