Corporate green supplants corporate greed
As often happens at Cascade Land Conservancy breakfasts, the mob of political candidates waiting at the Seattle convention center escalator created as much congestion as morning rains on I-405 in Bellevue.
The Conservancy marked its 20th birthday on Thursday by drawing 1,880 guests to its early morning event, and celebrated conserving 155,000 acres of land with projects from Willapa Bay to Ellensburg.
It has worked successfully to protect land around Snoqualmie Falls, midwifed creation of the 90,000-acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm, and protected land along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.
And it's dreaming bigger dreams. As people move into the Puget Sound Basin, the Conservancy hopes eventually to have 1.3 million acres set aside as working forests and farms, protected beaches plus urban and suburban parks.
"We will only stop sprawling onto our natural lands when we make our cities and communities worthy of our children," said Conservancy boss Gene Duvernoy, explaining how this goal can be achieved.
Gov. Chris Gregoire was on hand to pitch the argument that economic growth and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. Quality of life is an incentive to settle and start a business here, she argued.
"People come here to kayak in Puget Sound, to hike at Mt. Rainier, or raft down the Columbia River," Gregoire said.
Of course, 11 dams block the Columbia River -- with only one 47 mile stretch of un-dammed river over in the Hanford Reach. Any rafting party must have strong backs for portages.
Still . . .
The annual breakfast is striking in that it brings together old foes. The cry of Corporate Greed! has been replaced by Corporate Green.
In days not too long ago, environmental groups fought Weyerhaeuser over the size of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area between Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes. Puget Power encountered furious resistance from greens when it tried to erect a huge nuclear power plant in the Skagit Valley.
Well, that was then . . .
Today, the Conservancy has found a wellspring of cash that makes other organizations green with envy.
When the Conservancy launched its $20 million Cascade Agenda Campaign, kickoff grants came from the Weyerhaeuser Foundation ($750,000), the Boeing Company ($750,000), the Norcliffe Foundation ($500,000) and the Bullitt Foundation ($1 million).
Boeing, Vulcan, Puget Sound Energy, Quadrant Homes, the Port Blakely Companies plus the K & L Gates and Davis Wright Tremaine law firms were among major sponsors of the breakfast.
Few environmental awards in America show the diversity of the Conservancy's annual Frank Pritchard Lifetime Achievement Award. One year it went to Microsoft co-founder (and Vulcan boss) Paul Allen, the next year to environmental benefactor Patsy Bullitt Collins. Native leader Bill Frank, Jr., is a past winner, as is former Republican King County Councilwoman Louise Miller.
The Conservancy's board of directors includes bankers, a Boeing Executive, major corporate lawyers, plus the president and incoming CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
With its sponsors, the breakfast on Tuesday raised $400,000 "before you even showed up," lawyer-foundation executive Martha Kongsgaard said in her fund raising pitch, and guests were asked to pony up another $300,000.
Gregoire had good news to announce in times of economic doldrums.
She announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "has $20 million set aside for the action agenda of Puget Sound." She added that the Legislature has set aside $70 million for Washington Wildlife and Recreation grants, designed to preserve threatened habitat.
The governor signed legislation establishing a regional program for voluntary transfer of development rights. It creates a regional market for the trading of development rights, increasing the potential for protecting working forests and farms. An EPA grant is being sought to launch the program.
"Over the next hundred years, our population will double, even triple," Duvernoy predicted. "Think about what would happen if we turned our backs on all this."