A pivotal year for the environment

This year marks the opening of our fifth year of grantmaking through the Healthy Environment portfolio. As this Annual Funding Opportunity kicks off, the portfolio remains committed to investing in organizations and partnerships that have a vision for change and an approach based on values of justice, ecological sustainability, cooperation and healing.

2020 is a pivotal year for the environment. The lack of action on climate change, a growing number of environmental policy rollbacks at the federal level, intractable structural challenges in our state budget and the intersection of white nationalism with opposition to environmental protections are among the weighty issues our grantee partners wrestle with daily. At Meyer, we invest in organizations and collaboratives that demonstrate an understanding of this political, social and economic context -- and how power operates within this context to create and maintain social inequality and environmental problems -- in rural and urban communities across Oregon. Understanding context and seeking structural changes that get to the root of these challenges are crucial capabilities.

There are many examples of inspiring work aimed at tackling these challenges: efforts to reimagine and redesign systems and structures for 21st century realities, projects to scale up successful models for enhancing community and ecosystem resilience, and initiatives that expand the political influence of those most impacted by environmental problems.

We hope you will draw insights about the kinds of solutions we aim to support through our grantmaking from this interview with Alan Hipólito. We see the work of the Portland Clean Energy Fund Coalition as an example of the kind of approach and creative, structural solution we need to advance Meyer’s mission of a flourishing, equitable Oregon. In particular, we want to point out the important coalition structure that they created, one that centers the lived experience of communities that are on the front lines of climate change. From PCEF’s inception, frontline community organizations have led its effort, guiding organizations that have traditionally held more power in Oregon’s environmental movement to step back in support roles. This is equity in action.

The Healthy Environment team is eager to work with you on your upcoming grant applications, so please get in touch with us to discuss your ideas. We also are committed to exploring new ways to partner, across philanthropy and other sectors, to imagine what’s possible, build the capacity of Oregon’s environmental movement, back resilient communities, share stories about solutions and manifest a more equitable vision for the future.


Illustration by: Peter Pa, Climate Justice Now, Amplify

Illustration by: Peter Pa, Climate Justice Now, Amplify

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ICYMI: Our Story on Our Territory darion

The Chinook Indian Nation recently bought Tansy Point, an impressive ten acres of land on the Tribes' ancestral homeland and serene enclave of forests, wetlands and habitat for elk, deer, bald eagles and other native creatures. 

Enrolled Chinook Indian Nation member Leslie Ann McMillan wrote about the Tribes work to purchase the Tansy Point treaty grounds in a new article published by Oregon Humanities:

"During the past two years, we have been stunned by the outpouring of generosity from tribal members, old friends, new friends, foundations, trusts, and others that have learned of our Tansy Point treaty grounds purchase and preservation.

We completed our reacquisition of the modest yet monumental ten acres in 2019. We look forward to stewardship; flora, fauna, and fish counts; stream and habitat revitalization; and historical, environmental, and cultural preservation in partnership with others who care. On our tidal shoreline property far downriver, anything occurring anywhere in the Columbia River estuary ecosystem concerns us."

Read the entire piece here.

View of the Astoria-Megler bridge from the Tansy Point treaty grounds. Photo credit: Oregon Humanities

View of the Astoria-Megler bridge from the Tansy Point treaty grounds. Photo credit: Oregon Humanities

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Meet our newest team member, Mary Rose!

Mary Rose Navarro recently joined Meyer’s Healthy Environment portfolio as the portfolio’s first program officer. In September, Communications & Engagement Specialist Darion Jones interviewed Mary Rose about her background, experience and what keeps her grounded in environmental equity work.

Darion Jones: So, Mary Rose, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Mary Rose Navarro: I moved to Oregon in 1990 from Indiana, but my family moved quite a bit when I was young, so I like to say that I am from five suburban towns in four Midwestern states.

