2020 was our final year of operations at the Brainerd Foundation and it was an unusual one in so many ways. The year began with the arrival of a global pandemic, which upended our plans to celebrate the work of our grantees at in-person gatherings. We experienced the devastating impact of climate change first-hand as record-breaking fires burned across our region. We were challenged to truly wake-up to our country's long history of racial injustice and the growing divide of a polarized America. And the year ended with record-breaking numbers of voters electing a new president who is committed to restoring environmental protections, addressing climate change, and fighting for our values.

Despite very difficult circumstances, meaningful progress was made by our grantees.

Grantmaking Highlights

The Great American Outdoors Act

Popular support for public lands translated into a rare bipartisan agreement when Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which among other things will provide $900 million of annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Pebble Mine permit denied

The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the heart of a multimillion-dollar regional fishing and tourism industry.

Defense of environmental protections at the national level

Grantees working on federal budget issues celebrated the rejection of much of the president's proposed cuts to the EPA budget and the approval of funding for clean energy, climate programs, and public lands.

Executive action on climate in Oregon

Governor Kate Brown broke a two-year deadlock in the state legislature by issuing an executive order to lower the state's greenhouse gas emissions, establishing Oregon as a national leader on climate policy.

The Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship

Conceived of and funded primarily by our foundation, hosted by Social Venture Partners, and designed to increase strategic engagement and individual donor philanthropy in the environmental field, this program saw the addition of a Portland cohort in 2020. By the close of the year, 65 people had completed the program over a period of eight years, and fellows reported combined annual giving to charitable causes of nearly $3 million per year (and many of them contributed even more to related non-deductible causes).

A final word

As our time at the foundation ended, we took inspiration from our grantees and committed to continue to do all that we can to protect the air we breath, the land we love, and the water that sustains us.


In 2019, our grantees held the line and, in many cases, made meaningful progress. In spite of serious challenges, we ended the year with a feeling of optimism about the potential for public land protection deals, the ongoing defense of environmental laws and policies, and the role of the press in our democracy.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Policy

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act became law in B.C. this year. This federal act prohibits oil tankers that carry crude and persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading, or unloading at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia.

Ecojustice along with West Coast Environmental Law won a new version of the Canadian Federal Impact Assessment Act. It includes the concept of sustainability, defined as the ability to protect the environment, contribute to the social and economic well-being of the people of Canada, and preserve their health in a manner that benefits present and future generations.

In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee signed a package of bills to combat climate change, including legislation to rid Washington’s electric grid of fossil-fuel-generated power by 2045. Other parts of the green agenda now embedded in state law brought new protections to southern resident killer whales and the salmon they eat, created new conservation standards for energy use in large new buildings, required new efficiency standards for appliances, and phased out the use of “super pollutant” hydrofluorocarbons.

Place-based Conservation

Early in 2019, the largest public lands bill in a decade was secured, permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protecting 1.3 million acres of wilderness in the West.

In Canada’s Yukon Territory, a new land use plan to protect the Peel Watershed, an area more than six times the size of Yellowstone National Park, was signed by all parties. In southeastern British Columbia, the Ktunaxa Nation received federal funding to develop the Qat'muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the Purcell Mountains, which will be more than 2.5 times the size of New York City. And in northern B.C., the Kaska Nation received initial federal funding to bring increased protection to nearly 10 million acres in and around the Muskwa-Kechika Special Management Area in northern B.C.

Earthjustice represented public interest organizations in 827 legal matters and filed 118 lawsuits against the current administration. It won dozens of victories, safeguarding public lands and people’s health. In addition, no bedrock statutes were gutted this year, in spite of a very challenging political climate.

Conservation Capacity

In 2019, the centerpiece of our initiative to inspire new philanthropy, the Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship hosted by Social Venture Partners, continued to expose fellows to a variety of tools, campaigns, and approaches to environmental philanthropy.

A Brainerd Foundation grant to the national League of Conservation Voters Education Fund supported a fundraising initiative for its five state-based affiliates in our region. The initiative was designed to increase the ability of the state groups to work more effectively with high capacity donors.

Through networking, communications, and fundraising work, the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies program increased its capacity to serve emerging leaders. Since 2013, EVST faculty have awarded twenty-one “Brainerd Fellowships” (including two in 2019).

The Propel Leadership Institute for mid-career nonprofit leaders, seeded by the Brainerd Foundation three years ago, moved to the University of Washington in 2019. To date, 82 “emerging leaders” have participated in the program, representing 59 organizations.

Ecojustice, Earthjustice, and Crag Law Center continued to strengthen the next generation of environmental lawyers with Brainerd Foundation support of internships, fellowships, and young attorney trainings.


In 2018, our grantees held the line and even made progress, but with global climate disruption, an extremely polarized national political environment, and anti-environmental national leadership, there was trepidation in the air.

At the Brainerd Foundation, we shifted into a new gear in 2018, as we began our last three years of operations. In addition, we moved from our old office into an inspiring collective space— which changed not just where, but also how, we worked.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Capacity

Inspiring new conservation philanthropy. Seven Brainerd-sponsored Northwest Conservation Philanthropy fellows and 41 alumni fellows were exposed to a variety of environmental philanthropy tools, campaigns, and approaches. We also funded donor networks and community foundations across the Northwest.

Building the bench of emerging leaders. We supported millennial advocates and organizers, early-career public interest lawyers, and promising new environmental journalists. We also welcomed 28 mid-career leaders into the second cohort of a nonprofit leadership program.

Supporting 21st century advocacy. We supported several grantees as they explored and adopted the cultures, structures, and strategies needed to stay relevant and to attract the next generation of talented leaders and advocates.

Conservation Policy

In 2018, we invested in the kind of state- and provincial-level policy work that builds a track record of success. We also invested in organizations that are successfully defending national bedrock environmental laws. Some of the most significant work is listed here.

  • In Alaska, grantees launched Solarize Anchorage to make residential and small commercial solar energy systems more accessible and affordable, and fought to halt the unnecessary and potentially environmentally devastating Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.

  • In BC, Ecojustice won a six-year battle to block the Trans Mountain Pipeline and succeeded in reforming the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to recognize every Canadian's right to a healthy environment.

  • In Idaho, our grantees successfully opposed the sell-off of Idaho public lands; stopped further development of the Golden Hand Mine; worked with mining companies to clean up the Blackfoot River; and launched a precedent-setting bilingual voter engagement effort.

  • In Montana, our grantees prevented the federal government from delaying its implementation of BLM's methane waste rule and stopped coal mining and oil and gas drilling on over 15 million acres of public land.

  • In Oregon, a team of grantees defended Oregon's clean fuels standard against state and federal challenges, and a diverse coalition of stakeholders celebrated important legal victories in their effort to manage the Klamath River for imperiled salmon.

  • And in Washington, a diverse, multi-stakeholder coalition, which includes our grantee the Washington Environmental Council, came together to push for comprehensive climate policy. 2018 also marked the end of a multi-year standoff with the coal industry when the proposed coal export terminal in Longview was defeated.

