Ecotrust in the Copper: The First Ten Years
The Prince William Sound / Copper River ecosystem lies at the northern edge of North America's coastal temperate rain forest. Covering some 25 million acres and with a population of 9,000 inhabitants, this is a region of exceptional granduer.
Ecotrust has been active in this community since 1989, the year that the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
Ecotrust helped to cornerstone the Prince William Sound Science Center. In addition to direct financial assistance, Spencer Beebe, an early corporate mentor, joined the board and provided introductions and encouragements that brought private foundation funding to the science center. July of 1991 saw the publication of Prince William Sound, Copper River, and North Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem. Conceived by Spencer Beebe of Ecotrust, and sponsored by the Prince William Sound Science Center, Conservation International, and the U.S.F.S Copper River Delta Institute, this study and series of photos and maps initiated the effort to look at the entire region as an interconnected and dependent system. With an introduction by Governor Wally Hickel, the document was the first step in laying out a data rich, spatially explicit, landscape approach to understanding the complexities of the region. Ed Backus of Ecotrust was instrumental in the development of the project, which also resulted in a GIS based CD containing information on the diverse physical and biological components of the region.
Ecotrust then engaged fisherman/biologist Rick Steiner to help engineer protection strategies for areas impacted by the spill. Recruiting a coalition of commercial fisherman, Native communities, and environmental organizations as supporters, he helped get funds from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill settlement to purchase the logging and timber rights on 650,000 acres of temperate rain forest and coastal wetlands. As a result, most of the remaining narrow band of spruce, hemlock, and red and yellow cedar around the 2,700-mile coastline of Prince William Sound has been protected.
In 2002, Ecotrust hired RJ Kopchak, fisherman and first President of the Prince William Sound Science Center as Director of our Copper River Ecosystem Program. RJ will be working with local organizations to extend science and resource conservation efforts into the Copper River watershed.