My father was an ambitious businessman. I’ve been thinking about him since he passed away three years ago. I mainly thought of him as this entrepreneur, but when I really look at how he lived his life, I believe he worked so hard so he could make things better for his family, his friends and his community. While he wanted to be valued as a businessman, he really lived his life being of service, always warm, hospitable and welcoming.

He was someone who leaned in wherever there was an opportunity. For example, he was the president of our neighborhood association, and I remember building a float for the Fourth of July parade in our garage with neighbors. He stepped up at church where he was involved in the Knights of Columbus. In more recent years, he got really involved in Project Healing Waters, which is an organization that helps veterans heal from the trauma they’ve experienced through flyfishing and fly tying. He was proud of his involvement in that organization.

Over these last three years, I have come to realize that my own ambition and hard work is also rooted in the desire to be of service to others and lead a meaningful life.

Darion Jones: Yeah, that sounds like a phenomenal kind of community-building and dedication. I now understand a little bit more about what drives you.

Earlier you said you were from four Midwestern states. How did you make the shift from where you are to Oregon?

Mary Rose Navarro: It was a little by accident.

I was attending Purdue University in Indiana working toward earning an engineering degree. I shifted course when I realized I wanted a career with a more creative outlet. Landscape architecture was an attractive option.

Darion Jones: Wow, that is quite a different place to end up.

Mary Rose Navarro: When I made the switch, it wasn’t because I was concerned about the environment. I just wanted to design cool gardens, but then I took a required forestry class. That’s where I read Aldo Leopold and learned about the interconnection of ecosystem services and reflected on people’s connection to nature.

When I graduated, I received an offer in Dayton, Ohio, for a firm that did typical land development kind of projects … and an offer in Portland, Ore.

I had sent my resume to a firm here in Portland that was supporting community groups that were organizing around a system of parks and green spaces. Honestly, I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded closer to my interest in ecosystem health.

It was eye-opening. I had never even thought about the services government provides our communities until I found myself in this room of conservation advocates and “friends of” groups. They were advocating for a long-term plan that would direct more intentional funding into environmental protection. It wasn’t just the idea of a planning document that attracted my attention. It was how many small community groups were actively taking care of a small natural area in their neighborhoods. I was amazed with their interest in connecting with and learning from each other.

Coming from the flat farmlands of the Midwest to the rich natural beauty of Oregon; learning about government services and planning practices alongside passionate community members; experiencing the power of collaboration — all at the same time — really pushed me toward the path that I’ve taken.

Darion Jones: What drew you to nonprofit work?

Mary Rose Navarro: When I completed my masters program at Portland State University, I thought of myself as an environmentalist and somebody who was mainly concerned about trees and habitats and birds (which I do deeply care about). Then I landed a role at Friends of Trees. There I learned that I wasn’t really in this work for the trees ... I was in it for the community-building.

So often, when people come together early on a Saturday morning, it can be cold and rainy. They’re all bundled up and elbowing their way to the coffee pot. By the end of the morning the energy has shifted. There’s a buzz of accomplishment while people eat lunch with new friends and reflect on what they were able to achieve together.

There is also the less visible part of the work. Each neighborhood had a volunteer coordinator who invested many hours of work getting people to sign up for trees, collecting orders and organizing volunteers. My role was simply supporting them.

Their experiences were so inspiring and revealed the more hidden relationship building that was happening.

As I’ve been learning more about the systems that have created the disparities in our world, I’ve wondered “Where do I want to affect change?” What I've come to understand is that it’s one interaction at a time.

Darion Jones: How so?

Mary Rose Navarro: There was one coordinator, who knocked on the door of a particular house over and over and over again. This house was on a big corner lot with room to plant many trees, and we really wanted to plant trees. However, the woman that lived there was very reluctant to open the door. When she finally came to the door, the coordinator learned that she was afraid of the teenagers who hung out on the corner, “They’re hoodlums,” she would say. Ultimately, she did agree to plant trees and guess who planted them? The kids that she had been afraid of. This is the way new friendships are seeded and trust is built, one interaction at a time.

Darion Jones: Wow, it is truly amazing to hear that story come full circle.