Place-based Conservation

In 2018, our place-based investments continued to focus on protecting landscapes in the High Divide, the Crown of the Continent, and Central Oregon.

  • Crown of the Continent. In 2018, our priority investments in the Crown focused on the Flathead Wild campaign, an effort to secure a new level of land protection and to curtail unwise and destructive mining and resource development in the Flathead River watershed.

  • High Divide. In 2018, Brainerd grantees participated in a critical public lands planning effort on the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the Upper Salmon BLM district, and sustained government funding for private land conservation and wildlife co-existence programs for ranchers.

  • Central Oregon. Our grantees successfully pushed for development of a Habitat Conservation Plan to protect threatened species and to return healthier water levels to the mighty Deschutes River.


The lay of the land changed significantly in 2017. As a result, while staying true to our core programs, we increased our investments in defensive efforts, particularly legal and organizing strategies, as our grantees tried to hold the line.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Capacity

Last year the foundation officially launched its three sunset initiatives aimed at strengthening the next generation of donors, building the pipeline of conservation leaders, and supporting 21st century advocacy efforts.

On the donor front, in 2017 Social Venture Partners launched its fifth cohort of the Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship, which exposes donors to a variety of tools, campaigns, and approaches to environmental philanthropy. Investments in the Oregon Community Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, the Idaho Investors Network, and the Montana Investors Network expanded the scope and scale of our donor initiative.

To support emerging leaders, we catalyzed the creation of the Mid-level Institute for Environmental Leaders (MIEL). We also supported Grist’s fellowship program, which hosted five talented young reporters. Ecojustice, Earthjustice, and Crag Law Center continued to cultivate the next generation of environmental lawyers through internships, fellowships, and young attorney trainings supported by our investments.

Conservation Policy

With the federal administration and both houses of Congress hostile to environmental protections, attention turned to the states. In our region, grantees defended progress made in past years, and developed strategies for new initiatives. While there are too many wins to highlight here, some of the most significant are listed below.

  • In Alaska, after nearly a decade of dedicated advocacy, the company proposing what would have been the largest strip mine in Alaska suspended its pursuit of permitting.

  • In BC, the change in government from the Liberal party to an NDP–Green Party coalition is nothing short of game-changing and due in part to investments in voter education efforts.

  • In Idaho, the Idaho Conservation League won a Clean Water Act ruling against Atlanta Gold, proving it was illegally releasing arsenic into the Boise River.

  • In Montana, Montana Environmental Information Center won an important lawsuit, preventing the expansion of what would have been the largest underground coal mine in the country.

  • In Oregon, a successful campaign by environmental organizations prevented the sale of Oregon's only old-growth state forest to a private timber company.

  • And in Washington, the Department of Ecology refused to permit the construction, in the city of Longview, of what would have been North America's largest coal export terminal.

Place-based Conservation

In 2017, the Foundation continued to focus its place-based efforts on protecting landscapes in the High Divide, the Crown of the Continent, and Central Oregon.

  • In the Crown, we saw the steady work of building support for conservation, with particular focus on deeper engagement with First Nations.

  • In the High Divide, the Heart of the Rockies and the High Divide Collaborative secured substantial funding ($14.5 million from the federal government) for local conservation projects, and Lemhi Regional Land Trust continued to leverage Bonneville Power Administration and Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery funding for $1.3 million in restoration efforts.

  • In Central Oregon, citing harm to the Oregon spotted frog from dam operations, parties reached an interim agreement to temporarily boost flows in the Upper Deschutes River and finalize a long-term Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to further reduce harm to the watershed.


The foundation launched a communications program this year to capture lessons learned from twenty years of grantmaking and to share new ideas, insights, and current best practices with our grantees, philanthropists, and others. Meanwhile, successful legal strategies stopped some of the most egregious extractive and polluting projects in the West, reminding us that compelling responsible action and accountability are essential components for conservation success and may be even more important given the outcome of the 2016 election.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Policy

In Alaska, the governor announced the end of two proposed mega-projects opposed by environmentalists. In B.C., conservation groups successfully blocked the Northern Gateway oil pipeline and held the federal government to its promise to keep B.C.’s North Coast tanker-free. In Montana, conservationists helped shut down two coal-burning power units and secured a legal settlement for safer disposal of toxic coal ash. In Oregon, the states’ two largest electric utilities agreed to eliminate coal from the energy supply by 2030 and double the commitment to clean energy by 2040. In Washington, the Power Past Coal and Stand up to Oil coalitions had a series of successes in halting expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. In Idaho, conservationists won a precedent-setting Superfund victory that will affect polluting industries across the country requiring them to ensure funds are available to clean up pollution at their facilities.

Place-based Conservation

In the Crown of the Continent, the forest company Canfor decided to halt further logging in a proposed park area. In the High Divide, because of the successful restoration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act by Congress, nearly $16 million will be awarded for 18 conservation projects. In Central Oregon, consensus was achieved on Bend’s urban growth boundary, and a poorly sited wind development project was stopped.

Conservation Capacity

This program now encompasses our three sunset initiatives. In 2016, the first initiative, designed to generate new philanthropy, saw the fourth round of new philanthropists complete the Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship. This investment continues to expose fellows to a variety of tools, campaigns, and approaches for successful environmental philanthropy. The foundation also underwrote donor programs in Oregon and Idaho.

The second initiative, aimed at strengthening the next generation of conservation leaders, funded more investments in fellowships, internships, and leadership trainings across our geography. For example, we supported Ecojustice to deliver four in-house education courses to its junior lawyers and articulating students, as well as an in-house mentoring program.

The third initiative, designed to support 21st century advocacy organizations, saw the convening of a cohort of grantees to explore how to operate in an uncertain world and to apply design thinking to the biggest challenges facing their organizations. The foundation also funded an experiment at the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund that invited 25 emerging leaders to engage with its national and state league executives on the question of how to modernize the organization to build more power for its mission.


The foundation launched its co-directorship this year, with Ann Krumboltz and Keiki Kehoe set to jointly lead the organization through to its sunset. We are excited about this shared approach to overseeing our work and hope it can serve as a model for others. Below are some notable grantmaking highlights from 2015.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Policy

In B.C., conservation groups successfully advocated for the provincial government to remove the near-term threat of coal development by buying out a privately-held licenses in the Sacred Headwaters. In Montana, conservationists celebrated the closure of the Corette coal burning power plant, after legal battles that spanned three decades. In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown signed into law the renewal of the state's Clean Fuels Program and the Toxic-Free Kids Act. In Washington, Governor Inslee announced that he would use the Clean Air Act to enforce limits on carbon pollution. And in Idaho, Boise voters resoundingly supported a renewed commitment to open space protection, outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, and clean water by supporting passage of a two-year, $10 million levy.

Place-based Conservation

In Idaho, more than 270,000 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds Mountains were protected as Wilderness, demonstrating the importance of long-term, unrelenting strategies and broad community-based coalitions in such campaigns. And in Central Oregon, Brainerd grantee Central Oregon LandWatch led the effort to secure a smart, expanded urban growth boundary around the city of Bend to protect open space and natural amenities in the area. In the Crown of the Continent, after a 24-year struggle, Glacier Resorts' certificate to build a 6,300-bed ski resort in the heart of the Purcells at Jumbo Creek Valley was deemed expired. Longtime Brainerd grantee Wildsight, supported by Ecojustice, worked tirelessly on this battle to protect this critical landscape.

