A coalition of Southeast tribes and the region’s largest Native corporation announced on Thursday the creation of an endowment designed to support conservation and economic development. They’re calling it the Seacoast Trust.
Sealaska Corporation and The Nature Conservancy have set aside $10 and $7 million respectively in seed money to help support the fund that they say they’d like to eventually grow to $100 million.
Its work will be coordinated by Southeast Sustainable Partnership, a decade-old effort that runs projects in towns and villages across Southeast Alaska. That partnership will run the programs funded by the new trust.
Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott told reporters that some projects are already running across Southeast. But the growth of the new fund could help them expand in new places and on a larger scale.
“This just gives us the pathway to increase the number of projects and bring on more partners and more communities,” he said.
Southeast tribes including the Organized Village of Kasaan, Organized Village of Kake and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are helping lead the effort on the ground.
“Our people watched the Tongass grow,” Tlingit & Haida President Richard Peterson said Thursday. “And this forest has taken care of us for generations. And who better than us to lead efforts to care for our forests and our resources.”
Fran Ulmer, a former Alaska lieutenant governor and Juneau mayor who now works for The Nature Conservancy, says her conservation group is pleased to offer $7 million towards getting the Seacoast Trust off the ground.
“It is an exciting opportunity to really make something happen that has durability and sustainability,” she said. “And that recognizes how important it is that collaborative land and resource management with Indigenous people leading the way is what really makes sense in Alaska and in many other places in the world.”
Financial oversight of the Seacoast Trust will be done by Spruceroot, a nonprofit originally founded by Sealaska that is now organizationally independent. The Juneau-based nonprofit offers seed money and expertise for new businesses.