The Conservation Endowment Fund was founded by John Taft in 1981 out of his love and dedication to nature and it’s preservation. over the years, CEF has collaborated with such entities like the International Center for Earth Concerns, Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens, The Ojai Raptor Society and many more. The Canyon Nature Center is home to the Taft Botanical Gardens and 252 acres of Native California Open Space.
From 1994 - 2001, ICEC hosted dozens of events every year at the Canyon Nature Center. The ICEC brought in groups of school children of all ages from West Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to participate in guided nature tours on the property. At the Canyon Nature Center the ICEC cared for up to 100 parrots with their Humane Society of the United States supported Bird Rescue Program. During the period between 1994 and 2001 The ICEC hosted educational school tours and adult education workshops for arts and nature education, nature walks and tours and plein air painting groups. The ICEC hosted fundraising events for public officials, local organizations such as The Ojai Music Festival, and Ojai Raptor Society.
In 2001, CEF turned it’s efforts towards Lakeview, Montana to build an Environmental Education Center in the Centennial Valley. After purchasing and renovating Lakeview, Montana in the heart of the Centennial Valley, the CEF donated the property as a gift to the University of Utah and established the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities Education. This Center is fully operating today with courses such as “Writing the Landscape”, “Ecology of Residency” and “Environmental Sustainability Studies Capstone” where students from the University of Utah use the Taft Nicholson Center as a field study location to enhance their Environmental Humanities Masters education.