Environmental Initiatives

Environmental Initiatives

Protecting nature in Arizona and Indiana

In recent years, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust refined its environmental strategy to focus primarily on critical waterways in Indiana and Arizona, and increasing awareness of environmental issues.

In 2017, the Trust committed nearly $8 million in collaborative three-year grants to protect and restore the Verde River in Arizona and the White River in Indiana. This investment in our waterways coincided with the Trust funding environmental news reporting in both states, along with state and international environmental reporting awards. These efforts are improving our waterways, driving important conversations about our water future and informing the public about broader environmental issues.

“We have sharpened our focus on the environment because the decisions we make today affect the future for all of us. We must act today to restore and protect our vital waterways. We must begin today to shed light on pressing environmental concerns. We must drive conversations now that help people better understand how our actions – and inactions – impact our communities, our natural world and the people and animals that depend on both.”

Carol Peden Schilling, chair, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

Restoring the Verde River’s flow

The Verde River stretches 189 miles in Arizona and supplies drinking water to 14 rural communities along its banks and nearly 3 million people in Maricopa County. The river is a major source of central Arizona’s sustainability, including agriculture, economy, health and recreation. One of Arizona’s last free-flowing rivers, the Verde supports more than 200 bird species and 94 species of mammals, including one of Arizona’s last active breeding populations of river otter.

Flows in the Verde are at historic lows and sections of the river are close to drying up due to imbalanced water use. Drought, competing demands and overuse are straining the Verde.

In 2017, the Trust granted The Nature Conservancy in Arizona more than $3 million to undertake restoration and protection efforts along the Verde in cooperation with farmers, businesses, landowners and public land managers. Working closely with Friends of the Verde River and other stakeholders, The Nature Conservancy is leading efforts to bring new approaches to agriculture, water retention and partnerships to help ensure a sustainable Verde River for generations to come.

The Trust’s ongoing Verde River projects are collectively restoring or retaining more than 350 million gallons of water in the river each year, and we are expanding our funding to include additional projects that will deepen our impact for the river and the people, wildlife and communities depending on it.

Revitalizing the White River

Winding through central Indiana, the White River and its watershed provide drinking water to 2 million people and habitat to several thousand species of plants and animals. Interest in the waterway is on the rise and the Trust’s investment in the White River is instrumental in driving increased emphasis on waterway protection and water use planning.

In 2017, the Trust committed $4.9 million in collaborative grants to several Indiana nonprofit organizations, forming Partners for the White River. Collectively, these organizations are conserving and improving the White River and providing opportunities for Hoosiers to once again feel connected to their waterways. Partners are performing water quality research and monitoring, helping reduce pollution, improving wildlife habitat and increasing access to – and awareness of – the waterway.

With the Trust’s investment, in 2018 the first statewide Indiana Water Summit convened national water experts, public and business leaders, community groups and researchers to lay the groundwork for future statewide and regional water planning. The Trust is participating in the White River Vision Plan to develop a community-driven plan to enhance 58 miles of the river.

Hoosiers are embracing the White River – its challenges and its opportunities – with renewed energy and commitment, making this an opportune time to engage event greater numbers in efforts to restore and protect this critical, life-giving resource.

Journalism and the environment

Nina Mason Pulliam understood the power of the media – its role in educating the public, holding policymakers accountable, conducting investigative journalism, and keeping critical community and social issues top of mind.

Journalism is the foundation on which the Trust is built. From one newspaper in Lebanon, Indiana, Nina and her husband, Eugene Pulliam, built Central Newspapers Inc., a national newspaper company. Their portfolio included The Arizona Republic and The Indianapolis Star, the largest daily newspapers in Arizona and Indiana. The Pulliams used their newspapers’ powerful and respected voices to improve the quality of life in their communities. The Trust is honoring that legacy by joining our priority to protect nature with our journalistic roots.

Underwriting environmental reporting

The Trust is funding environmental reporting teams at The Arizona Republic and The Indianapolis Star to allow the papers to dive deep into environmental topics to increase awareness of environmental issues in the Trust’s home states and support an informed populace. Since 2017, the newspapers’ award-winning reporting teams, which operate with no editorial direction from the Trust, have reported prolifically about wide-ranging environmental topics affecting both states. You can access the full library of Arizona Republic and Indianapolis Star environmental articles.


Environmental reporting awards

The Trust funds annual state and international reporting awards in cooperation with the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Hoosier State Press Association and the Arizona Press Club.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting recognizes the best in global environmental reporting. The award is presented by the Trust in association with the Society of Environmental Journalists and is the SEJ’s most prestigious award. It includes a $10,000 cash prize and a trip to the SEJ’s annual conference. Winners of the Hoosier State Press Association and Arizona Press Club Nina Mason Pulliam Environmental Reporting awards earn $1,000 and a trip to the annual SEJ conference.