Conservation Capacity

The Brainerd Foundation uses its Conservation Capacity program to enhance the work of its Place-based and Policy Program efforts as well as to bring its sunset goals to life. There were several great accomplishments from this program in 2015. For example, Earthjustice helped secure a Forest Service recommendation urging the protection of the Badger-Two Medicine region from oil and gas development, fought off another industry attempt to remove federal endangered species protections for the Marbled Murrelet, and won a case overturning the Tongass National Forest's exemption to the Roadless Rule. In the media world, the foundation is proud to support Grist, which now attracts a readership of two million. In addition to providing environmental news, Grist influences national conversations, as evidenced by an average of 46 mentions per month in top tier media outlets and an average of 17 mentions per month by the top influencers on Twitter.

The foundation's three sunset initiatives were set in motion this year with the following achievements:

  • Sunset Initiative #1: Inspiring the next generation of conservation philanthropists

    At the heart of this initiative is Social Venture Partners' Northwest Conservation Philanthropy Fellowship, which launched its third class of fellows this year. The foundation helped to seed this program, which exposes fellows to a variety of tools, campaigns, and approaches to strategic environmental philanthropy.

  • Sunset Initiative #2: Strengthening the next generation of conservation leadership.

    In addition to support for proven leadership programs like the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana, Green Corps, the Bus, and the Northwest Environmental Leadership Program, in 2015, Brainerd staff members conducted research to inform this initiative and results will be used to further design a program addressing future leadership needs of the Northwest conservation community.

  • Sunset Initiative #3: Building the next generation of conservation advocacy

    In the fall of 2015, Brainerd staff took the foundation's six-year investment in annual grantee cohort gatherings to the next level by convening a group of grantees, funder colleagues, and advisors to help inform this initiative. The convening used “design thinking” techniques to challenge participants to think creatively about what it will take to be effective conservation advocates in the 21st Century.


2014 brought some significant gains for the conservation movement in the West. The president began to use his authority to create national monuments and advocate for climate action, while environmental organizations brought more diverse voices to the fore and embraced new models of engagement. Youth and youth-led organizations also invigorated the world of advocacy. Below are some of the more notable 2014 successes.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Policy

In 2014, there was more effective collaboration among conservation policy groups in the Northwest than ever before. In Alaska, cross-organizational collaboration was at the heart of a big win: halting the governor's attempt to limit public participation in decisions about permitting mines and other development projects. And in British Columbia, a coalition of conservation organizations succeeded in securing passage of a new Water Sustainability Act, updating a more-than-100-year-old law.

Place-based Conservation

President Obama designated Montana's first new Wilderness in 31 years with the North Fork Protection Act, protecting more than 575,000 acres in the Flathead River Watershed and along the North Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park. Brainerd's leading grantees in this success included Headwaters Montana, National Parks Conservation Association, and Trout Unlimited. Congress and President Obama also approved the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, bringing increased protection to 275,000 acres of this exceptional landscape in Montana. In the belief that early support to key leaders and efforts make a big impact, 20 years ago the foundation provided Gene Sentz with a grant so he could buy a computer to help him mobilize fellow outfitters to stand up for the Front. The foundation also supported the work of the Montana Wilderness Association, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Wilderness Society, and other important grassroots groups in this endeavor.

Further north, the Yukon Supreme Court ruled in favor of First Nations and the conservation community in overturning a Yukon government land use decision that would have opened up the 17-million acre Peel River Watershed to unwise and destructive mining and resource development. The Brainerd Foundation made a sizable, albeit early, investment in the Peel River Watershed Campaign. The court decision reiterates the Yukon government's responsibility to consult with First Nations on land management plans affecting aboriginal lands and rights.

Conservation Capacity

The foundation supports organizations through the deployment of communications and leadership support, and legal tools and strategies. In an important precedent-setting legal win, Wyoming's Supreme Court sided with Earthjustice, requiring permitting agencies to disclose information about fracking chemicals and restricting the use of "trade secrets."

This year, the foundation hosted some of its grantees, bringing a cohort of nonprofit leaders to explore the rapidly changing world of communications and engagement. After five years of similar gatherings, this cohort has developed a strong practice of peer-to-peer learning, sharing failures and frustrations, as well as successes.


History recounts big challenges for each civilization throughout the ages. From the global perspective down to the local one, every era faces economic uncertainty, some kind of political unrest, and more civic apathy than one might wish. Whether or not this era is worse than any other era, Brainerd staff has reason to remain optimistic as we look for ways to protect northwestern North America from environmental degradation: In 2013, we saw evidence of real progress on the ground.

Grantmaking Highlights

Here are a few of the more salient 2013 successes achieved by the groups we support that we want to crow about.

Conservation Policy

The Brainerd Foundation's multi-year investment in Alaska's "transformers" process bore fruit this spring, when the new Alaska Center for the Environment (ACE) spearheaded an unprecedented effort to build a base of support in key geographies. This would not have been possible without collaboration between conservation leaders representing state and national organizations. Many of these same leaders have guided the development of the Collective Conservation Strategy, a statewide strategic plan for the conservation community.

In Washington State, in a year of legislative deadlock, the governor was able to pass his Climate Action Bill, setting the stage for more progress next year. The Environmental Priorities Coalition was credited with securing nearly $300 million in investments to improve water quality, restore the Puget Sound, and improve forest health and fish habitat.

Place-based Conservation

In the Crown of the Continent, Teck Resources Limited, an international mining company operating a coal mine in a watershed adjacent to the Flathead, agreed to purchase nearly 18,000 acres of private lands in the watershed for conservation. The company will work with area First Nations and conservation groups to ensure protection of wildlife and fish habitat. This purchase locks in conservation in a critical piece of the watershed and signals the endorsement of both the mining and timber industries of the proposed special wildlife management area—support necessary to gain the provincial government's approval of this designation.

Conservation Capacity

The foundation's investments in legal groups such as Earthjustice, Ecojustice, Trustees for Alaska, and Crag Law Center have supported about two dozen legal wins which have further secured legal standing for the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, critical forest service plan regulations, and the Roadless Rule, just to name a few. The most exciting is, perhaps, a legal victory secured by Ecojustice Canada that led to a stronger interpretation of Canada's federal Species at Risk Act and produced what may be the strongest precedent ever won in the practice of environmental public interest law in Canada.


In 2012, the political landscape was uncertain and there was extreme polarization around conservation issues. We did not see an erosion of conservation values, but we did witness an orchestrated effort nationally to demonize conservation advocates and green businesses.

Grantmaking Highlights

Our nonprofit partners fought a seemingly endless series of defensive battles, expending much of their resources simply holding the line on bedrock environmental policies and regulations. Nonetheless, the regional groups we support made impressive gains.

Conservation Policy

In Washington, the Environmental Priorities Coalition prevented what would have been historic rollbacks to major environmental protections, including the Growth Management Act, the State Environmental Policy Act, and the state energy code.