Mary Rose Navarro: As we more authentically connect with one another, we will become more courageous to face the internal conditioning that gets in our way. This allows us to then work more courageously together toward equitable and just social change.

In my work at Meyer, I hope to always bring that level of caring. I know that there is a dynamic of wanting to put a funder on some pedestal. But Meyer can’t accomplish our mission without the vision, the passion and the dedication of the people working in community-based organizations and the people they are empowering. That’s where the root of social change is.

Darion Jones: Fighting the good fight, what do you do to relax? Where do you find catharsis and how do you recharge?

Mary Rose Navarro: My practice of taking care of myself and recharging is also a practice toward self-awareness.

By nature, I’m an extrovert, but I find that I need space to be silent and reflective.

I have been practicing mindfulness for over 15 years now. One practice that is really important to me is what we call a “Day of Mindfulness.” My spiritual community practices days of mindfulness once a month at an abbey in Lafayette. I try to attend six to eight times a year. It’s a beautiful setting where I can feel very connected to the earth and connected to the trees. By collectively taking care of ourselves, we can then support each other as each of us brings more intention and awareness to the work we do for the world.

Darion Jones: It sounds like a wonderful and calming place to get centered. Thank you for chatting with me today, Mary Rose. I’m glad you’re here at Meyer.

Mary Rose Navarro: Thank you, Darion.

Interested in reading more about Mary Rose? Check out her staff bio.

Meet Mary Rose Navarro
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Refining Meyer’s environmental lens

Spring has finally arrived and so has our 2019 annual funding opportunity! Our team is excited to accept a new round of proposals through the Healthy Environment portfolio’s statewide program that align with our vision of nurturing a resilient natural environment, while supporting the well-being of Oregon’s diverse cultures and communities.

This year we anticipate awarding grants totaling $3.5 million. Applications are due by 5 p.m., on Wednesday, May 15. We encourage you to consider submitting a day early to give yourself a cushion in case anything needs a little extra time.

What’s new this year?

Three goals, instead of four

The biggest change to the Healthy Environment portfolio this year is that we’ve tightened up our Statewide Program goals. If you are a previous applicant or grantee, you may remember there’s been a fourth portfolio goal the past three years: Achieve the mutual goals of community well-being, economic vitality and environmental stewardship (triple bottom line).

This will no longer be a standalone goal. We changed this because applicants often struggled to decide between the triple bottom line goal and the other goals when preparing their applications. As we considered this change and our continuing value of work that delivers on social, economic and environmental impact, we took a close look at what grants we’ve made in support of the triple bottom line goal over the past three years. What we found is that all of these triple bottom line grants could fit under one of the other three goals.

So, we made the decision to revise our goals. We believe that keeping the three remaining goals of environmental justice, diverse movement and healthy natural systems with brighter lines between them will make the goal selection process for applicants much simpler. Despite making this change, we continue to value triple bottom line thinking and approaches and expect to continue funding work that aligns with this value.

The application is one step instead of two

We’ve begun to take a number of steps to simplify the grantmaking process. The biggest change toward simplification that we are rolling out this year is that our application is only one step. As a result, there are a couple of additional questions (but fewer in total than the combined questions in our first and second proposal applications used the past three years). We’ve also upped the word count limit from 1,500 to 2,000 to give you more room to explain your request and how you plan to carry out the work.

In addition, you may hear about a pilot “renewal grant process”, an idea we are testing with a handful of current Healthy Environment portfolio statewide program grantees. This is another strategy to simplify the process and create more space for grantees and our team to find new ways to partner beyond the transaction of a grant application.

What’s the same?

Pretty much everything else.

We will continue to partner with organizations that share our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and working toward a more reciprocal, restorative relationship with each other and the planet.

This means that strong proposals will demonstrate an approach that recognizes the need to change policies, relationships, roles and practices in institutions, structures and systems that govern how people relate to nature and make environmental management decisions. The most competitive proposals will include strategies that aim to address disparities in access to the benefits of a healthy environment and environmental protections in communities, particularly communities of color, indigenous communities and Tribes, low-income communities, and immigrants and refugees, in rural and urban areas.

