Reflections on a Collaborative Funder Relationship with The Russell Family Foundation 

In 2002 Stewardship Partners was barely 3 years old, but that year marked the beginning of a critical partnership that has brought us to where we are today. Our collaboration with The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) began with a grant. In financial terms alone, this partnership has been foundational, totaling over $1 Million granted since 2002. But this partnership does not begin and end with the money. The collaborative problem solving and network building that we have done together has been equally important in creating a movement of community-focused stewardship across the Puget Sound region. The close of 2020 seemed like a good time to indulge in hindsight, so I sat down virtually with Holly Powers, Senior Program Officer at TRFF to pause and reflect on our collective history.

Rather than transcribe our entire, far-reaching conversation, I’ve decided to pull together observations from both the grant-maker and grantee perspectives that made this a successful relationship.

As a grant-maker, TRFF is very clear in their understanding that they only succeed when their partners succeed. I think the approach is exemplified by what Holly described as trying to be the funder who gets a call when things don’t go as planned, rather than the funder you try to avoid. As a grantee, that approach means that we are trusted to lead the work, understand the challenges, and respond effectively without being penalized for innovating or changing course when needed. Even the most well-planned projects encounter unexpected challenges. Knowing that a funder wants to know about those challenges and might help us collaboratively, means that challenges are opportunities to do better rather than failures of foresight. Taking this approach to the next level, when COVID -19 changed everything for everyone, TRFF didn’t wait for their grantees to tell them what they needed. Instead, they asked us what had changed and what did we need to weather the storm. Providing additional financial support and peer-to-peer connections with other grantees has helped many organizations continue our collective work in the face of a challenging time.

Another significant aspect of TRFF’s approach is the value they place on connecting grantees to each other. Many of our most essential partnerships came about because of TRFF’s active efforts to connect their grantees. Examples include the Habitat for Humanity homes near Tacoma that we certified Salmon-Safe and the thought-leader convening TRFF started with Sightline Institute that gave rise to our Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Connections like these make everything we do more impactful and effective.

As a grantee, it’s always humbling and lovely to hear from a funder why they support your work, and as partners in and supporters of our work, I want to share some of Holly’s thoughts on Stewardship Partners. I think my favorite thing was hearing that walking into the Stewardship Partners office has always felt like being invited into a living room for a cup of coffee and a conversation. That we have created a culture and a welcoming sense of community with partners feels like a significant accomplishment and one that doesn’t fit in any grant reporting metrics. TRFF also sees us as we see ourselves as a ‘small but mighty’ organization able to catalyze, respond quickly, and nimbly to emerging issues and opportunities, but not clinging to ownership at the expense of the idea. Yet, for anything involving stormwater and green infrastructure, we act as a hub, keeping the wheel rolling forward. The 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign for Puget Sound is one example. SP coordinated rain garden resource hubs and trainings across 12 counties, leading to the regional multi-sector City Habitats network and the annual Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Holly also described Stewardship Partners as a ‘first to listen’ partner. From our first projects, we have acknowledged our partners on the land and communities as the work leaders. We have always understood that we need to listen to them to make anything happen and move anything forward. Having that part of our values identified so clearly is so validating. But then again, it makes sense. It takes one to know one, and TRFF and Stewardship Partners both know that we only succeed when our partners succeed

I want to close by thanking Holly Powers, Fabiola Greenwalt, Linsey Sauer, Britta Franscesconi, Kathleen Simpson, and past team members Richard Woo and Scott Miller, as well as the Russell Family and the TRFF board of directors. It is an honor to partner with you all.

Written by Aaron Clark

Photo courtesy of TRFF

Tire Chemical Kills Coho Salmon

Recent research by our partners at the University of Washington and Washington State University has identified a specific chemical in tire rubber that is killing countless Coho salmon right before they spawn in streams across the region. Other species of salmon are likely affected to varying degrees. The chemical 6PPD appears to be universally used in all tires currently made. Unfortunately, we don’t have any Salmon-Safe certified tires to offer yet (though we are actively supporting that pursuit). In the meantime, the best thing we can do is to keep building rain gardens and trying to get more of them installed wherever roadway runoff gets into salmon streams (which in our region is almost anywhere there are roads and parking lots). 

To help car tires — and maybe salmon runs — last longer:

  • Drive less. Fewer miles driven equals less tire dust. Consider if you can walk, bike or bus to your destination instead of driving.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and maintained.
  • Drive less aggressively: Don’t “lay rubber” when accelerating or braking.
  • Drive small. Small cars shed about half as much tire dust per mile as large cars, according to European studies. Trucks shed several times more.

To find out more about this vital cutting edge research here is the original research article. Media coverage of this research has been done by The Seattle TimesThe New York TimesMotor TrendNW Public Broadcasting and more.

Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea

Building off of the 2020 Green Infrastructure Summit and events since, it is more apparent than ever that we can’t merely fix and put back the stuff that breaks (due to a pandemic, racial inequity, economic downturn, etc.). Instead, we need better stuff. So this year, the theme of the summit is “Evolving Green Infrastructure: adapting systems for better outcomes.” 

Up-to-date info can be found on the summit webpage. There are many details still in the offing, but below is what we know:

  •  This summit will be held virtually over the mornings of March 25th and 26th, 2021 (mark your calendars).
  • After five years of calling this event the “Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit” we are pleased to announce that we are renaming it the “Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea.”  This re-naming is in recognition and honor of the original Indigenous inhabitants and stewards of this land and water, the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, since time immemorial. This re-naming also underscores our continued commitment to identify and implement solutions that protect and enhance the Salish Sea basin, through collaboration, best practices, racial equity, and community engagement. 
  • If you have a topic or story that you would like to share, please fill out this simple online abstract submission form. Your submission does not need to include details. Many of the best summit presentations started as a simple sentence. But the deadline for submissions is January 26th (extended), so don’t delay!
  • This event will give us all a chance to connect across geographies and sectors, discuss and learn about topics as far reaching as: leadership in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties; green infrastructure across the urban-rural continuum; whole watershed systems; storytelling; maintenance; stimulus spending; climate resilience; tires; silos; racial equity; the WA environmental justice task force; youth leadership; career pathways; the state of the science and what works and what doesn’t. 
  • Financial sponsors make this event possible. If your organization would like to learn more, please email Aaron Clark.

Looking Back on Our 2020 Accomplishments

As a generous supporter of Stewardship Partners, you are the reason we continue to step up and fill the gap of providing environmental solutions for communities and individuals to be great stewards of this beautiful place we call home. While this year continues to be challenging, we are resilient. Thanks to you, we persist in our efforts to work for the water and land that sustain us all.

While our workplaces shifted, Stewardship Partners’ hard-working staff forged ahead. The Snoqualmie Stewardship Program restored two acres of habitat by planting over 6,000 plants at multiple farms. We also completed a new Snoqualmie Valley Stewardship Handbook, a great resource for landowners.

The 5th Annual Green Infrastructure Summit adapted to a global pandemic and brought forward nine virtual panel discussions over four weeks and engaged a bigger and broader audience than ever. We covered big ideas and impacts that go way beyond water alone. Topics included incentives, education, communication, trees, authentic community engagement, racial equity in green infrastructure, and we shined a spotlight on innovative leadership in the south Puget Sound. We also continued to shift conversations regionally on green infrastructure incentives, bringing more support for environmental improvement to underserved and overburdened communities, leading the way with our own equitable incentive programs.

We were able to create protocols for Salmon-Safe virtual assessments of farms, vineyards, and golf courses. Several properties joined the Salmon-Safe network this year, furthering the label’s value and consumer demand for sustainable products and management.

This year, we weren’t able to gather at a community farm table for Feast on the Farm, but the urgency of sustainability is clearer than ever before. Along with sustainability, the need for community has never been greater. The Feast’s pivot to a community-building at-home experience wouldn’t have been possible without generous volunteers, partners, supporters, sponsors, farmers, and chefs. Feast on the Farm at home raised $55,400, which will directly support our conservation and restoration initiatives in Puget Sound!

We are thinking of you and how you might be impacted by this global crisis and if we can support you in your own stewardship or just want to connect, please reach out to us. Stewardship Partners would not be the same without you. Thank you for being loyal to our organization, loving the land, our communities, and ultimately creating a story of growth. By staying present, slowing down, and spending time alone or with family, we will grow now more than ever. And if you are doing annual giving this year, please consider Stewardship Partners.

Salmon in the City Coming to a Screen Near You!

Join Salmon-Safe on October 29th for Salmon in the City 2020 – Registration is live!  This free, virtual event will highlight innovations in ecologically sustainable urban design and development that protect water quality and our urban watershed. NOAA Fisheries will present groundbreaking research regarding the impacts of urban stormwater on salmon and watersheds. The event will feature pioneering design collaborations bridging architecture and ecology as well as case studies of projects incorporating Salmon-Safe stormwater design principles. Register Today

Expanding our Stormwater Management Throughout the Snoqualmie Valley

We all need clean water to survive. We all should know this by now. The salmon we so cherish need clean water to survive as well. We all should know this by now. Our beloved orcas that symbolize our region need clean water and salmon to survive. We should all know this by now. Knowing is the first step, and now is the time to act to ensure that our region has clean water for the orcas, for the salmon and for us for generations to come. For nearly 20 years the Snoqualmie Stewardship program has focused on riparian habitat restoration along the Snoqualmie River and its tributaries. We’ve made a lot of great progress in that regard. As we continue this riparian restoration work, we are also focusing on expanding our efforts, not only by planting trees along the river, but by educating and engaging the public in green stormwater management efforts.

