As Avi Garbow prepares to take over as the new president of Resources Legacy Fund, I find myself filled with confidence in his leadership, excitement for the future, and a profound sense of gratitude for all the people I have been privileged to work with: my RLF colleagues and board members and our partners, funders, and grantees. Without these relationships RLF’s significant impact and impressive evolution over the years simply would not have been possible. I have learned over and again from you.
I am grateful for the vision of the Packard Foundation that led to RLF’s creation more than 20 years ago. I also am grateful for the many other partners who created incredible opportunities, motivated us to act in new, meaningful ways and, more recently, enabled the launch of RLF’s affiliated organizations, Shared Ascent Fund (SAF) and Fund for a Better Future (FBF)—which Avi also will lead. This powerful trio of organizations will continue to drive critical social, political, economic, and environmental change.
We will need all three organizations, for despite our years of work and many real successes together, the monumental challenges we face—in California, across the nation, and around the world—are more complex and require more integrated, collaborative, inclusive approaches than ever before. RLF and its affiliates are moving forward with determination, bringing together diverse interests and people in unique and innovative ways, to create solutions that match the times we face. Our team is stronger than ever, our partnerships are built on a solid foundation of trust and mutual achievement, and the field of environmental justice advocates and leaders grows stronger and more diverse by the day.
In a world that is increasingly shaped by division, polarization, the demonization of science and public health expertise, and accelerating efforts to disenfranchise underserved communities and ignore the rights of Indigenous Peoples, I see signs of hope that we must all try to elevate. This work connects us to passionate, effective, and diverse people and organizations driving important changes in public policy, funding, and on-the-ground projects, and inspiring new generations to experience and learn about the wonders of nature and human connections to it. It is so amazing, heartwarming, and impactful. I see it every day making a real difference.
In late November, for the first time in many years, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band hosted a ceremony to call home the salmon on a coastal bluff near Santa Cruz, California. The celebration was a direct outcome of the removal earlier this fall of Mill Creek Dam on the San Vicente Redwoods Preserve, which opened passage for steelhead and coho salmon to reach high-quality upstream habitat. With support from RLF’s Open Rivers Fund, the Amah Mutsun Land Trust also provided cultural resource survey and restoration support for the project. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chair Val Lopez welcomed the guests to the event and shared the importance of salmon to the Amah Mutsun people and how the Tribe has been calling back the salmon through the renewal of their Tribal stewardship. The ceremony included several traditional dances and was the first dance ceremony for many of the youth involved.
To me, this celebration calls attention to our urgent and collective need to recognize other ways to revitalize our world than those of the industrial West. The progress made on this part of the California coast, and by Indigenous Peoples throughout the world, shows a turning toward traditional modes of stewardship that never should have been abandoned. Taking down a concrete dam to restore a vital creek and the return of a Tribal ceremony reasserting human connection of the most fundamental sort to nature and natural resources, while providing new outdoor access to increasingly diverse and younger populations: I can think of nothing more hopeful at this moment.
Thank you again for all you have done and are doing to improve the lives of people and our planet. I look forward to working with you in new ways in the future.