Environmental Initiatives

Environmental Initiatives

Protecting nature in Arizona and Indiana

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust focuses its environmental strategy primarily on critical waterways and increasing awareness of environmental issues in Arizona and Indiana, the states where we invest.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust is implementing a five-year environmental roadmap, initiated in 2020, that dedicates $19.5 million to investments in protecting nature in Arizona and Indiana, with special emphasis on protecting and restoring the Verde and White rivers, and underwriting environmental reporting and environmental journalism awards.

These efforts are improving our waterways, driving important conversations about our water future and informing the public about broader environmental issues.

“Acting on Nina’s great love of animals and nature,
we believe that if you want to help animals, you must protect habitat.
And if you want to protect habitat, you must protect water.”

Carol Peden Schilling, chair, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

Maintaining 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.

For several years, the Trust has invested in efforts by The Nature Conservancy in Arizona to undertake restoration and protection endeavors 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 innovating to bring new approaches to agriculture, water retention and partnerships. The Trust is also supporting the Friends’ Verde River Watershed Report Card, a timely, transparent assessment of watershed health that reveals restoration and conservation needs and helps guide decision making. Co-developed with diverse stakeholders representing land managers, business, municipal leadership, community members, conservationists and more, the report card measures progress in watershed health in the areas of water, habitat and communities.

We are expanding our funding to include new projects that will deepen our impact for the river and the people, wildlife and communities depending on it.

Take flight to explore the Verde River

Discover its importance to Arizona. Video: Lighthawk

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 $5.5 million in collaborative grants to several Indiana nonprofit organizations, forming the Partners for the White River to focus on protecting and restoring the White River and its watershed. 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. Building on the success of the first phase of collaboration, in 2020 the Trust committed an additional $9.4 million for five more years of river-related work.

With the Trust’s investment, beginning in 2018, the statewide Indiana Water Summit annually convenes national water experts, public and business leaders, community groups and researchers to lay the groundwork for and begin the implementation of statewide and regional water planning. The Trust also supports and participates in the White River Vision Plan, a community-driven plan to enhance 58 miles of the river in Marion and Hamiliton Counties.

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

These valued Trust partners comprise the Partners for the White River:

  • Broad Ripple Village Association
  • Central Indiana Land Trust
  • Conner Prairie
  • Conservation Law Center
  • DaVinci Pursuit
  • Friends of Belmont Beach
  • Friends of the White River
  • Hamilton County Tourism
  • Hoosier Environmental Council
  • Indiana Humanities
  • Indiana Wildlife Federation
  • Indianapolis Art Center
  • Indianapolis Cultural Trail
  • Indy Parks and Recreation/The Parks Alliance of Indianapolis
  • Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
  • Newfields
  • Reconnecting to Our Waterways
  • The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Chapter
  • Visit Indy
  • White River Alliance

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.