You can find much more information about what does and doesn’t fit well with the Statewide Program, what we funded last year, and how to put together a successful application in the Healthy Environment portfolio section of our website and in Applicant Resources.

We also welcome your questions about your plans for a grant application or how to navigate GrantIS, our online application system. Please send your questions to us at questions [at] mmt.org (questions[at]mmt[dot]org )or call us at 503-228-5512.

Thank you for your continued work for a healthy environment that benefits all of Oregon’s diverse cultures and communities.


Photo caption: Climate justice signs read: Climate Justice, nos lIberamos and unity.
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ICYMI: “Disrupting the Legacy of Colonialism.” An Oregon Funder Partners With Tribes on the Environment

A partnership between Tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Meyer seeks to integrate and honor Native wisdom within the environmental movement.

Inside Philanthropy examines a recent batch of grants awarded through Meyer's Healthy Environment portfolio and the unique role its grantmaking plays in supporting Tribal communities:

"[We] are excited to learn more about how traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous communities and Western science can work together to support healthy natural systems and communities," portfolio director Jill Fuglister wrote in a blog at the end of 2018. She tells IP this integration "opens the door to addressing the disparate impacts of environmental problems that indigenous communities experience by creating space for indigenous leaders to bring their concerns, priorities and solutions to environmental protection efforts."

By turning to local Native American communities to help steer its environmental grantmaking practices, Meyer may create a rich example of how environmental and social movements can come together. We see more, but arguably not enough, environmental, social justice and human rights-focused groups acknowledging and exploring how their causes overlap. At the crux of this intersection is the fact that minority groups are often the most affected by environmental degradation and calamity, and the recognition that these same communities can be a source of experience-based, authentic responses to these problems.

Read the full article here.

Photo caption: A mist covers the canopy of a forest in front of Mount Hood in Oregon, atop an amber horizon during sunrise.

Photo caption: A mist covers the canopy of a forest in front of Mount Hood in Oregon, atop an amber horizon during sunrise.

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ICYMI: Chinook Nation buys an Oregon foothold

The Chinook Indian Nation recently bought about 10 acres of heavily forested land in Warrenton around Tansy Creek, one of many locations where Chinookan tribes — Clatsop, Cathlamet, Lower Chinook Wahkiakum and Willapa — were pushed off by European settlers. The plan: to purchase, protect and revitalize the Tribes’ historically important 1851 Tansy Point treaty grounds.

The Daily Astorian documents the purchase, made possible by grants from organizations such as the Oregon Community Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Collins Foundation and others:

“'The Clatsop folks covered this whole south shore of the Columbia, really, from around Astoria itself heading west, and then of course down the adjacent seashore all the way down to Tillamook Head, that country,” (Tony Johnson, chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation) said. “But all the main country people think about here in terms of Hammond, Gearhart, Seaside — that’s all Clatsop territory.'

The property near Tansy Point is near where, in the summer of 1851, members of all five Chinookan tribes gathered to negotiate with Anson Dart, the first superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, to avoid relocation east of the Cascade Mountains. It is the only known instance when all tribal ancestors were gathered in one place, Johnson said."

Read the entire piece here.

A tract of land near the Warrenton Waterfront Trail was recently purchased by the Chinook Indian Nation.

A tract of land near the Warrenton Waterfront Trail was recently purchased by the Chinook Indian Nation.

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Decolonizing our environmental movement

Last May the Healthy Environment portfolio team was honored to sponsor and participate in the University of Oregon Symposium on Environmental Justice, Race and Public Lands. The event organizers at the University Center for Environmental Futures put together an amazing lineup of presenters that included students, practitioners and academics. There were many provocative talks and ideas shared, and we wanted to share a few reflections on several of the themes that we've been talking about since the event.