Starting with one small rain garden installation at Carnation Elementary School a few years ago, thanks to King County Flood Control Districts Flood Reduction Fund, we are now leading an effort to educate and connect community members, businesses and organizations in green infrastructure implementation. We are doing this collaboratively as we have all along with partners such as Nature Vision, The Snoqualmie Tribe, Aspect Consulting, King County, the City of Carnation, Full Circle Farm and Orenda Winery. Soon Stewardship Partners will sponsor workshops in Carnation that include educational talks and tools for green stormwater infrastructure implementation including cistern giveaways! We will also be installing a bioswale at Full Circle Farm to treat stormwater and production runoff before it reaches Griffin Creek!           

Carnation Elementary School Rain Garden Installation
Carnation Elementary School Rain Garden Installation

As we quickly approach the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day we urge folks to take action alongside Stewardship Partners and all our friends as we continue to pave the way for innovative restoration of the land and water that sustain us. If your group, school, business or church would like to get involved with a one of our on the ground projects please contact Chris LaPointe at cl@stewardshippartners.org or sign up on the volunteer calendar on our website.      

Tickets are On Sale for the 5th Annual Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit!

It’s hard to believe that we created the first ever Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit 5 whole years ago this month! It seems like yesterday and yet an awful lot has happened in those 5 years. This year we’re proud to again bring together a community of green infrastructure thought leaders from the .com, .org, .gov, and .edu sectors and from every corner of Puget Sound, this time in Tacoma on March 20th, 2020! It’s inspiring and humbling to hear from partners and attendees who credit the summit with catalyzing new projects, partnerships, and strategies to address some of the region’s most pressing and complex problems. Never ones to get stuck in a rut, the green infrastructure summit always touches on a lot more than the stormwater that green infrastructure is typically built to address. Like a rain garden, the reason to attend the summit goes way past one single problem or solution.

Scenes from the inspirational 2019 Summit

At this year’s summit, attendees will hear from professors, youth leaders, agency officials, nonprofits and businesses about the vast array of benefits that green infrastructure can provide. This year’s theme is “Growing green infrastructure: Impacts and Intersectionalities When Scaling Up.” We hope you can join us! Purchase your ticket here.

Stewardship Partners’ 2019 Highlights

Supporters are central to the success of Stewardship Partners and are one of the main reasons why our programs had such a profound positive impact throughout our region this year. By supporting Stewardship Partners, you continue to support a healthy Puget Sound environment.

Your support this year allowed us to:

  • Plant 15,000 native trees and shrubs
  • Restore 2.4 river miles
  • Restore 10.5 acres of vital riparian habitat
  • Engage volunteers in over 2,800 hours of work
  • Grow our Salmon-Safe program to over 100 farms and vineyards
  • Grow our coalition of over 100 green infrastructure partners
  • Host the 2019 Green Infrastructure Summit and begin planning for the 2020 Summit, to be located outside of King County for the first time
  • Provide resources and financial incentives for green infrastructure ($100,000 of incentives awarded to date)
  • Engage in the Seattle Waterfront Project alongside new partners
  • Host the 10th Annual Feast on the Farm, raising over $151,000 in direct support of conservation and restoration initiatives in Puget Sound

THANK YOU FOR BEING A STEWARDSHIP PARTNER!

Make Your End of Year Gift

This season, Patagonia Action Works is matching donations made to their environmental grantees! Now through December 31st, donations made through their site will receive a dollar-for-dollar match! Please help us take advantage of this amazing opportunity by making your year-end gift to Stewardship Partners through Patagonia Action Works! Thank you Patagonia!

You can also give directly through our website. Only together can we fight for clean water, healthy salmon and wildlife habitats, sustainable agriculture, healthy communities, and overall stewardship of our shared environment.

Remembering a Friend of the Salmon – Bill Ruckelshaus

Bill and Governor Gregoire visiting Stewardship Partners rain gardens in Burien (2012)

On behalf of the staff and Board of Stewardship Partners, I am sad to announce the passing today of Bill Ruckelshaus. There are only a few people in the world that worked as hard to recover salmon in our watersheds across the region. The salmon have lost one of their best friends.

Bill had the ability to work with anyone including tribes, businesses, government, farmers and non-profits with integrity and honesty making him a great American hero for the natural environment. His priority was putting the environment before politics or party.

Bill was the first director of the EPA, led the U.S./Canada salmon negotiations, was the chair of Shared Strategy, the first chair of Puget Sound Partnership, and held so many other leadership roles. Bill received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2015.

We went fishing together several years ago in the San Juan Islands and I remember Bill telling all of us on the boat that this would probably be one of the last times he goes fishing. Turns out it was, and I feel lucky to have shared that time with him. Bill had many accomplishments and was taller than most but was never intimidating. He was a warm down-to earth person that was willing to listen and give his time, talent and wisdom to what he called “doing the right thing for the fish.”

Bill has been a longtime friend and supporter of Stewardship Partners. We will miss him dearly and our thoughts go out to his family.

Written by David Burger – Stewardship Partners Executive Director