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Ecotrust in the News

The Cordova Times
July 24, 2003
By Jon Holland

Ecotrust pushes "Salmon Nation"

A Portland, Ore., environmental outfit called Ecotrust held its first Cordova board meeting at Prince William Sound Science Center last Friday. The meeting was closed, but Ecotrust's big plans for the Copper River watershed are no secret.

Ecotrust is pushing a concept called "Salmon Nation," which encompasses the range of all five species of Pacific Salmon along the west coast of the Lower 48, Canada and Alaska.

"It already exists. It is the oldest natural nation in North America…," the group's mission statement declares.

The operative world is "natural." Salmon Nation's economies all are bound by their mutual interdependence on salmon. The forests depend on salmon carcasses for nitrogen and the people harvest salmon for food, or as a commodity for sale or barter.

Throughout their range, Pacific salmon have traditionally been the foundation of life and economies and Ecotrust is out to restore that balance. But these are not the 1970s-style, radical environmentalists chaining themselves to trees and chanting slogans.

Ecotrust is run by smart people backed by real money. They are keenly aware that environmental or conservation sensibilities are considered a luxury by the residents of Salmon Nation, when they can't make a living. So Ecotrust also runs on a social agenda — healthy economies throughout the Pacific salmon.

"Ecotrust has provided financing for conservation and sustainable development projects from San Francisco to Alaska," said Ecotrust's man in Cordova, R.J. Kopchak. "Salmon Nation, our core project is different from anything anywhere else. It's about science-based, sustainable resource planning with an emphasis on local economies. Conservation that enhances, rather than impacts, local economies."

Ecotrust is no paper tiger. It owns a $20 million interest in Shorebank Pacific, a subsidiary of Shorebank International, the largest sustainable-business bank in the United States, Kopchak said. Shorebank Pacific has loaned money for timber development, fishing organizations, fish processors and even shellfish farmers.

"We put our money where our mouth is," Kopchak said.

Ecotrust is more than a bunch of politically-naïve, leftover 1960s radicals. Its board includes millionaires, captains of industry and experienced political operators.

"We've been working with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for two years," Kopchak said.

Gordon Moore is the founder of Intel. The Moore Foundation announced three month ago that it was donating $2.5 million to the "State of the Salmon Program," a three-year, joint project between Ecotrust and the Wild Salmon Center in Portland to assess the condition of salmon population from Japan all the way around the Pacific Rim and down to San Francisco.

Ecotrust's board envisions a large-landscape, intensive-management plan involving a web of partnerships with the agencies, private landowners and fish harvesters, in the 26,000-square-mile drainage.

Nancy Bird, president of the Prince William Sound Science Center, said she is looking forward to working with Ecotrust and providing it with scientific data. Kopchak said Ecotrust plans to rely heavily on the Copper River Watershed Project and the Native Village of Eyak for field work.

Key to the plan will be so called "anchor habitats," areas crucial to the viability of the fishery. Other aspects of the plans will include innovative marketing strategies for the fishermen, a national media campaign against farmed fish and active partnership with Native organizations throughout the watershed.

Last Friday, a three-year, $660,000 grant was awarded to the Copper River project to get its conservation and assessment projects up and running, Kopchak said."It's about 35-40 percent of our budget here," he said.

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