Friday, August 27, 2010

Philanthropist speaks on the importance of nonprofits

Conservation and philanthropy go hand in hand for Idaho Falls native

Express Staff Writer

Philanthropist Greg Carr spoke at an Idaho Community Foundation luncheon Wednesday at the Valley Club near Hailey. Photo by David N. Seelig

World-renowned philanthropist and Idaho native Gregory C. Carr spoke Wednesday on the importance of nonprofit organizations in tackling local and global problems.

Carr, who was born in Idaho Falls and lives near Ketchum, delivered the keynote address at a luncheon organized by the Idaho Community Foundation, at the Valley Club north of Hailey.

The local Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation and La Alianza, a Hailey-based nonprofit serving the Hispanic community, were honored at the event.

"The private sector drives our growth, but it doesn't always deliver what we need," Carr said to a group of 150 donors, nonprofit leaders, educators and guests.

After receiving a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University, Carr made his fortune marketing voicemail technology and founding one of the first global Internet service providers.

He resigned from his for-profit boards in 1998 and dedicated his time to humanitarian causes. Ten years ago, he made a 20-year financial commitment to restore Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique, which has been ravaged by civil war.

In 2000, Carr co-founded the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls. In 2001, he bought the compound of the Aryan Nations, near Hayden Lake, Idaho. The land, donated to North Idaho College, is now a peace park.

Carr said growing up close to Yellowstone National Park instilled in him a "great love" of wildlife. On a recent trip with his mother to a redwood forest on the West Coast, he said, he was reminded of the efforts of wildlife advocates, philanthropists and the state of California to protect the remaining redwood trees after 95 percent of them had been cut down for lumber.

He credited naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir for making a stand to save the remaining trees before they became extinct.

"A business could have cut the rest of them down to make a profit," Carr said. "The nonprofit sector occasionally needs to pick up critical projects in some areas, and conservation is one of those areas."

Carr said the world's human population is expected to swell from 6.7 billion today to 9 billion during "our children's lifetimes," increasing stress on other species on the planet. He said the number of species on Earth has decreased from 3 million to 2.25 million from 2000 to 2010, and pointed out that human beings are relative newcomers to the planet. He held up a telephone book that he said symbolized the amount of time life has had to evolve on Earth.

"The last word on the last page of this book signifies the amount of time that humans have been here," Carr said.

Carr presented a slideshow of his efforts in Gorongosa National Park, where resources from his Carr Foundation are helping to reintroduce animals, educate locals and develop a tourism economy. Zoo Boise is buying zebras for the park, he said.

Carr said that despite his conservation efforts abroad, there is plenty of work to do right here in Idaho.

"My philanthropy began in Idaho and it will end in Idaho," Carr said.

"My will states that my money be spent only in Idaho after I die. My brother Steve is the trustee of my will, so be nice to him," he joked.

Steve Carr is the newest member of the Idaho Community Foundation board, one of 700 community foundations in the United States.

The Idaho Community Foundation has more than 900 members and 400 funds, with assets totaling about $67 million.

In 2009, the foundation made 143 grants totaling just over $638,000.

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