From 1997 to 2002, the Rose Foundation led the Headwaters Forest Debt-for-Nature Project and the Maxxam Shareholder Campaign, seeking permanent protection for Northern California's Headwaters Redwood Forest. The Headwaters Forest is home to numerous endangered and threatened species, and contained the last significant stands of privately-owned old-growth redwoods anywhere in the world.
Combining an innovative legal theory with strategically-targeted outreach to governmental decision makers, the Headwaters Debt-for-Nature Project tied ownership of the sensitive forestlands with the failure of Maxxam's Texas-based savings and loan. Aided by a team of pro-bono attorneys, Rose Foundation President Jill Ratner researched and wrote the Action: On the Headwaters Forest series of legal briefs that laid out the federal government's case for taking title to the ancient redwoods in lieu of over $1.5 billion in claims stemming from the S&L failure. These briefs were credited with encouraging the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the US Treasury to file claims against Maxxam seeking over $750 million in damages. The agencies then initiated debt-for-nature negotiations with Maxxam, offering to dismiss the allegations of bank fraud in exchange for saving the redwoods.
To encourage Maxxam to settle, the Rose Foundation then launched a series of shareholder advocacy campaigns, articulating the business case for saving the trees through a debt-for-nature exchange. The Maxxam Shareholder Campaign achieved national prominence, as well as the active partnership of the giant CALPERS retirement fund, the United Steelworkers of America, and many other pension funds and labor organizations. Working people around the country stepped forward and petitioned their pension funds "not to build their retirement future on the stumps of the last of the redwoods." Eventually, the six groves with the bulk of the threatened old-growth redwoods were permanently protected by a governmental buy-out. The pressure from shareholders and pension beneficiaries was credited with pushing Maxxam into accepting the deal. The balance of the forest, while still at risk from logging, was made subject to a strict habitat conservation plan.
Military Base Closures
Recognizing the need for regional cohesion is response to the wave of base closures, the Rose Foundation, along with long-time military toxics expert Arc Ecology, developed the Military Base Closures Environmental Network in 1994. The network marshaled sustainable design, labor, and environmental interests throughout the Bay Area, and provided technical support to local communities serving on Restoration Advisory Boards.
Advised by the many experts in the base closures network, Rose Foundation Executive Director Tim Little guided the development of the Environmental Principles for Military Base Closures, a blueprint for sustainable base redevelopment that integrated wildlife protection, open space access, toxic remediation, preservation of blue collar jobs, green building codes and affordable housing to achieve productive economic reuse of shuttered military facilities. These principles were well-accepted, and were adopted by the East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission to help guide the redevelopment of the Alameda Naval Air Station. The Rose Foundation also helped lead the organizing that led to the creation of the Alameda National Wildlife Refuge on a portion of the former navy base.