The surprising result of last year’s Presidential election has dramatically and very negatively affected the political landscape for the environmental movement in America. With each day’s news citing yet another threat to an environmental policy, it appears that we’re on the verge of a complete reversal of decades of work protecting America’s air, water and land.
For many years, the environmental movement has focused on changing policy at the top – relying on federal environmental policy (bedrock laws, regulations and executive orders) as a backstop for environmental protection. This orientation has come, however, at the expense of work to build a strong base of support for conservation, and to achieve shared values with diverse constituencies in our communities, from the ground up. When I think of key social changes in history, I can’t recall any enduring movement that has succeeded only from a top-down mandate. Often, it comes from the grassroots, where a groundswell of citizen support for a shared vision can bring about lasting change. Today, more than ever, the conservation movement to protect and perpetuate America’s natural heritage must reflect the strength of the values that most Americans share: clean air, clean water, protected public lands, a healthy climate and vibrant communities. We need to remember that it is a minority that endeavors to capitalize on the election to dismantle environmental laws and regulations for their own personal enrichment. The majority, working together, can and will prevail.
Here at The Harder Foundation we’ve long taken a grassroots approach in our grant program. We have supported collaboration, particularly across diverse interest groups, to find common solutions to environmental problems. It is this bottom-up approach that has guided our grant making program on the Washington coast, where we support community based strategies to protect and restore salmon; and to develop coastal plans for communities whose economies depend on intact natural resources. Another example is our funding in Montana’s High Divide region, where we support community conservation approaches to protect the core of a vast, world class ecosystem. We also support grassroots campaigns to restrict fossil fuel movement throughout the northwest, in areas where even one mishap could result in permanent damage to valuable ecosystems.
While our grassroots orientation may guide us, we are very much aware of proposed changes in policy now coming from the top: the federal administration and the new Congress. And we recognize that historical backstops against unsound natural resource exploitation are rapidly being threatened. So, we too are operating with a sense of immediacy. That’s why we have built into our 2017 grantmaking a mechanism for making “rapid response” grants as a way to defend against the worst threats while taking advantage of new opportunities. See our 2017 Funding Priorities page for more information about our entire grantmaking program.
In our 2016 operation year, The Harder Foundation made grants totaling $1,210,000 to over 40 grantees, about 12 percent below our 2015 grant total. At year-end 2016, the Foundation’s asset level stood at $34,718,501, an increase of $876,712 from the end of 2015. The Foundation’s endowment appreciated 7.7% in 2016, allowing for both an increased grant budget over original projections and higher assets to close the year. As we look to the remainder of the 2017, we anticipate some stability regarding global financial markets, at least in the near-term. We expect to increase our grant budget this calendar year. Once again, this budget may increase further, as we intend to be responsive to immediate environmental threats.
In closing, I wish to reiterate that we can work together to protect our environment, irrespective of efforts to dismantle bedrock policies and protections. At this juncture, our world looks very dark, but it is often at these times when positive change can find a footing. Now is the time to think differently, to find new partners and invest in the power of a growing grassroots movement. As always, I thank deeply our grantees and those working so hard to create a better world.