For immediate release
Dec. 13, 2021
Contact: Lisa Demer, 907-545-3555 (cell)

The Hoonah Native Forest Partnership is working to restore the forest and watershed, gather and share data with land managers, and generate jobs. The Sustainable Southeast Partnership is among the organizations supporting the work. Pictured are Donovan Smith, Gretchen O’Donnell, Samuel Sheakley and Phillip Sharclane. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership)

Anchorage, AK – A new fund that aims to support a prosperous, sustainable economy in Southeast Alaska has gotten a boost with twin $1 million investments from two private family foundations: Rasmuson Foundation in Alaska and Edgerton Foundation, based in Los Angeles. The foundations are delighted to announce their partnership in support of the Seacoast Trust endowment, which will be governed by Indigenous values for conservation and regenerative job creation in the Tongass National Forest region.

The fund will enable the Sustainable Southeast Partnership — an unconventional, decade-old collaboration of groups that often have been at odds — to realize the potential for transformational change through a new model of stewardship. Tribes, conservation interests, Alaska Native corporations, rural communities and industry groups are moving past conflict to pursue goals of “collective well-being, sustainable economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and natural resource management,” according to Seacoast Trust.

Sealaska, the Alaska Native regional corporation for Southeast Alaska, created Seacoast Trust as a permanent funding mechanism for what had been an informal network. Sealaska pledged $10 million in matching funds, and The Nature Conservancy announced its commitment of $7 million in September. The new awards totaling $2 million bring the fund close to its initial goal of a $20 million endowment. The long-term vision is a $100 million fund providing about $5 million annually to stimulate a new economy in Southeast Alaska.

Oversight and endowment management will come from Spruce Root, a Juneau-based, Alaska Native Community Development Financial Institution. This nonprofit corporation was launched nearly 10 years ago with support from Sealaska.

The $1 million contribution to the Seacoast Trust endowment is by far Edgerton’s largest grant in Alaska and also is an outsized award for Rasmuson Foundation. Edgerton Foundation began investing in Alaska in 2017 and, with the new award, has granted more than $8 million to 23 nonprofit organizations focused on biodiversity and regenerative economic development. Rasmuson Foundation is the largest philanthropy in Alaska, awarding grants topping $460 million in its 66 years.

“This is an extraordinary project with proven superb leadership and widespread community support,” said Dr. Brad Edgerton, who directs the foundation in partnership with his wife, Louise. Alaska leaders Alana Peterson, executive director of Spruce Root, and Ralph Wolfe, who leads the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, are well poised to carry out the work, he said. “These two organizations have been changing the conversation in the Tongass and empowering Native and rural communities in Southeast Alaska for a decade.”

The Trust will fund Southeast Alaska communities for a range of projects and programs that improve lives and create regenerative jobs. Restoration of salmon runs, management of healthy forests, small scale tourism business development, mariculture, Native youth projects and food security are among the focus areas.

“We are thrilled to be part of such a well-crafted approach to stewardship and economic development in Southeast Alaska,” said Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson foundation president and CEO. “Strong, local leaders and broad support are key. We are especially delighted to have Edgerton Foundation as a ground-floor partner.”

Examples of projects executed in the past by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership include affordable housing in Yakutat, training and support for small business entrepreneurs, and an Indigenous Guardians program partnership between Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and the U.S. Forest Service to co-manage the Tongass National Forest.

In British Columbia, Indigenous Guardians aligned with other constituencies to co-manage the Great Bear Rainforest adjacent to the Tongass.  Millions of dollars have been committed to conservation and economic development in the region.

“Sustainable communities make sustainable decisions,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “Communities at risk make short-term decisions based on immediate need.”

Mallott continued: “We are incredibly grateful for the support of Rasmuson and Edgerton foundations to get us so close to our initial funding goal, and so quickly. This support shows a belief in the sustainable economic development approach that we hope will attract other organizations interested in investing in Indigenous-led environmental and community stewardship.”

Learn more about Seacoast Trust here:

[Download: Press release_Foundations announce $2 million investment in Southeast Alaska 12132021]

The Edgerton Foundation grants $6 million to $8 million a year for medical research, natural and pandemic disaster relief, national security studies, nationwide support of new theatrical productions, and habitat preservation in biologically important landscapes. Another major project has been its contribution to YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, a project of the Los Angeles Philharmonic).

Rasmuson Foundation awards around $25 million to $30 million a year in grants to promote a better life for Alaskans. Main funding areas are human services including projects to address domestic violence, child abuse and services for seniors and people with disabilities; homelessness; health care; the arts; and organizational and community development. The Foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband E.A. Rasmuson.