In Oregon, the community successfully supported the creation of three newly designated marine reserves off the Oregon Coast, prevented the weakening of Oregon's Renewable Energy Standard, and protected the Department of Environmental Quality's budget from further cuts.

In Alaska, three important state groups (including one that represents thirty other organizations) chose to merge their operations. The merged group will serve as the hub of integrated and coordinated work statewide toward a set of shared strategic priorities.

In British Columbia, in spite of attacks from the political right, conservation groups made great progress, including a first round of new protected areas for the Atlin-Taku Land Use Plan. That makes over two million acres fully protected and over seven million within a no commercial logging zone for this critically important area. When fully implemented the plan will protect more than 26 percent of the land base of Northeast B.C.

Place-based Conservation

While big-picture progress in protecting biodiversity in the Northwest—such as the passage of wilderness legislation—was slow or non-existent at the national level, remarkable conservation progress was made by regional and grassroots advocates within the foundation's place-based focus areas.

In the Crown of the Continent, six Brainerd grantees were part of the Southwestern Crown Collaborative's efforts to garner $50 million in America's Great Outdoors Initiative funding for restoration of forests in the Swan Lake, Seeley Lake, and Blackfoot River watersheds.

In the High Divide, the Pioneers Alliance led efforts to protect over 65,000 acres of ranchlands in the Pioneer Mountains and Craters of the Moon landscape, with $21 million raised from federal and state governments.

Also in the High Divide, Lemhi Regional Land Trust successfully raised over $86 million from public funding sources to purchase conservation easements or support riparian restoration on 7,478 acres in Idaho's Lemhi and Salmon River watersheds.

Conservation Capacity

When collaboration fails, or is not the appropriate tool for the situation, litigation continues to be a highly effective way for making conservation progress, and in 2012 it brought some exciting victories.

Most impressively, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Wyoming's request for review of the Roadless Rule, which protects approximately 46 million acres of pristine National Forest lands. This put to rest the ten-year campaign, led by Brainerd grantee Earthjustice, to defend the Roadless Rule.

In Idaho, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Atlanta Gold Corporation cannot walk away from pollution at its historic mining site in the Boise River Watershed. The judge declared, "Keeping Idaho's waters sufficiently clear of toxic elements so that they can support all beneficial uses for which the State has designated them is a critical public interest that profoundly outweighs a company's bottom line."

Besides capacity-building investments in legal tools, we also spent time exploring ways to strengthen our commitments to youth leadership and building the base of conservation donors in our region. We hope to have more to show for these investments in the coming years.


2011 was a year of continued programmatic honing and sunset preparations. As part of this effort, we sharpened our Theory of Change so it incorporates our sunset goals and better reflects how we achieve them. We also contracted with the Center for Effective Philanthropy to evaluate our work using its Grantee Perception Survey, and we were honored and humbled to learn that we scored higher than most foundations in the areas of grantee interaction and value added to the grantee community.

In 2011, we embraced the role of a learning organization, which means that we continually search for creative approaches to communications and engagement, ask grantees what they need most or where their biggest challenges lie, experiment with new grants, assess old models, and pose evocative questions about what would make our work and our grantees' work more effective.

Grantmaking Highlights

Conservation Policy

Despite challenging political environments in 2011, coalitions of conservation organizations managed to make progress on priority campaigns to protect our region's air, land, and water. The Brainerd Foundation's general support grants allowed our grantees to work on and achieve the following policy wins.

In Washington, the governor signed into law a bill phasing out the state's only coal-fired power plant. Conservation advocates worked for years on this historic agreement, reaching out to local residents near the plant, organized labor, and policy-makers.

In Oregon, unanimous passage of the Cool Schools Bill will speed the implementation of energy efficiency upgrades in the state's schools. Expansion of the state's Bottle Bill to include a greater number of consumer products, is expected to significantly increase recycling rates of containers and keep the state one of the nation's leaders on recycling.

In Montana, conservation advocates successfully appealed to the governor to veto some of the most egregious bills passed by the state legislature, including a repeal of the voter-approved ban on cyanide mining and bills that would undercut renewable energy standards, and limit the ability of local governments to use zoning and planning tools.

In Alaska, conservation advocates prevailed upon the governor to protect priority energy efficiency investments in the face of sweeping budget cuts. In Anchorage, four pro-conservation candidates were elected to the Chugach Electric Board, allowing the state to move forward with key renewable energy projects.

Place-based Conservation

The Flathead agreement between the U.S. and Canada was formalized and major oil companies voluntarily retired more than 200,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the U.S. Flathead. Additionally, the Nature Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced a commitment to provide $9.4 million to the province of British Columbia to help offset the costs of enacting the 2010 partnership between B.C. and the state of Montana. The agreement will prevent coal mining and oil and gas development on nearly 400,000 acres in British Columbia.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation signed historic agreements with the British Columbian government establishing land protection measures and shared management responsibility for their ancestral lands. The new land use plan protects more than seven million acres from commercial logging and designates over two million acres as First Nation Conservancy Parks. The Brainerd Foundation's early investments in the Taku helped build early momentum for this effort.

Conservation Capacity

A federal district judge ruled that roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest should be inviolate, effectively reinstating Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass. The case was brought by Earthjustice on behalf of Alaska Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations, who sued the federal government in December 2009 challenging the Bush-era exemption of the Tongass from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the Western Environmental Law Center's victory strengthening conservationists' ability to prevent environmentally devastating actions from going forward while projects are in court. WELC's precedent-setting victory on the issue of preliminary injunctions is being hailed far-and-wide.

The foundation's goal to strengthen Northwest journalism was partly realized through a Society of Environmental Journalists conference: 381 professional journalists were exposed to a variety of western environmental issues for four days at a conference that was full of strong educational programming and site visits.


In 2010, our biggest challenge lay in the world's unpredictability. When the foundation or our grantees do not succeed due to matters beyond anyone's control, the best approach is to be as strategic, innovative, and even-keeled as possible.

Although we were heartened to find that most of our grantees maintained healthy levels of organizational income this year, many issue campaigns were hamstrung by state budget deficits. For grantees who have worked to build coalitions of support for Wilderness protections, the stalemate at the federal level prevented forward motion. And in parts of the West, anti-environmental sentiments were reignited. For many grantees, this meant a shift of resources to defensive battles that some thought were behind us.

Grantmaking Highlights

Despite these challenging dynamics, many of our grantees had significant successes in 2010.

Conservation Policy

In Alaska, the legislature approved an ambitious package of state energy policies, including a statewide goal of generating 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

In Oregon, key groups succeeded in winning approval of a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in coastal waters and a statewide requirement that major metropolitan areas set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Idaho Conservation League celebrated the EPA's final regulations limiting the amount of toxic mercury pollution from gold mines and gold-processing facilities. ICL had worked extensively for five years in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, to expose gold mines as the source of contamination.

In Washington, the Environmental Priorities Coalition succeeded in protecting environmental programs from further budget cuts, protecting the state's renewable energy standards, and passing a ban on certain chemicals in consumer products.

