Healthy environment, vibrant future

Our environmental investments are grounded in the belief that a flourishing and equitable Oregon depends on healthy ecosystems and clean water and air for all. 

However, much of the institutions, infrastructure and regulatory approaches for managing our relationship with nature are not up to the task of delivering on this vision. They don’t reflect the wisdom of the people who have stewarded this land we now call Oregon since time immemorial. They have not kept up with new approaches and knowledge about how to confront and adapt to our climate crisis. Nor do they include the voices of all communities who call Oregon home today.
Through our grantmaking we aim to tackle the urgent and interconnected ecological and social problems we face in communities throughout the state by supporting a range of place-based and statewide solutions that aim to address the underlying drivers of these problems. 

We prioritize efforts aimed at changing the status quo because “business as usual” perpetuates an exploitative and transactional relationship with people and the planet that causes harm to both. Instead, we support restorative, community-led approaches that align resources and organizations and are based on values of justice, cooperation, ecological sustainability and equity. Strong proposals may advance new and proven approaches at all levels — organizational, local, regional and state — that aim to change the rules, relationships, roles and practices in institutions and systems  that shape how we care for the planet and each other.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are central tenets in all Meyer’s grantmaking. Successful applicants demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth through the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion into both their external programming or services and internal structures and operations. 

Why does a Healthy Environment matter?

The well-being of humans and nature are interdependent. A healthy and resilient natural environment provides clean air and water, feeds us, regulates the climate, supports biodiversity, meets our diverse spiritual and cultural needs, provides recreational opportunities, and supports our livelihoods. Oregonians have a strong sense of place based on our unique and diverse landscapes and our encounters with the natural world in our neighborhoods and communities.  

But balancing economic and societal demands with the need to ensure the integrity of natural systems presents challenges. Climate change, projected population growth and economic shifts in our state present new threats to the health and integrity of Oregon’s ecosystems, requiring new and proven approaches that balance conservation, social and cultural needs, and economic interests, while centering those most impacted by these challenges.

Supporting efforts to assure a healthy environment for all Oregonians today and in the future fits squarely into Meyer’s mission to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

Equity within the environment

Environmental problems tend to harm communities most impacted by discrimination and oppression — communities of color and low-income communities — first and more severely. These same communities also often have less access to the benefits of nature and environmental protection. Importantly, these systems also perpetuate the continuing privilege of wealthy and predominantly white communities.  

One example of this relationship is contamination of well water in some rural Oregon communities from arsenic, nitrate bacteria and pesticides. Many rural residents, particularly low-income, may be unknowingly drinking contaminated well water that could lead to cancer, miscarriages and other health problems. 

Diesel exhaust, which is harmful to human health, is a problem across Oregon. Most Oregon residents are exposed to diesel particulate at levels that increase cancer risk above the public health threshold, but communities of color and low-income populations are disproportionately impacted by diesel exhaust and face more severe health problems as a result.

Tribes originally occupying the land we now call Oregon rely directly upon the land to sustain their communities and cultural traditions. Despite treaties with the federal government, Tribes have experienced a long history of encroachment, land theft and other actions that have undermined their sovereignty; their rights to fish, hunt, gather foods and live in their traditional territories; and their cultural connection to the land. 

The Healthy Environment portfolio focuses on disrupting the pattern of exploitation of nature and people, particularly people who have been most affected by oppression. That’s why we primarily invest in strategies that are led by and focus on communities at the center of this crisis: low-income communities, communities of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes, and immigrants and refugees, in rural and urban areas across Oregon.  

Willamette River Initiative

In 2019, the 10-year Willamette River Initiative ended its time at Meyer and launched a new community-led Willamette River Network to continue its work in improving the health of the Willamette River and its tributaries in Oregon. Learn more about the new network at willametterivernetwork.org.