By 1995, Lori Palmer and her husband Russ Jewert had been visiting Big Bend National Park for over 20 years. Having heard of other Friends groups, they decided to join one for Big Bend; however they discovered that no such group existed.
After meeting with park staff in February 1996, the wheels were put in motion to form a Friends group. Other Big Bend enthusiasts joined the effort and provided early leadership. The National Park Foundation provided a $2,500 seed grant to cover startup costs. A steering committee formed and met in July 1996 to create a mission statement, shape the new organization, and establish the founding board of directors. Within months, the Friends of Big Bend National Park (now Big Bend Conservancy) was incorporated and had a 501(c)(3) tax status from the IRS. The Wray Trust provided additional startup funding, a membership brochure was produced, and the first "Friends" started signing up!
In early 1997, founding board member Jack Lamkin initiated a successful effort to seek legislative approval of a specially-designed license plate to benefit Big Bend National Park, which has raised over $850,000 for the park over the years. The board of directors now numbers 21 volunteers who live across the state. By April 2020, the Conservancy had contributed over $3.8 million to Big Bend National Park, including two endowment funds.
Our mission is to support, promote, and raise funds for Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River in partnership with the National Park Service.