Place-based Conservation

In Montana, a coalition of groups made historic progress with the Montana Legacy Project, placing 310,000 acres of lands previously owned by Plum Creek into public ownership. This effort illustrates the value of dreaming big and seizing a significant opportunity for land conservation.

The Transboundary Flathead merits special attention, as many years of hard community organizing laid the groundwork for the B.C. government, basking in the attention of an international audience as the province hosted the Olympic Games, to embellish its environmental luster by closing the Flathead to oil and gas development.

Conservation Capacity

In Oregon, Crag Law Center had a series of legal wins mitigating and reversing many of the adverse impacts of Measure 37, the controversial land use ballot initiative that passed in 2004. Crag's victories were impressive and it shows what a small organization with fire in its belly can achieve.


This year began with a dramatic and hopeful shift in the political climate for conservation and, at the same time, we were sobered by the economic downturn which hurt grantees and foundations alike. Our endowment took a hit, yet we emerged with a renewed commitment to our vision, goals, and strategy.

In order to better communicate what we hope to achieve before the foundation sunsets, we strengthened our external communications and redesigned our Web site.

Grantmaking Highlights

Across our funding region, environmental leaders achieved conservation wins in both the policy arena and in local communities.

Conservation Policy

In June, a federal court ruled against the U.S. Forest Service in its renewed attempt to eliminate virtually all environmental safeguards from the rules that oversee the management of our national forests. Several current and past Brainerd grantees were plaintiffs in this legal challenge by Western Environmental Law Center.

In the spring of 2009, Governor Christine Gregoire signed an executive order to reduce Washington's greenhouse gas emissions and announced the creation of a 30-state, bi-partisan coalition of governors, that called on national policy-makers to enact climate policy. Brainerd has supported the work of Washington Environmental Council, Washington Conservation Voters, and Climate Solutions, which contributed to this accomplishment.

Place-based Conservation

Long-time grantees in our Conservation Policy and Place-based Conservation programs helped to advance the largest land protection package passed in 25 years: the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. It will protect more than two million acres of land as Wilderness; designated over 1,000 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers; and advanced conservation through a host of provisions affecting nearly every state in the country. In the Northwest, Brainerd's largest investments in this effort centered on the Idaho Conservation League's efforts to preserve the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Oregon Natural Desert Association's work to protect the Badlands and Spring Basin areas of Central Oregon, one of the foundation's place-based priority areas.

On a related note, it was a big year for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. First, about 900 acres were added to the monument, preserving important wildlife corridors and protecting several critical wetlands. Second, as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Act, 24,000 acres of the monument's backcountry became the new Soda Mountain Wilderness. Since its inception, the Brainerd Foundation has funded the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council's tireless work to improve protection for this exceptional place.

Conservation Capacity

This year, the foundation placed an added emphasis on capacity building to support groups coping with the downturn in the economy, encouraging grantees to find ways to be more effective and efficient with less money.

Recognizing the role that leadership plays in the effectiveness of grantees, the foundation grappled with how groups can better support leadership in ways that strengthen their organizations. To explore investment opportunities, we contracted with a nonprofit management consultant who helped us find ways to better serve our grantees.

To improve the efficacy of nonprofit communications, over a hundred Northwest conservation leaders participated in a series of Brainerd Foundation-sponsored webinars provided by the Communications Leadership Institute.



This year marked a new phase for the Brainerd Foundation. In the winter of 2008, Paul Brainerd announced his intention to spend the foundation's entire endowment in the next 10 to 12 years, "Despite all that we have accomplished, the ecological challenges before us are as significant as humanity has ever faced. I believe we must each do whatever we can to protect the natural resources that sustain this planet because the need is nothing short of urgent. There are many ways to accomplish this, of course, and mine is to see that the foundation's entire endowment is spent in my lifetime. After much thought, I have decided to spend out the foundation's assets over the next 10 to 12 years and then pass the baton to a new generation of conservationists and philanthropists." As a result, the foundation renewed the goals set forth in our strategic plan and began planning for the foundation's sunset.

Grantmaking Highlights

Across our funding region, environmental leaders achieved conservation wins in both the policy arena and in local communities.

Conservation Policy

Idaho Conservation League waged a successful effort to press Nevada regulators to require improved emission-control equipment and emissions reporting at the largest source of airborne mercury in the country—a gold processing facility in Nevada that had been spewing thousands of pounds of mercury into Idaho's air. And Montana became the first state in the nation to require a coal-fired power plant to specifically consider air pollution controls for fine particulates, which can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Brainerd grantee Montana Environmental Information Center recruited community voices as vocal opponents of the plant; this strong and diverse base led to the victory.

Place-based Conservation

In the spring of 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill designating 106,000 acres in the North Cascades as the Wild Sky Wilderness, the first new wilderness area to gain protection in Washington State in more than twenty years. The Brainerd Foundation provided early seed money for Wild Sky to the Wilderness Society and Washington Wilderness Coalition.

In our High Divide focus area, the Madison County Board of Commissioners adopted a strong and sustainable Madison Valley Growth Management Action Plan. Brainerd grantees involved in this effort include the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, the Sonoran Institute, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

In our Crown of the Continent focus area the Milltown Dam was breached, connecting the upper and lower Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers for the first time in 100 years. Since remediation began, the waterway has been making a comeback after a century of contamination by mine waste. Since 2000, Brainerd grantee Clark Fork Coalition worked to transform dam removal and cleanup into a viable option that was eventually endorsed by the EPA, the State of Montana, federal and state legislators, local governments, and thousands of citizens and businesses in the communities near the Milltown Reservoir.


Early this year, we finished our foundation-initiated research covering socio-economic, demographic, and ecological data; nonpartisan political assessments; and media trends and coverage. Then we traveled throughout the Northwest sharing the findings with conservation groups and asking for feedback.

As part of our new strategy, and at the urging of our board, we designed a new evaluation plan that better measures how the foundation and our grantees are doing. Specifically, we are interested in how well we collectively strengthen the base of support for conservation, strengthen organizational capacity, and improve state-level conservation policies.

Grantmaking Highlights

Marking the first year of grantmaking under our newly minted strategic shift, we are happy to report significant achievements in all three of our major funding areas.

Conservation Policy

Each year in the Northwest, coalitions of conservation organizations work to build bipartisan support for state-level policy priorities. In both Oregon and Washington, 2007 was a red-letter year with wins achieved on all community priorities. In fact, many observers in Oregon hailed 2007 as the most pro-environment legislative session in decades. The Brainerd Foundation provided general support funding for the organizations leading these efforts.

2007 brought public debates about land-use planning to the fore statewide in Oregon and in the Mat-Su Borough of Alaska. Grants to 1000 Friends and other groups in Oregon and to Alaska Center for the Environment, in collaboration with local groups, helped to bring public education resources to those debates.

Place-based Conservation

In our High Divide focus area, the Madison County (Montana) Board of Commissioners adopted a growth management plan and the Lemhi County (Idaho) Commission adopted a new comprehensive plan. These achievements were due in no small measure to Brainerd grantees including the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Salmon Valley Stewardship, Lemhi Regional Land Trust, the Sonoran Institute, and Conservation Geography.

