In 2012, the political landscape was uncertain and there was extreme polarization around conservation issues. We did not see an erosion of conservation values, but we did witness an orchestrated effort nationally to demonize conservation advocates and green businesses.
Our nonprofit partners fought a seemingly endless series of defensive battles, expending much of their resources simply holding the line on bedrock environmental policies and regulations. Nonetheless, the regional groups we support made impressive gains.
In Washington, the Environmental Priorities Coalition prevented what would have been historic rollbacks to major environmental protections, including the Growth Management Act, the State Environmental Policy Act, and the state energy code.
In Oregon, the community successfully supported the creation of three newly designated marine reserves off the Oregon Coast, prevented the weakening of Oregon’s Renewable Energy Standard, and protected the Department of Environmental Quality’s budget from further cuts.
In Alaska, three important state groups (including one that represents 30 other groups) chose to merge their operations. The merged group will serve as the hub of more integrated and coordinated work statewide toward a set of shared strategic priorities.
In British Columbia, in spite of attacks from the political right, conservation groups made great progress, including a first round of new protected areas for the Atlin-Taku Land Use Plan. That makes over two million acres fully protected and over seven million within a no commercial logging zone. When fully implemented the plan will protect more than 26 percent of the land base of Northeast B.C.
While big-picture progress in protecting biodiversity in the Northwest—such as the passage of wilderness legislation—was slow or non-existent at the national level, remarkable conservation progress was made by regional and grassroots advocates within the foundation’s place-based focus areas.
In the Crown of the Continent, six Brainerd grantees were part of the Southwestern Crown Collaborative’s efforts to garner $50 million in America’s Great Outdoors Initiative funding for restoration of forests in the Swan Lake, Seeley Lake, and Blackfoot River watersheds.
In the High Divide, the Pioneers Alliance led efforts to protect over 65,000 acres of ranchlands in the Pioneer Mountains and Craters of the Moon landscape, with $21 million raised from federal and state governments.
Also in the High Divide, Lemhi Regional Land Trust successfully raised over $86 million from public funding sources to purchase conservation easements or support riparian restoration on 7,478 acres in Idaho’s Lemhi and Salmon River watersheds.
When collaboration fails, or is not the appropriate tool for the situation, litigation continues to be a highly effective way for making conservation progress. 2012 brought some exciting legal victories.
Most impressively, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Wyoming’s request for review of the Roadless Rule, which protects approximately 46 million acres of pristine National Forest lands. This put to rest the ten-year campaign, led by Brainerd grantee Earthjustice, to defend the Roadless Rule.
In Idaho, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Atlanta Gold Corporation cannot walk away from pollution at its historic mining site in the Boise River Watershed. The judge declared that "Keeping Idaho’s waters sufficiently clear of toxic elements so that they can support all beneficial uses for which the State has designated them is a critical public interest that profoundly outweighs a company’s bottom line."
Besides capacity-building investments in legal tools, we also spent time exploring ways to strengthen our commitments to youth leadership and building the base of conservation donors in our region. We hope to have more product to show for these investments in the coming years.
Learn more about some of our featured grantees.
- Alaska Center for the Environment
- Alaska Conservation Alliance
- Blackfoot Challenge
- Bus Project Foundation, Oregon
- Climate Solutions
- Idaho Conservation League
- Lemhi Regional Land Trust
- Montana Wilderness Association
- Social Ventures Partners, Seattle
- Washington Bus Education Fund
- Washington Environmental Council