Early January is usually a time of hope: resolutions, first tracks, a fresh start. But the new political context is making it hard for lots of people to feel all that hopeful. Some friends captured that ambivalence well in their holiday card, with the caption to their smiling family photo: “May 2017 exceed your expectations.”
One way or another, we have to make progress in 2017, and I think working at a regional scale from Alaska to Northern California, as Ecotrust does, gives us an opportunity to move forward here at home when the national political environment looks bleak.
We are advancing a more natural model of development, one that balances equitable economic growth with the preservation of life sustaining systems — farms, forests, fisheries, watersheds — for future generations.
In its first 25 years, Ecotrust has earned a strong reputation as an innovator. We saved from development more than 800,000 acres of coastal temperate rain forest in the Kitlope Valley of British Columbia. We started the world’s first environmental bank, which has evolved into Beneficial State Bank. We built the most iconic green building in Portland, Oregon, a model many others have followed. We’ve built a $100 million forestland management and investment company that owns 30,000 acres in the Pacific Northwest, showing that we can make money now and preserve natural capital for the future.
We expect to have even greater impact in the next 25 years. Our region’s population is growing fast, and the demands on our natural resources are ever-greater. The global threat of climate change requires mitigation efforts at the most local level. Increasing growth and prosperity often feels limited to the metropolitan parts of our region—widening the disconnects between rural and urban communities and experiences.
In those challenges, we see great opportunities for progress. All along the Pacific Coast of North America, there is the political will and consumer demand for a better way of doing things. Consumers are asking for more sustainably produced goods, from food to energy to wood. That’s created more incentive for entrepreneurs to meet that demand. There is a broader call for equity — a more just sharing of wealth and resources — and the public, as voters and consumers, are pushing harder to see that happen.
This is an exciting time in an exciting place, and Ecotrust is at the center of driving this more natural, reliable model of development.
What does this mean for 2017?
Food and Farms
A high functioning, regionally-based food system would increase resilience while spurring local economic development, promoting more regenerative production practices, and creating opportunities for better health. Our work to build a robust, regional food system offers a great entry point to convene community around a more natural model of development and to address climate change. The Redd on Salmon Street will become our community test lab for designing, iterating, and scaling initiatives to develop a more robust and equitable regional food system. We will:
- Continue to support the Redd on Salmon Street to become a working hub for the local food economy.
- Increase purchasing of local food by large institutions, primarily through our continued leadership of the Northwest Food Buyers’ Alliance.
- Increase the number and viability of small to mid size farmers, ranchers, and fishers (ag of the middle — AOTM — producers) in our region.
- Advocate to secure increased funding for school food by the Oregon Legislature, and help successfully implement the funding for the mutual benefit of school children and local producers.
Ecological forest management stores more carbon, offers more differentiated products and recreational opportunities, provides higher quality habitat for native fish and wildlife, and produces cleaner and more reliably abundant water than an industrial regime while supporting a robust and dependable forest products industry. We will:
- Inspire Oregonians to adopt a viable plan forward for the Elliott State Forest that protects cultural resources and native forest and aquatic habitats, while generating reliable jobs and forest products.
- In partnership with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, design a replicable system for repatriating reservation land management control to tribes.
- Create market connections that support an increased pace and scale of forest restoration in Oregon and Washington.
- Advocate for state climate legislative packages that include a forest carbon incentive policy targeting non-industrial forest owners in Oregon and Washington who implement ecological forest management.
We are working to protect and restore coastal marine ecosystems and support the livelihoods of the small-boat fishing communities that depend on them, along with restoring the productive integrity of the Pacific Northwest’s salmon-bearing freshwater river systems. We will:
- Increase direct sales of seafood from community-based fisheries and sustainable aquaculture businesses to consumers and chefs.
- Build the evidence base for developing a place-appropriate aquaculture sector in Oregon that supports economic and ecological resilience for communities.
- Map, analyze, and communicate the critical importance of estuaries’ role as essential habitat for commercial finfish and shellfish.
Research and analysis inform all of Ecotrust’s program strategies, and also demonstrate how existing models can be adapted to create a more natural model of development. Our Knowledge Systems team harnesses technologies and modeling frameworks that facilitate collaboration, citizen science, planning and decision-making in order to generate social, economic, and environmental benefit for local communities. We will:
- Expand the evidence base that empowers community-based and grassroots organizations to promote equity, environmental justice, and conservation in our region.
- Provide strategic guidance and impact evaluation for our programs and partners, with a focus in 2017 on ag of the middle producers, green jobs, and climate resilience in regional forests.
- Generate technology platforms to support complex decision-making leading to triple bottom line outcomes, with a focus on the Regional Equity Atlas and a snowpack analysis tool for the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board.