Conservation Capacity

In November, due to the persistent work of Conservation Capacity grantee Earthjustice, the Bush administration dropped a years-long effort to strip salmon protections from watersheds in Northwest national forests. This was in response to a federal court ruling that the Bush administration acted illegally by suppressing scientific dissent when it illegally modified environmental safeguards provided by the Northwest Forest Plan.



After an intensive planning process, we adopted a new strategic plan that we hope brings some innovative thinking to conservation in the Northwest. This shift in focus put a greater emphasis on building deeper public support for conservation in our region, strengthened by a renewed commitment to our core values, methods, and approaches. This comes from the realization that if we want to see enduring protection of the places we care about, we must increase the commitment of policy-makers and community leaders to embrace a deeper conservation ethic.

In 2006, we began conducting baseline analyses of each of the states and provinces in our funding region. This included nonpartisan political assessments, regional trend analyses, and media research to inform the foundation's future strategies and priorities. This research was designed to be shared with our grantees and funder colleagues.

As part of our shift in strategy, we created a new Grassroots Fund to help bring new voices to conservation concerns at the community level. In 2006, for example, this fund provided support to the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, a newly formed organization working to maintain stewardship opportunities for rural landowners. This grant recognizes the importance of their efforts to conserve ranchland, wildlife habitat, and environmental and cultural resources by building local, grassroots conservation capacity in a threatened region.

Grantmaking Highlights

The Brainerd Foundation has long relied upon the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) and other bedrock environmental laws and regulations to protect critical ecosystems in the region. In 2006, we continued to support the exemplary efforts of the Western Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice to defend these critical laws. Because of their sustained efforts, the structure of the NWFP has withstood nearly six years of legal challenges.

In a year that saw several hostile regulatory takings measures, Brainerd Foundation grantee Idaho Conservation League ran a state-wide effort to defeat one such measure in Idaho, leading to a 76% No vote—the highest margin of any takings measure in the country.

In Washington State, environmental protection faced a renewed threat from a ballot initiative intended to undermine the state's land use planning efforts. Similar to a previous grant made in 1995, the foundation funded an economic analysis by the University of Washington of the proposed ballot measure. This research highlighted the economic and legal impacts associated with the measure.

Further up the coast, we provided a grant to the Alaska Conservation Alliance in support of their new vision that capitalizes on bridge-building with new communities. Their efforts to link environmental protection and economic development demonstrate an innovative approach for protecting Alaska's air, land and water.

In February of 2006, after a decade-long struggle, the B.C. provincial government granted formal protection to the Great Bear Rainforest. A full 33 percent of the area's 15.5 million acres is now off limits to logging while the remaining two-thirds is subject to better, lighter-touch logging. The Brainerd Foundation made early investments in this work through groups like Round River Conservation Studies, Ecotrust Canada, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club of Canada's BC Chapter.



The foundation's internal evaluation that started in 2004 prepared us to ask tough questions about how to be more effective. Overall, the evaluators' assessment was positive. They found our grantmaking program successful and the work of our grantees top-notch.

However, the evaluation research firm also noted that we could play an expanded role in addressing some pressing needs. These included:

  • Enhanced collaboration between environmental organizations and funders,
  • Better strategic messaging when communicating with key audiences,
  • Involvement of new community partners, and
  • Greater emphasis on state and community-oriented opportunities.

Our board, advisors, and staff took to heart these observations and recommendations as we began development of a new strategic plan for the foundation. Along with this strategic planning work, we continued with our grantmaking in endangered ecosystems and communications and capacity-building to bolster the work of key grantees.

Grantmaking Highlights

Our appreciation for its leadership in fostering the collaborative Priorities for a Healthy Washington prompted us to award the Washington Environmental Council with a two-year general support grant emphasizing implementation of the group's new strategic plan and embracing a strategic role for conservation in the state.

Advocates for the West exercises its legal skills to promote conservation in public land management. In 2005, we supported its efforts to protect and restore endangered ecosystems in Idaho by preventing livestock grazing on sensitive public lands and protecting old growth habitat from clearcutting.

Our vision for healthy ecosystems in Oregon led us to support Oregon Natural Resources Council and its efforts to protect and restore the state's wildlands, wildlife, and waters.



We began the year with optimism about the possibilities for strengthening environmental protections and supported efforts to educate and engage the public in civic activities. We saw our grantees—and thousands of organizations around the country—struggle mightily to inject an element of environmental awareness into the electorate. Overshadowed by the war, the economy, and other issues, concerns about the environment failed to rise to the top tier of concerns among the voting public. Although the outlook for environmental policies at the federal level had never been so grim, our grantees made important advances on a mining initiative in Montana and in the legislatures of Montana and Washington State.

2004 ended on a reflective note. We hired an evaluation firm to assess our effectiveness as grantmakers and to help us measure the progress we had made on our last four-year strategic plan. This evaluation, completed in early 2005, helped guide our future planning as we prepared for the next ten years.

Grantmaking Highlights


In 2001, we awarded a Challenge Grant the Mineral Policy Center. At the end of the three-year grant, the organization had revamped its strategy and programs, changed its named to Earthworks, and was ready to launch a major new initiative—the "No Dirty Gold" campaign. In 2004, we gave Earthworks a grant for this campaign, which put pressure on the mining industry to adopt sustainable practices. Earthwork's ability to expand its reach beyond traditional allies was demonstrated by its partnership with jewelry luminary Tiffany & Company, which has become a partner in the campaign.

In 2002, the Tides Canada Foundation launched a project to increase Canadian conservation philanthropy and to provide additional support for conservation-oriented grantmaking in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. In 2004, we awarded them a third year of support for this critically important endeavor.

The Rockwood Leadership Program has provided invaluable training and tools to many of our grantees, as well as our own program staff. In 2004, we provided them with funding to offer a leadership training exclusively for women in the conservation movement in the Pacific Northwest.


As federal decision-makers continued their assaults on the environment, we worked with our grantees and our colleagues in the funding community to redouble our efforts. We developed a three-pronged approach, primarily through increased general support grants to educate the public on the dismantling of bedrock environmental laws at the federal level (such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Forest Management Act), defend against erosion of landmark environmental protections at the regional level (such as the Northwest Forest Plan), and help all of our grantees engage more effectively with allies at the local, state, and national level.

Collaboration among foundations helped stimulate and support the creation of new efforts, including the United Forest Defense Campaign and the United Endangered Species Campaign. These initiatives reflected a heightened level of coordination among national organizations and their partners at the state and local level.

As we talked with our grantees and reflected on the many challenges we all face in doing our work, we were struck by the sense of a growing polarization between the "environmental community" and many of the constituencies we all hoped to reach. To explore this further, we asked the communications firm of MacWilliams, Cosgrove, and Smith to share their thoughts about how conservationists could be more effective. This resulted in a memo that we shared with our grantees. Through ONE/NW, we helped to host an interactive dialogue among leaders working in different communities and organizations about this topic.

Grantmaking Highlights


With heightened public concern surrounding the protection of bedrock environmental laws, we provided significant support to Earthjustice, an invaluable legal advocate and resource for groups at the local, regional, and national level.

