For the past several years Wild Rivers Coast Alliance has been title sponsor for the Bandon Cranberry Festival.
Wild Rivers Coast Alliance is committed to supporting communities along the South Coast of Oregon. As the nonprofit philanthropic arm of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, WRCA utilizes the proceeds from the resort’s fifth golf course, Bandon Preserve, a 13-hole, par-3 "course with a mission," to award grants that promote a region where healthy ecosystems drive a vibrant economy.
WRCA looks for opportunities on the South Coast to foster community collaborations that drive economic opportunities in a way that preserves and respects the health and integrity of the region’s natural resources and local community values.
To help achieve that vision, WRCA has laid out a series of regional objectives to help guide its work. These objectives include: strengthen economic stability, community assets and the environment by supporting working landscapes and seascapes; drive economic development and ecological enhancement by fostering local, sustainable businesses and nonprofit organizations; and drive greater resources to the region, forge partnerships, and strengthen capacity to help local organizations better accomplish their goals.
WRCA has partnered with Travel Oregon in co-funding capacity to further tourism development in the region. A Travel Oregon consultant is based part-time at the Wild Rivers Center.
Mr. Michael L. Keiser is the owner of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, located just north of Bandon. Bandon Dunes is a top-ranked golf destination with five courses designed in the tradition of Scotland’s ancient links to blend with the natural environment.
In 2010 Keiser, with the help of Arabella Financial Advisers, determined the best way to support his passion for conservation and his desire to bring economically viable opportunities to Oregon’s South Coast was to found the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.
Bandon Preserve opened May 1, 2012 and distributes all net proceeds to WRCA. This provides the stable seed funding needed to achieve the organization’s goals of blending conservation, community and economy on Oregon’s South Coast.
Keiser is active on the boards of numerous civic and charitable organizations focused on health care, education and conservation. He is the former board chairman and vice chairman of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. In the education arena, he serves on the boards of Academy for Urban School Leadership and Teach for America, Chicago. He is a member of the board of trustees for The Field Museum and a member of the board of directors on the Chick Evans Scholarship Foundation. He also serves as President of Bandon Biota L.L.C., acquiring properties with a view toward future conservation.
In support of numerous southern Oregon organizations and nonprofits, a donor-advised fund, the Mr. and Mrs. Michael L Keiser Fund, was established through the Oregon Community Foundation.
"My philanthropy has been shaped by two pieces of advice," Keiser said in a recent article featured in The World's South Coast Strong special section. "The first was from my dad, a former Eagle Scout. He’d instruct me and my three brothers to always leave a campsite nicer than we found it. While it took some time before I became a conservationist, my father’s rule made me aware at a young age of the land around me (not to mention taught me to be neat and tidy). In fact, my father had helped create the vistas of my childhood. A stockbroker living on two acres outside of Buffalo, he’d tell us that he had always dreamed of being a lumberjack in the Pacific Northwest, and he planted pine trees all over our property.
"Years later, my father’s philosophy was reflected in our approach to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s development, which was very much a restoration project. The three courses on the ocean were largely covered in non-native plants such as gorse, Scotch broom, and European beachgrass. We removed those plants, and the courses are now primarily covered in native red fescue — we left the land better than we found it.
"I received the second piece of guidance years later, when I had accumulated some wealth of my own. A friend told me that he gave away twice as much as his family spent on themselves. At first I was a bit flabbergasted, and then I tried it. I learned that if you have the means and live reasonably simply, it’s not so hard to give four times the amount we spend on ourselves. It’s a guideline I’ve lived by ever since."
Wild Rivers Coast Alliance is composed of an executive committee, led by Executive Director Jim Seeley, a steering committee, ad-hoc working groups to address time-sensitive strategic issues, and place-based and project-based teams. The steering committee comprises farmers, ranchers, fishermen, outdoor recreationists, conservationists and local community members who have joined together around a shared commitment to promote a region where healthy ecosystems drive a vibrant economy. Steering committee members meet regularly to discuss lessons learned, new scientific research, and suggestions from the community that can help guide their work. Both the executive committee and steering committee provide guidance with respect to the development, implementation and refinement of the WRCA’s goals, strategic plan and grantmaking.
Since its inception, WRCA has helped restore and enhance 67 miles of streams, supported 3,729 acres of working landscapes, and supported grantees to help 238 landowners pursue working landscapes and restoration projects.
One example of WRCA’s work is its support of the Gorse Action Group, a collaborative of federal, state and county agencies and nonprofit organizations that are strategically working to control gorse growth in Southern Oregon. Gorse is one of the worst invasive species in the region, and not only does it stifle the economy, it is dangerously flammable. Because it’s arduous and expensive to remove, few individual entities have made the attempt. By working together, partners in the coalition aim to eliminate gorse, which would allow the land to be put to valuable use, such as for cranberry bogs or sheep grazing.
Another WRCA grantee that has seen great success is Washed Ashore, an organization that collects plastic trash from beaches and uses it to create sculptures of marine animals to educate people about plastic pollution in our waters. The large-scale sculptures of creatures such as tufted puffins, turtles, octopi and more travel in exhibitions that inspire visitors to become stewards of our oceans and waterways. Since 2010 it has cleaned over 300 miles of beaches, created over 60 sculptures, processed 38,000 pounds of marine debris, and engaged over 10,000 volunteers. Its most recent exhibit is on display at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C., helping to promote Washed Ashore and spread its message more widely.
For more information about WRCA, visit wildriverscoastalliance.com.