New Grantmaking Fund to Protect Puget Sound & More… Fall 2012 | Newsletter

In this issue:

  • New Grantmaking Fund to Protect Puget Sound (included below)
  • Introducing Jasmine Amons – Grants and Development Assistant
  • From New Voices Student to Teacher By Christina McGhee
  • 2012 New Voices Are Rising Summer Advocacy Institute
  • Click here to read the full Fall 2012 Newsletter

New Grantmaking Fund to Protect Puget Sound

By Tim Little

“We have a big settlement pending. I can’t tell you how much money we are talking about yet, it’s still confidential. But it’s going to be a lot – are you interested?”

Elliott Bay looking toward Seattle.    Photo courtesy of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

Elliott Bay looking toward Seattle.
Photo courtesy of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

Executive Directors dream about getting calls like this. At the Rose Foundation, sometimes it actually happens! For the past 15 years, I have occasionally received this kind of call. No matter the caller, the story is similar: A company was charged with breaking the law – either through ignorance, negligence, or as part of a calculated business risk, and a solution was negotiated. First and foremost, an agreement was reached to stop the pollution source or consumer threat. Second (and this is why they are calling Rose), the parties to the lawsuit have agreed to make a donation towards repairing some of the damage, or to lessen future threats to the environment or community. This is when we get the phone call.

This call was about a legal settlement between the Seattle-based Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and BNSF Railroad. The lawsuit was related to pollution runoff from the BNSF Balmer Yard facility in Seattle into Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. We used the money to create the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund to relieve the original pollution damage by supporting community-based efforts to protect or improve the water quality of Puget Sound. This area is identified by state and federal agencies as providing critical habitat or migration routes for a variety of species, including threatened Chinook salmon, sixgill shark, orca whales, harbor seals, seabirds and more.

$1.5 Million for Puget Sound

Our newest grants fund is a whopper! In fact, the $1.5 million settlement is one of the largest ever in a citizen enforcement action involving stormwater discharges. But the size of the new Puget Fund is commensurate to the threat. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, polluted stormwater runoff is the number-one source of toxic loading in the Sound. Heavy metals, especially copper, are particularly dangerous to the survival of salmon species, which are highly valued culturally and economically in the Puget Sound Region. Industrial stormwater can also contain toxic levels of other heavy metals, such as zinc and lead, as well as oils and suspended solids.

After the shock of the call wore off, the honor started to set in. We know that grassroots activists in California are familiar with our programs to reinvest pollution mitigation payments into local communities and watersheds. And due to the complicated accounting and reporting requirements, we know most other foundations don’t administer many settlements. But we didn’t know that our work with settlements had attracted notice outside of California.

Part of the honor is the size of the fund – and the initial award has already been supplemented by two more Soundkeeper settlements! We are humbled that the leading citizen enforcement group in Washington State would entrust us with such a large settlement. We’re keenly aware that there is a lot we don’t know about the Puget Sound ecosystem and the people who live there. To ensure that the Fund is grounded in the values and knowledge of the local community, we recruited a Puget Sound-based funding advisory board to guide our grant decisions.

“Call the Rose Foundation – It’s What They Do.”

But the other part of the honor is how the Puget Soundkeeper found us. When they told their Seattle-area funders that they had solved a serious local stormwater problem and secured a record settlement, the folks at the Northwest Fund for the Environment and Russell Family Fund both, independently, told the Soundkeper the same thing: the BNSF settlement was larger than all of the Soundkeeper’s past mitigation funds combined. The Seattle funders feared that administering the money and the resulting projects might distract the Soundkeeper from their core mission. They said, “Call the Rose Foundation and ask them to set up a new grants fund, it’s what they do.”

We are now in the middle of our first-ever Puget Sound grant cycle. In order to penetrate deeply into the community and make effective grants, we’ve divided the money into two pots:

Watershed Grants are geared towards larger groups who are prepared to submit a detailed proposal and administer a significant grant. By the end of 2012, we plan to award more than $500,000 in Watershed Grants supporting activities like water quality monitoring and testing, green infrastructure projects, shoreline or riparian restoration and other hands-on stewardship activities.

Grassroots Grants are intended for smaller groups who may be mostly volunteer driven, and may not have much experience in applying for foundation grants. Grassroots Grants will range from $1,000–$10,000. After receiving a grant, all Grassroots grantees will become eligible for organizational capacity-building training including accounting, fundraising, planning, communications and more. This training will help them help them build their groups and become stronger even after the grant dollars have been spent.

For more information about the Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund, including application instructions and deadlines, please click here.

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