With maintained paths, seating areas and plaques with names of rare botanical specimens, the Taft Gardens provides an educational experience for visitors to learn about the majesty of nature and it’s complexities. The Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve's vast preservation of Native California Open Space is vital to California’s conservation efforts. The open space plays an integral role in the Lake Casitas Water Shed, providing undeveloped land and resources to supply the community with it’s water. This open space also provides sanctuary to hundreds of species of native plants and animals that live and migrate through the area. The infrastructure that has been built is one of a kind and provides an enormous opportunity for growth. It’s dedication to sustainability has led the organization to invest in solar energy leading the way to a brighter future.

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.

The Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF) has consistently maintained the rare botanical specimens and preserved the pristine California natural habitat fulfilling it’s continuing mission of environmental preservation and education through visits and tours. The 12 acres of the Taft Botanical Gardens are home to some of the most mature and rarest species of plants that can be visited in California. The Taft Gardens is a world­ class destination for botanists, plant enthusiasts and nature lovers.

What We Do

Conservation Endowment Fund

About Us

From 1994 - ­2001, ICEC hosted dozens of event every year at the Canyon Nature Center. The ICEC brought in groups of elementary school children 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 elementary school tours, 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.

Preserve - Educate - Explore  


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. ​The CEF saved, restored and then gifted Lakeview, Montana, located in the heart of the ecologically significant Centennial Valley, to the University of Utah establishing The Taft-Nicholson Center for the Environmental Humanities.