Decolonization as part of our equity commitment

When Meyer began its equity journey, we started by exploring racism as a systemic, institutional problem of power, and we used this exploration as a foundation for building a shared framework for understanding oppression and privilege and how they operate at individual, institutional and systemic levels. Since then we have continued to expand our analysis by learning about how oppression operates across different identities in addition to race and how different forms of oppression interact with one another. We have also adopted new practices for operationalizing our equity in our work.

In the past couple of years, we have begun to learn more about decolonization and how deeply entrenched colonial language and practices are in the work we do as well as the work we support in communities. Like racial equity work, decolonization requires us to deconstruct thinking, processes and practices that focus on or reinforce the conquering of land and treating nature as a commodity, accumulating wealth at the expense of others, creating a hierarchy of power based on race and identity, and perpetuating a single story of history to support these systems, practices and ways of thinking. Decolonization was a key overarching theme of the UO symposium, and we heard about a number of ways that the environmental movement perpetuates colonial thinking and practices. I offer these takeaways from the symposium in the spirit of shared learning and to support our collective work to elevate the value of indigenous knowledge and leadership as well as to begin to understand the colonial narratives that are deeply entrenched in the mainstream environmental movement.

What's wrong with talking about "our public lands"?

Speakers at the symposium talked about how the dominant public lands discourse and practices used to protect public lands tend to reflect and perpetuate settler colonialism: the replacement of indigenous populations with an invasive settler society. By talking about "our public lands," we ignore the truth that all land in the U.S. was tribal land first and that these lands we call "public" were stolen from tribes. This mindset erases the history of Native communities' relationship with the land and also reinforces a possessive way of relating to land as being "ours."

Kyle Powys Whyte, one of the keynote speakers, explained that indigenous peoples' relationship with land is understood as being more consensual and viewed as an "ancestral kinship" relationship. This is very different than the dominant culture view in the U.S. and the legal and management practices that govern land as property, which are based on the view that humans are separate from nature and that nature and land are commodities.

Laura Pulido, University of Oregon professor of ethnic studies and geography, talked about how the use of the Antiquities Act to create new national monument designations that expand public lands can also reinforce settler colonialism, even in some cases where tribes and communities of color are involved in creating these new designations, but not leading them. In her analysis, she shared that "monuments" mark victories, versus "memorials," which are about not forgetting the past, including the indigenous trauma of the past. Public lands efforts don't generally include repatriation of land to tribes, which is a crucial element for meaningful decolonization, nor do they lift up the true and complete history of indigenous communities' past and current relationship to the land.

Tribes have much to teach about climate change adaptation

Whyte talked about how the narrative around climate change as a "dystopian future that humans have never experienced" also reinforces settler colonial thinking because it ignores the actual dystopian histories that tribes and indigenous communities have experienced. They were forced from their ancestral lands and displaced to new ecoregions and reservations, and they have been resilient in adapting to these displacements and new climates by developing new ways of living. He described dozens of examples of tribes and indigenous communities that have been taking their deep knowledge and lived experience with climate change, marrying that with traditional governance systems and science, and applying it to climate change adaptation planning. He noted that this experience and planning expertise is not widely understood, and it is not being fully recognized for its potential impact on climate change adaptation efforts.

Healing is a crucial part of diversity, equity and inclusion practice

Diversity, equity and inclusion trainers and practitioners presented a panel on the opening day of the symposium. The need to integrate healing into this work ran through all their remarks. Without thought and attention to healing, the damage and trauma that individuals and communities have experienced as a result of white supremacy and institutional racism can be reinforced and re-experienced. The work of developing trauma-informed, healing practices and tools needs more attention and widespread adoption. Without this essential work, we are likely to replicate tactics and behaviors that are born out of systems of oppression and privilege and not reach transformative change in our society.

