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The Horizon Foundation is a private, charitable foundation committed to ensuring that Texas’ iconic landscapes and natural resources remain for future generations.

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“If we lose wilderness, we have nothing left worth fighting for.”

– Aldo Leopold

The Horizon Foundation has established a challenge grant to support fee simple and conservation easement land protection efforts. Horizon’s board of directors has committed to fund $20 million over the next four years.

Our goal is to galvanize the philanthropic community to join our efforts to protect Texas’ land and water resources today, before they’re lost forever to subdivision, development, and other non-conservation uses. These grants will be available to support the state’s robust land trust community, conservation non-profit organizations, and other entities working to protect Texas’ land and water resources.

Simultaneously, The Horizon Foundation is standing up a policy center that will focus on legislative solutions that support more public funding and help incentivize land protection. While private philanthropy must play a role in the interim, we believe that our efforts to secure robust, dedicated public funding will only be strengthened by the philanthropic community’s sincere leadership and willingness to engage on the most critical issues facing Texas’ land and water resources.

A Texas-sized Need for Land Protection

Setting the Stage

Texas is home to over 30 million people and growing quickly. Seven of the nation’s top 15 fastest growing cities are in Texas, with population estimates suggesting the state may top 50 million people by 2050.

While growth is good for our economy, it also puts pressure on open space, wildlife habitat, and water resources.

According to a 2021 report by the American Farmland Trust, Texas farmland is the most threatened in the nation, with over 240,000 acres of open space, farm and ranchland, and wildlife habitat lost annually. According to a 2023 report by Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute, 70 percent of Texas river basins have highly diminished stream flows and the state is expected to face a 6.9-million-acre-foot water deficit within the next 50 years.

A Wildlife Mecca

Texas is also home to some of the richest biodiversity in North America. From the Chihuahuan desert in west Texas, to the imperiled grassland savannas of north Texas, to the 600-mile long Gulf coast, Texas is blessed with a deep variety of species and ecosystems. At least 437 endemic species reside in Texas, including the Texas map turtle, Guadalupe bass, and Houston toad. Likewise, over 98 percent of North America’s long-distance migratory bird species have been documented in Texas.

Nevertheless, rapid development and land conversion is threatening this incredible assemblage of native and migratory species, with the State now home to over 1,300 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Every single one of these species depend on healthy land and water for their survival.

A Private Lands State

Texas landowners represent less than 1 percent of our state population, yet they manage 80 percent of our landmass and vast majority of our open space. And, despite common perceptions, over half of Texas landowners own less than 100 acres.

Less than 4 percent of the Texas landscape is protected from development under federal, state, local, or private mechanisms (State and National Parks, Wildlife Management Areas, conservation easements, etc) and only 3 percent is accessible for public recreational use. Simultaneously, rural land prices have skyrocketed over the last two decades, increasing from $500 per acre in 1997 to nearly $2,500 per acre today, increasingly forcing our state’s natural resource stewards to sell to development.

Without dedicated efforts to protect Texas’ open space today, the State may not look recognizable in only a generation or two.


Rod Sanders, President

Rod is the CEO of Highland Homes and President of The Horizon Foundation. He serves on the board of the Gulf of Mexico Trust and has been a board member of The Nature Conservancy for over twenty years.

Board of Directors

Anne Brown

Anne is Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. She has over 25 years of experience in national nonprofit management across a wide range of disciplines and organizations, including the National Audubon Society.

Robert Potts

Robert is Chairman of the Board for the Dixon Water Foundation. From 2007-2023, Potts was the President and CEO for the Foundation. His conservation career spans over 31 years including General Manager of the Edwards Aquifer Authority and several positions at The Nature Conservancy.

Nancy Sanders

Nancy is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She executive produced two documentaries, THE RIVER AND THE WALL and EXPOSURE which both celebrated the outdoors and warned of coming political and climate-related disasters. Sanders’ latest film, ROBERT IRWIN, A DESERT OF PURE FEELING, is widely considered to be one of the top art documentaries of 2023.

Carter Smith

Carter has dedicated more than 32 years advancing conservation efforts across Texas, most recently as Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. His 15-year tenure with the Department strengthened private-lands stewardship, expanded state parks and wildlife management areas, bolstered conservation, law enforcement, and park funding, and brought a renewed focus on connecting Texans young and old with the state’s natural resources.


Learn more and apply for the Conservation Land Protection Fund and The Horizon Foundation’s general grant funding. The Horizon Foundation accepts electronic applications only.

Conservation Land Protection Fund

The Horizon Foundation has created a $20 million conservation land protection fund that will be distributed to qualified NGOs and Government Entities for the purposes of further land protection efforts in the State of Texas (both in fee simple and through permanent conservation easements).

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General Grant Funding

The Horizon Foundation meets in January, May and October to consider operating and project-specific grants by invitation only. Invited applicants please click below.

Learn More & Apply