Our deep commitment to engaging broader constituencies in conservation work led to a second year of funding to Trout Unlimited to work with its membership, and others, to protect important fish and wildlife habitat from inappropriate energy and hardrock mining development on public lands. The strength of TU's effort in 2003 prompted us to give even greater support to the organization in 2004.


The dramatic economic downturn took a toll on foundation endowments, reducing the grantmaking budgets of many funders in the region. In the face of this destabilizing trend, the Brainerd Foundation's trustees committed to maintain its historic level of grantmaking; Paul Brainerd actively encouraged other foundations to follow our lead by keeping funding levels steady. To help our grantees develop realistic fundraising plans, we collaborated with our foundation colleagues and sent a report to grantees describing the changes they could expect from the different foundations making grants in the region. The conservation community faced one of its toughest years in memory. Budgets were down, the public was still reeling from the events of September 11 and the assaults on the environment were as aggressive as ever.

Despite these challenges, our grantees held the line on a number of critical defensive battles: Congressional attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling were repelled, the Interior Department's attempt to reduce the boundaries of the Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument was blocked, and a British Columbia court forestalled approval of the Tulsequah Chief Mine in the 5-million acre transboundary Taku Wilderness.

In addition to this, conservation organizations also made significant gains. In B.C., 3.6 million acres of the coastal temperate rainforest was protected from logging. In Montana, logging was prevented on 14,700 acres of roadless areas in the Bitterroot National Forest. At the international level, U.S. PIRG's innovative shareholder campaign aimed at British Petroleum bore fruit when the company withdrew from an industry trade association whose sole mission was to promote oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Grantmaking Highlights

Our commitment to scientific analysis led to a grant to American Wildlands to identify and map key habitat corridors in the Northern Rockies. The information was used to educate landowners and land management agencies about the importance of protecting critical wildlife habitat linkages throughout the Rocky Mountain states.

Our commitment to respectful dialogue at the community level prompted us to make a grant to the Montana Human Rights Network to confront intimidation tactics in northwest Montana aimed at environmental activists. Our grant helped respond to messages of hate and violence being promoted by a local radio station. The grant helped to create an alternative voice in the region, defusing tensions and promoting moderation and respect for the democratic process and conservation values.


In early 2001, as we prepared for four years under a new presidential administration, we took a hard look at our foundation's strategies and operations during a strategic planning process. Building on our experiences from the foundation's first six years, and the challenges that loomed ahead, we identified four programmatic imperatives: to protect the environment, to broaden and deepen the environmental movement, to leverage our foundation's investments and resources, and to encourage innovation in all of our endeavors.

The strategic plan gave us new ways to think about our work and compelled us to try different approaches. It prompted us to make some structural changes (for example, merging our Toxics and Communities program with Endangered Ecosystems, in order to better integrate our work). The need to further hone our priorities within the Endangered Ecosystems program was more apparent than ever, given the increasing threats to critical places in the region. To help us prioritize, we worked with the Conservation Biology Institute to develop a conservation science assessment of the region.

Our Communications and Capacity Building program began to explore what it would mean to think about engaging new constituencies through a "marketing" lens. We convened a number of our grantees to explore this concept and began funding a few pilot projects to test the ideas.

Grantmaking Highlights

With a grant to the National Audubon Society's Alaska office to perform a conservation area design of Alaska's North Slope, we broadened our focus to include not only the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but also the Western Arctic, a region that is globally significant to hundreds of species of migratory birds and critical for the herds of caribou relied upon by indigenous populations in the region.

The Idaho Conservation League, almost entirely with Brainerd Foundation funding, led the Boise Foothills levy. The 59% win came at a time when Boise had a conservative mayor, city council, and local legislative seats. The two-year levy raised $10 million for open space and natural resource conservation.

Recognizing the importance of engaging new voices in conservation issues, we provided funds to support the Columbia River Pastoral Letter project. The project stimulated a dialogue among church leaders, policy-makers and the public about issues that directly affect the Columbia River and the communities that depend on its health. It brought an important theological voice to a complex set of environmental issues that is still felt to this day.


In the final year of the Clinton administration, conservationists pressed hard to solidify their gains. Years of hard work by the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council in Oregon were rewarded with the creation of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. In southeastern Oregon, a cooperative effort between the Oregon Natural Desert Association and state and federal officials resulted in protection of the Steens Mountain Area.

Culminating five years of policy discussions and advocacy, the Clinton administration approved the Roadless Areas Protection Rule, protecting 50 million acres of unroaded federal land from development. These areas represent some of the best remaining wildlife and fisheries habitat in Southeast Alaska and the lower 48 states.

Grantmaking Highlights

One of the most powerful voices in the struggle to maintain protection of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are the Gwich'in, a native community that relies upon the Porcupine Caribou Herd for their culture and subsistence. To help amplify their voice, the foundation awarded a grant to them in 2000, underscoring the important connection between irreplaceable ecological resources and the human communities which depend on their integrity.

A very different kind of voice is that of the next generation of environmental leaders, often overlooked in the high-profile campaigns that make the headlines. The foundation's first grant to Green Corps was seen as an opportunity to begin making a serious investment in the future of the environmental movement. This organization recruits and trains an amazing cadre of talented young people to serve as the ground troops for environmental campaigns around the country.

Bringing the voice of the consumer to the defense of Canada's ancient forests, in 2000 we made our first investment in Greenpeace's Canadian Markets Initiative, an innovative strategy that uses market pressure to influence logging practices in Canada. Over the years, this savvy campaign has had a significant impact on the practices of the British Columbia forestry industry and stands as a model for other similar efforts.


This was a year marked by critical reflection and the launching of a major new initiative. To find out how we were doing as a foundation, we hired an independent firm to survey our grantees, talk to groups that we had declined, and interview our foundation colleagues. Our grantees told us that we were respectful, accessible and adding value to their work beyond the grant dollars. Grantees also encouraged us to consider larger grants and more multi-year commitments, and asked us to share more information about the groups we fund and the lessons we are learning from their work.

We incorporated some of these suggestions right away, by changing our Web site to include profiles of funded projects and direct links to grant recipients. We also launched the Challenge Grant program, an initiative aimed at building the capacity and effectiveness of our grantees. Three organizations were invited to participate in this program in 1999, and three more in each of the subsequent two years. Unlike typical program support, these grants provided groups with $325,000 over three years. When the program ended in 2005, we evaluated its success and used lesson learned to strengthen future grantmaking.

Grantmaking Highlights

We gave the first of several grants to the Hollyhock Leadership Institute, which provides leadership training and strategic support for the conservation community in British Columbia. This investment has proven its worth many times over as we observe the growing collaboration and effectiveness of the activist community in B.C.

Several years after initiating funding in support of wildlife connectivity along the Rocky Mountains, we made a first time investment in the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a coalition of organizations working together to maintain and restore the unique natural heritage of this critically important region.

The first of nine Challenge Grants was awarded to the Idaho Conservation League, an organization that we had known for many years. ICL was our test case for the Challenge Grant program in many ways and taught us valuable lessons about the unpredictable nature of capacity building. In the end, the organization showed us that when leaders focus on the health of their organizations, the effectiveness of their work can increase exponentially, even in the most challenging of landscapes.