Decolonizing collaborations between students, researchers and indigenous communities

Throughout the symposium, participants had the opportunity to hear a number of indigenous leaders, students and researchers work together in collaboration using approaches and practices that support decolonization and indigenous self-determination. Anna Elza Brady shared the story of the tribal-led effort to establish the Bears Ears National Monument. In contrast to other monument designation campaigns, this effort, which has been led by tribes, has centered on tribal culture, spirituality and self-determination from the very beginning.  We also heard about a collaborative research effort between researchers and the Karuk Tribe that focuses on the use of traditional wildfire practices — “Fire as medicine” — to create healthier forests and support tribal sovereignty and spiritual health in tribal communities across the West. This project supports the much-needed shift away from the forest management regime emphasizing fire suppression that has dominated the West and is a key driver in fueling the severe megafires that we are experiencing.

The four reflections I’ve shared offer a small glimpse into the many rich ideas and work discussed at the symposium. Much more could be said. If you also attended and left with other key takeaways or new ideas based on what you learned or if you have reactions to this post, please share your comments and ideas.

A link to the keynote presentations by Kyle Powys Whyte and Carolyn Finney can be found here.

–– Jill

A pastel painting of an environmental.

(Image: Chosen Family by Grace Chen)

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Steve Adelman: Peony farmer, Willamette restoration ally

For all his adult life, Steve Adelman has been a peony farmer. He grows so many flowers on his 200-acre farm near Salem, it takes a 2000-square-foot walk-in cooler to store them all while they await shipment to customers around the globe.

"It started as a hobby for my mom and just continued to grow over time," he says.

After an unexpected phone call six years ago, Adelman found himself in the river restoration business, too.

A neighboring nursery owner had heard some Willamette Basin restoration groups were looking for a place to store native trees and shrubs before planting them along the basin's rivers and streams. She wanted to know if Adelman would consider renting out his cooler.

"I said, 'Well, I'll at least talk to them,'" he recalled.

As it turned out, the restoration groups' needs perfectly aligned with the Adelman Peony Gardens' growing calendar. The farm used the cooler heavily between May and October. But in January, when the restoration groups needed a home for their plants, the facility sat vacant.

"It was a good way for me to keep one of my employees full time through the winter, get a little more business and utilize our cooler when it would otherwise be empty," Adelman said.

The cooler now spends its winters stuffed with hundreds of thousands of bare-root Willamette Valley plants -- 34 species in all. Its fans hum along at a constant 33 to 36 degrees.

"You want to keep the temperature down low enough so the plants stay dormant, but you want to make sure they don't freeze, either," Adelman said.

Adelman Peony Gardens plays a crucial role in the Willamette Basin restoration movement. By providing a space to store large quantities of saplings, the cooler enables restoration groups to buy plants in bulk from area nurseries through a program run by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. That makes it easier for them to get the quantity and type of plants they need, which ultimately enables them to get more restoration done, more efficiently.

From January through March, the cooler is a hub of near-daily activity, with planting contractors dropping by early in the morning to pick up orders before they head to the day's work sites.

Adelman tracks the flow of inventory on a spreadsheet. To date, more than 2 million plants have stopped over at his farm on their way to restoring hundreds of acres throughout the Willamette Basin. Some are now growing at Willamette Mission State Park, just a few miles away.

"It's neat to know I was a part of that effort," Adelman said.

By mid-March, the cooler is empty again, ready to absorb the latest crop of fresh-cut flowers and peony root stock.

–– Kelly

Steve Adelman poses at his Salem-area peony farm, where a walk-in flower cooler doubles as an essential tool in the Willamette Basin’s river restoration efforts.

Steve Adelman poses at his Salem-area peony farm, where a walk-in flower cooler doubles as an essential tool in the Willamette Basin’s river restoration efforts.

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ICYMI: Mid-Coast joins PSU to study views on water

The city of Newport and Portland State University are partnering to collect information from coastal communities about how they view water issues.

Newport News Times wrote about the new partnership for collective input from Oregon coastal communities:

“It’s Oregon’s Kitchen Table, which is through Portland State University. The city received a grant of $185,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust for the collective policy or collective process to determine what are the long term best practices for dealing with the watershed in Lincoln County,” said Spencer Nebel, Newport’s city manager. “This is part of the pilot project that’s being funded by the state as well.”

