ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — Late last year, Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy announced they seek to jointly contribute nearly $20 million in seed funding to an established network of partners and programs working together to support Indigenous-led stewardship and provide sustainable, community-based economic development for Southeast Alaska.
The fund will be called the Seacoast Trust. Initially, the fund will financially support the ongoing work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP), a decade-old network of individuals and organizations working to strengthen cultural, ecological, and economic resilience across Southeast Alaska. SSP is supporting community-led initiatives to move the region away from ongoing cycles of a boom-and-bust economy that limit the long-term potential of traditional Alaska Native villages and the region as a whole. The Seacoast Trust will support a range of programs weaving Indigenous values into new approaches for resource management, ecological revitalization and economic development.
The establishment of the Seacoast Trust comes as the region marks the transition away from large-scale, old-growth timber harvesting. In January 2021, Sealaska, the region’s largest private landowner, announced it would transition out of the logging industry this year. In July 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pledged protection for 9 million acres of old-growth forest in the Tongass National Forest, a $25 million commitment to Indigenous- and community-led conservation, and support for a future of environmentally sustainable economic development.
“Transitioning our communities to take advantage of sustainable economic opportunities will require support from many partners,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “We must ensure that what comes next is stable, regenerative and offers just outcomes to communities who have faced economic crises for decades. We are searching for economic and environmental balance that can come from a focus on collaboration, inclusive growth, social justice and indigenous stewardship.”
Sealaska initiated the creation of the Seacoast Trust by committing $10 million in matching funds. The Nature Conservancy seeks to commit $7 million from the Bezos Earth Fund and is hoping to work with partners to fully match Sealaska’s $10 million commitment through additional private fundraising. Capitalizing the fund at $20 million will set it on a path to realize its ultimate $100 million goal.
“The Seacoast Trust is about working together and weaving Indigenous values into a new shared vision for Southeast Alaska,” says Steve Cohn, Alaska state director of The Nature Conservancy. “Our partnership is financing a powerful collective effort capable of launching transformative natural climate solutions that serve people and nature in communities throughout the Tongass. This is a bold and new way forward that helps give Southeast Alaska’s next generation a more secure future. Seacoast Trust is the right way forward because it builds a more enduring future for people and nature.”
The Seacoast Trust will provide annual funding to support communities and meet the partnership’s goals for indigenous stewardship and community prosperity. The Trust will support a range of programs including efforts to restore and sustain salmon runs, manage healthy forests, establish new forest carbon projects, teach and inspire youth, increase food security and grow prosperous local economies. Through existing and expanded community forest partnerships and other ventures, the region will see new opportunities to strengthen local and tribal decision-making authority in the management and conservation of local resources.
Oversight for the Seacoast Trust will be housed within Spruce Root, a Juneau-based nonprofit that provides entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources. The existing Sustainable Southeast Partnership Steering Committee will establish program strategy and set priorities for the trust, make funding recommendations and review program budgets.
The Spruce Root Board of Directors will hold fiduciary responsibility for the Seacoast Trust, establish investment and financial return objectives and review funding recommendations made by the SSP Steering Committee.
The Seacoast Trust is honored to operate within the homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples, who continue to care for the lands, waters and communities in the largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest on the planet.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.