The foundation marked its fourth year by refining its focus and deepening its expertise. Using the science of conservation biology, the Endangered Ecosystems program prioritized specific geographic areas within our funding region for increased attention. The Toxics and Communities program scaled back funding for pulp and paper campaigns, in order to concentrate more resources toward protecting Northwest communities from the impacts of hardrock mining. As we narrowed our focus, we also expanded our grantmaking region to include the Yukon Territory, which encompasses critical ecosystems that cross the political boundaries of both Alaska and British Columbia. We expanded the focus of our communications program to include grants to organizations working on citizen participation, including voter education work.

To deepen our expertise, we assembled an advisory council composed of individuals with expertise in science, politics, economics, community organizing, and communications. Representing the geographic diversity of the funding region, these advisors provide the board and staff with an on-the-ground perspective, and help the foundation make strategic grant decisions.

Grantmaking Highlights

A new opportunity to help conservationists communicate more effectively emerged when Environmental Media Services decided to open a Northwest office. Already well established as a national organization, EMS was a welcome addition to our region. The foundation made its first of several significant contributions to Environmental Media Services to help it grow deep roots in the community; now known as Resource Media, it has become a trusted and invaluable advisor to grantees throughout the Northwest.

In the north, the B.C. government announced its long-awaited decision to permanently protect 11 million acres in the Northern Rockies, the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. Future efforts brought this total to nearly 16 million acres, an area roughly equal in size to the state of West Virginia. This announcement came after many years of campaigning by Brainerd grantees, led by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Chetwynd Environmental Society.

After a seed grant in 1996 to Sierra Legal Defence Fund for a Native environmental law center, we made a grant in 1998 to the nascent EAGLE, now an independent organization operating to empower First Nations to protect the environment in their traditional territories by using legal remedies and education.



In its third year, the foundation focused on new tools in both its grantmaking and its own analyses. To deepen its understanding of the region's endangered ecosystems, the foundation began a multi-year investment in an assessment of the region, using the science of conservation biology. This investment grew into a tool to help grantmakers throughout the Northwest identify critical ecosystems.

Although environmental advocates often argue for protection of natural resources based on science, we recognized the power of economics in influencing public opinion and the decisions of government officials. Thus, the foundation began to identify tools that would enable advocates to better understand and communicate about the region's economy. We found some of the most compelling work on these issues to be that of Dr. Thomas Power, economics department chair at the University of Montana in Missoula. We began disseminating this work as a part of our service to the community of environmental activists in our region.

Grantmaking Highlights

The 1996 elections brought new leadership and a renewed interest in opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and development. The foundation gave grants designed to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting the Refuge to groups like the Alaska Wilderness League. The foundation convened fellow grantmakers to discuss how our general support and public education-oriented grants could further protect this national treasure. This effort led to a multi-year endeavor, which continues today, and an unprecedented level of collaboration among foundations and grantees working toward a common goal.

The foundation invested in another new organization, TREC (Training Resources for the Environmental Community), which established a fundraising training program for conservation organizations in the region. TREC was seeded and inspired by the Wilburforce Foundation and is now exclusively funded by them. It remains one of the most vital service providers for the area's conservation community.



In its second year, the Brainerd Foundation analyzed its fledgling programs and refined its focus. After the frenzied work of launching a new organization, executive director Deb Callahan was lured to Washington, D.C. to become the head of the League of Conservation Voters and the foundation recruited Ann Krumboltz from the Energy Foundation to serve as its new executive director.

The foundation affirmed its commitment to practice respectful, responsive, and transparent philanthropy, embracing the ideals articulated in Michael Shuman's "A Grantee Bill of Rights." In her first executive director's message, Ann defined the themes that guide the foundation's work: encouraging collaboration between like-minded groups, building citizen support of natural resource conservation, fostering entrepreneurial and strategic approaches to complex issues, and strengthening the organizational infrastructure for grassroots involvement.

Grantmaking Highlights

In another year of start-ups, the foundation provided seed money to help launch the Western Mining Action Network, a region-wide network that fosters collaboration among groups working to protect their communities from the environmental degradation brought by the mining industry. This network continues to thrive mare than two decades later, strengthening the bonds between activists and increasing the effectiveness of grassroots groups.

In British Columbia, a grant to Round River Conservation Studies was used to develop a conservation strategy for the temperate rainforests along B.C.'s coast. Working with the Heiltsuk First Nation, this effort became a model for the successful B.C. Coast campaign and pioneered the Conservation Areas Design (CAD) process.

Further up the coast, a grant to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council enabled long-time activists in more than a dozen small towns and villages to successfully stave off attempts to log in protected areas of the Tongass National Forest. Efforts to protect the Tongass have been hard fought on all sides and require continued perseverance more than a decade after the passage of a federal law protecting this irreplaceable resource. This reality underscores the foundation's commitment to help organizations improve their ability to communicate effectively in their communities.

Our first grant to the Sonoran Institute taught us that wildlife corridors cross valley bottoms as well as mountain ridges in the West, reminding us of the need to work with private landowners to shape the future of lowland shrub-steppe and prairie landscapes in the Northwest.


The Brainerd Foundation was formed to safeguard the environment and build broad citizen support for environmental protection in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. In 1995, Paul Brainerd invited his sister, Sherry Brainerd, to join him on the board to oversee this new endeavor. Sherry, also an entrepreneur from the business world, shares Paul's passion for protecting the region where they grew up. It was in the summer of 1995 that Paul, founding executive director Deb Callahan, and program officer Jim Owens toured the region, hosting gatherings with local leaders and volunteers in more than 18 communities. These gatherings gave Paul, Deb, and Jim an opportunity to learn about the landscape and the community of organizations and activists who sought to protect the region's extraordinary natural resources. Informed and inspired by these meetings, the foundation launched its grantmaking program, with an emphasis on protecting endangered ecosystems, preventing toxic pollution, and developing effective communication strategies.

Grantmaking Highlights

In its first year of grantmaking, the foundation laid the groundwork for what it hoped would be important initiatives for the Northwest environmental community.

The start-up of ONE/NW (Online Networking for the Environment) was initiated by an early commitment of funding from the Brainerd and Bullitt foundations, and nurtured by Paul Brainerd's entrepreneurial guidance as a founding board member. The purpose of this new organization was to help environmentalists in the region make effective use of electronic networking, by providing technical assistance, training and other services. ONE/NW's role in the region grew exponentially during the next decade, dramatically increasing the technical savvy of thousands of activists and organizations.

In Alaska, groups came together to learn more about communication strategies and message development. Funded through a grant to the Alaska Conservation Foundation, this communications initiative became a model for similar collaborative efforts in other parts of the region.

In Washington State, the foundation saw a modest investment in research reap enormous rewards. With environmental protection threatened by a proposed ballot initiative on "takings," a grant to the University of Washington's Institute for Public Policy allowed dissemination of an economic analysis of the proposed ballot measure. This research was a critical element in the ultimate defeat of the initiative.