Data collection is crucial to ensuring the well-being of human and natural communities and reducing environmental harm. A two-year grant from Meyer's Healthy Environment portfolio will support this project's efforts to ensure that natural systems are healthy and able to adapt to changing conditions and long-term impacts in the Mid-Coast region.

The port of Newport Oregon.
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Recognizing a River Hero: Rosario Franco wins Willamette River Initiative award

It takes transformative leadership to be a true hero of the river restoration field.

As a business owner who makes his living restoring native Willamette Basin habitats, Rosario Franco is quite literally transforming this important watershed, tree-by-tree and acre-by-acre.

The Willamette River Initiative is proud to have presented Rosario with the River Hero award in December 2017. The award recognizes his outstanding contributions to the effort for a healthier Willamette.

"Rosario is respected and admired by so many people in our Willamette River restoration community," WRI Director Allison Hensey said as she presented him with the award during the initiative's December grantee meeting. "He and his crews are doing the work everyday of healing this river system."

Rosario got his start reforesting timberlands in the Oregon Cascades, before taking his first restoration planting job in Portland in the the mid-1990s. By 2006, he had launched his own business, R. Franco Restoration.

Rosario and his crews soon became indispensable members of the Willamette Basin restoration movement, known for their specialized knowledge of native plants and habitat restoration, their project planning, planting and landscape maintenance skills and their commitment to the cause. With their help, the pace of Willamette restoration has increased dramatically over the past decade.


Rosario estimated he and his crews have planted more than 14 million trees and shrubs since the early 2000s, including 900,000 last planting season alone. It's not uncommon for them to put 50,000 plants in the ground in a single day.

Despite the staggering volume of work, Rosario knows his sites intimately. He visits six or seven times before planting ever begins, spending two to three years clearing weeds, surveying the landscape and deciding which plant species are best-suited for the area. Often, he and his crews know their restoration sites better than the landowners.

When asked why he does this work, which requires long days of physically demanding labor under stormy winter skies, Rosario's passion shines.

"You fall in love with a project," he said. "You see the changes, you see how (the work sites) look when you started and then, every year, how they change. That makes you want to learn more and do the best every time."

Today, Rosario employs more than 30 people full-time, year-round. He trains his employees not just in the technical aspects of the job, but why the work is essential to protecting our drinking water and creating fish and wildlife habitat. As a result, Rosario's employees are skilled, knowledgeable and passionate about the work they do for our rivers.

"We depend on Rosario and his crew, and could not meet our goals without him," said Jeff Baker, stewardship manager at the Greenbelt Land Trust, which has worked with Rosario to plant more than 300,000 trees and shrubs in the past five years.

In fact, said Kathleen Guillozet, Willamette Model Watershed Director with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, he is "among the most respected conservation leaders in the Willamette Basin."

But beyond his reputation as an invaluable work partner, Rosario is known for his kindness, dedication and humility. That "care factor," as North Santiam Watershed Council Executive Director Rebecca McCoun put it, is what sets Rosario and his crews apart.

"Rosario treats each site as if it's his own personal property," McCoun said, and restoration outcomes are better as a result.

Rosario's contributions to the river extend beyond his day job. He has been a leader in the Willamette restoration community's cross-border exchange with restoration groups from the Rio Laja watershed in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, welcoming visitors into his home and providing learning opportunities for forestry students from the watershed northwest of Mexico City. Rosario has also shared his knowledge and experiences during speaking engagements throughout the region.

We are fortunate to count him as a hero within our river community.

Rosario Franco, owner of the R. Franco Restoration planting company, accepts the River Hero award during the Willamette River Initiative’s grantee celebration dinner, Dec. 13, 2017.

Rosario Franco, owner of the R. Franco Restoration planting company, accepts the River Hero award during the Willamette River Initiative’s grantee celebration dinner, Dec. 13, 2017.

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