On August 12, 2009 the California Conservation Corps began construction on the Coast to Crest Trail Project. This Rose Foundation project was funded by Proposition 50 through the California Resources Agency’s River Parkways grant program. Rose Foundation supported construction of a 6-mile trail element connecting an existing trail system from the Pacific Coast in Crescent City to create a fifty-mile world-class trail to Harrington Mountain in the Siskiyou Wilderness. This Coast to Crest Trail follows ancient routes of Native American trails and in many areas uses the original trail bed of the historic Kelsy Trail, which was built in the 1850’s as a route from the Crescent City harbor to Fort Jones near Yreka and to the gold fields of Oregon.
Saving Headwaters Forest
From 1997 to 2002, the Rose Foundation led the Headwaters Forest Debt-for-Nature Project and the Maxxam Shareholder Campaign, seeking permanent protection for Northern California’s Headwaters Redwood Forest. The Headwaters Forest is home to numerous endangered and threatened species, and contained the last significant stands of privately-owned old-growth redwoods anywhere in the world.
Combining an innovative legal theory with strategically-targeted outreach to governmental decision makers, the Headwaters Debt-for-Nature Project tied ownership of the sensitive forestlands with the failure of Maxxam’s Texas-based savings and loan. Aided by a team of pro-bono attorneys, Rose Foundation President Jill Ratner researched and wrote the Action: On the Headwaters Forest series of legal briefs that laid out the federal government’s case for taking title to the ancient redwoods in lieu of over $1.5 billion in claims stemming from the S&L failure. These briefs were credited with encouraging the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the US Treasury to file claims against Maxxam seeking over $750 million in damages. The agencies then initiated debt-for-nature negotiations with Maxxam, offering to dismiss the allegations of bank fraud in exchange for saving the redwoods.
To encourage Maxxam to settle, the Rose Foundation then launched a series of shareholder advocacy campaigns, articulating the business case for saving the trees through a debt-for-nature exchange. The Maxxam Shareholder Campaign achieved national prominence, as well as the active partnership of the giant CALPERS retirement fund, the United Steelworkers of America, and many other pension funds and labor organizations. Working people around the country stepped forward and petitioned their pension funds “not to build their retirement future on the stumps of the last of the redwoods.” Eventually, the six groves with the bulk of the threatened old-growth redwoods were permanently protected by a governmental buy-out. The pressure from shareholders and pension beneficiaries was credited with pushing Maxxam into accepting the deal. The balance of the forest, while still at risk from logging, was made subject to a strict habitat conservation plan.
Military Base Closures
Recognizing the need for regional cohesion is response to the wave of base closures, the Rose Foundation, along with long-time military toxics expert Arc Ecology, developed the Military Base Closures Environmental Network in 1994. The network marshaled sustainable design, labor, and environmental interests throughout the Bay Area, and provided technical support to local communities serving on Restoration Advisory Boards.
Advised by the many experts in the base closures network, Rose Foundation Executive Director Tim Little guided the development of the Environmental Principles for Military Base Closures, a blueprint for sustainable base redevelopment that integrated wildlife protection, open space access, toxic remediation, preservation of blue collar jobs, green building codes and affordable housing to achieve productive economic reuse of shuttered military facilities. These principles were well-accepted, and were adopted by the East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission to help guide the redevelopment of the Alameda Naval Air Station. The Rose Foundation also helped lead the organizing that led to the creation of the Alameda National Wildlife Refuge on a portion of the former navy base.
Environmental Fiduciary Project
The prevailing “wisdom” that the economy and the environment represent opposing interests has guided the thinking of many governmental and business leaders for generations, with disastrous, worldwide effects on the environment, workers, and communities. But there is a growing recognition that global warming, toxic pollution, and ecosystem destruction are also macro-economic financial threats.
The Environmental Fiduciary Project leveraged huge pools of capital towards environmental sustainability and the precautionary principle. The Project encouraged trustees responsible for pension funds, foundation endowments and other large investment portfolios to respond to the increasing evidence that environmental performance is an economic value driver.
Leveraging State Investments
Acting on the invitation of California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, and working closely with organized labor and established networks of shareholder activists, in late 2000 Rose achieved the Project’s first milestone. CalPERS – one of the largest pension funds in the country and the single largest stockholding entity in the world – agreed to use environmental and labor standards to guide their $2 billion emerging market portfolio. In 2004, Rose proudly stood beside California Treasurer Phil Angelides as he launched his new “Green Wave” initiative, calling for investments of $1 billion in environmentally screened portfolios, an additional $500 million investment in emerging environmental technologies, and a commitment to use the pension funds combined clout of over $200 billion to push for accurate corporate environmental accounting. During the launch, Treasurer Angelides specifically credited Rose as being the first entity to bring these issues to his attention.
The Environmental Fiduciary Series
The Environmental Fiduciary Project co-authored and widely distributed the Environmental Fiduciary series of white papers. These publications make the business case for greater environmental sustainability, teach trustees and money managers how to evaluate environmental risk and performance, and serve as a call to action for investors to demand the triple bottom line of financial, environmental and social return.
In collaboration with several talented researchers and co-authors, Rose Foundation has published a series of reports examining financial and legal issues related to corporate environmental performance. Collectively, the Environmental Fiduciary Series forms the basis for outreach to institutional investors and foundation trustees about the long-term benefits of investing in environmental value, and their fiduciary obligation to consider environmental issues in their portfolio management decisions. One major theme running throughout the series is the lurking threat to investment portfolios and the economy in general posed by unreported environmental risk. The series also showcases the long-term value of incorporating environmental analysis into both investment and corporate management decisions.
SEC Petition Filed
In 2002, Rose Foundation filed a citizen petition with the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for a crackdown on environmental accounting fraud and new regulations to guide future corporate environmental liability reporting. The petition was immediately endorsed by more than 30 other foundations, as well as several mutual funds and labor organizations. Eventually, investors representing more than $1 trillion dollars would endorse this petition, as well as the treasurers of eight states. The report and petition helped spark a Congressional General Accounting Office probe of the SEC’s lax record of enforcing corporate environmental liability disclosure. The petition helped to catapult Rose Foundation into a position of national prominence on corporate environmental disclosure issues.