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Ecotrust is a conservation organization based in Portland, Oregon that works to foster prosperous communities along the West Coast of North America.

History and programs[edit]

Ecotrust was founded in 1991 by Spencer Beebe, who brought his conservation experience in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America home to North America’s temperate rain forests. Prior to Ecotrust, Beebe was president of The Nature Conservancy International Program and founding president of Conservation International.

With the core belief that "the economy of nature and the ecology of man are inseparable,"[1] Ecotrust has sought to integrate economic and community development strategies into traditional conservation – and to establish working models of what the organization has variously called: ecosystem economics, conservation-based development, or a conservation economy.[2]

Ecotrust’s advisors have included urbanist Jane Jacobs, ecological economist and steady-state theorist Herman Daly, forestry scientist Jerry Franklin, and counterculture icon Stewart Brand. In 2003, ecologist Peter Warshall summarized the organization’s activities with the statement, "Ecotrust is about designing a future."[3]

Ecotrust began by surveying temperate rain forests as a distinct ecoregion, an analysis that led the organization to identify British Columbia’s Kitlope River as the largest intact temperate rain forest watershed in the world. Beebe and others from Ecotrust visited the region and engaged the Haisla First Nation, whose traditional territory included the Kitlope. The organization supported the Haisla in launching a Rediscovery Program for cultural education and, four years later, in securing provincial government recognition for over 750,000 acres (3,000 km2) of temperate rain forest as Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees (the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area).[4][5][6]

A source of inspiration for the organization has been Wendell Berry’s quote, "The answers, if they are to come, and if they are to work, must be developed in the presence of the user on the land; they must be developed to some degree by the user on the land."[7] In addition to Ecotrust’s work in the Kitlope region, the organization’s support of local leadership and communities has included Pribilof Islands, Alaska;[8] Prince William Sound / Copper River, Alaska;[9] Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia;[10] Willapa Bay, Washington;[11] and the Klamath region, Oregon / California[12]

In 1992, seeking to find greater financial resources for entrepreneurial efforts in these communities, Ecotrust initiated discussions with ShoreBank Corporation, the Chicago-based leader in community development banking. In 1995, the two partnered in founding ShoreBank Enterprise (now ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia), a non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI), and in 1997 ShoreBank Pacific, the nation’s first environmental bank.[13] In 1995, Ecotrust also helped to create Ecotrust Canada, an independent affiliate, based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Another emphasis for the organization has been an effort to characterize the region, based on its human / nature interrelationships. Ecotrust published the first distribution and status maps of temperate rain forests and Pacific salmon of North America, as well as a series of books that include The Rain Forests of Home: Profile of a North American Bioregion and Salmon Nation: People, Fish and Our Common Home.

Later in the 1990s, with advice from board member Jane Jacobs, Ecotrust expanded its attention to urban markets. The organization redeveloped a Portland warehouse into the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, the first historic restoration in the country to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) gold award,[14] and launched what has become one of the nation’s leading programs for sustainable food and farming.[15]

Recent extensions of Ecotrust’s work include: honoring native leaders through the Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership;[16] promoting regional economies through a series of cartoon-filled newspaper inserts in the Portland and San Francisco dailies and weeklies;[17] creating decision support tools for ecosystem-based management;[18] launching Ecotrust Forests LLC, a private equity fund to manage forestland for long-term regional health, as well as financial returns;[19] and bolstering bioregional identity through the idea of Salmon Nation.[20]

"The line between for- and nonprofit is getting blurry," said environmentalist and author Paul Hawken in 2007.[21] Ecotrust has established an unusual affiliation of for- and nonprofit entities that work at the intersection of natural, social and economic capital.


  1. ^ Beebe, Spencer (quoting Marston Bates). "Conservation in Temperate and Tropical Rain Forests: The Search for an Ecosystem Approach to Sustainability." Transcripts of the 56th North American Wildland & Natural Resources Conference, 1991.
  2. ^ Roberts, Paul. "Ecotrust Stirs Up a New Shade of Green" Fast Company, April 1997. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  3. ^ Warshall, Peter. "Green Teams: The Right Timing for Useful Deeds" Collective Heritage Institute/Bioneers, June 4, 2003. (Reprinted with permission by Ecotrust.)
  4. ^ Linden, Eugene. "Our Home and Native Land: In a North American rain forest, two indigenous tribes have become a force for conservation," Time Magazine, May 2, 1994.
  5. ^ Smith, Fran and Dolores Pollard. "Haisla Rediscovery Builds on Cultural Roots", from "Sharing Stories: Community Economic Development in British Columbia." Simon Fraser University, 1995. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  6. ^ Hall, Bruce. "Saving the Kitlope", from "Sharing Stories: Community Economic Development in British Columbia." Simon Fraser University, 1995. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  7. ^ Miranda, Gary. "New Bearings: Conservation-based Development in the Rain Forests of Home," Ecotrust, 1993.
  8. ^ Scholz, Astrid and Sarah Kruse. "Socioeconomic baseline information for the Pribilof Islands" Archived July 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. North Pacific Research Board, 2007. Accessed September 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Brandt, Kyle. "Environmentalism and the Response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill" Alma College, 2004. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  10. ^ Francis, George. "Clayoquot Biosphere Project" Biosphere Reserves in Canada, September 1993. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  11. ^ Berkes, Howard. "Willapa Bay, Washington Experiments with Sustainability," National Public Radio, May 1, 1994.
  12. ^ Newswire Services "Study: Dam removal would provide significant boost to Siskiyou County Economy" California Chronicle, November, 2006. Accessed September 27, 2007.
  13. ^ ShoreBank Corporation. "ShoreBank Partners" ShoreBank Corporation website. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  14. ^ BuildingGreen, LLC "High Performance Buildings Database: Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, Overview" U.S. Green Building Council, Cascadia Chapter website. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  15. ^ Portland Business Journal. "Ecotrust to lead regional farm-to-school programs" Portland Business Journal, August 22, 2007. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  16. ^ Foden-Vencil, Kristian. "BC Artist Wins Buffett Leadership Award" OPB News, July 19, 2006. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  17. ^ Strom, Shelly. "Local tomatoes get their moment in the sun: Ecotrust is promoting the virtues of local vines," Portland Business Journal, August 13, 2004. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  18. ^ Etra, Daniel. "California's Coastal Reserves" Ecotrust, July 2007. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  19. ^ Strom, Shelly. "Ecotrust sees a forest full of possibilities" Portland Business Journal, May 20, 2005. Accessed September 14, 2007.
  20. ^ Cole, Michelle. "Brainstorm spawns the birth of Salmon Nation," The Oregonian, October 2, 2003.
  21. ^ Hawken, Paul. "The New Great Transformation" Long Now Foundation, June 8, 2007. Accessed September 14, 2007.

External links[edit]