Trees’ Indispensable Role as a Non-Profit Incubator


By Pat Higgins, Eel River Recovery Project Managing Director

In Spring of 2011, I went to the Trees office in Garberville with my old friend Paul Trichilo, and we met with Trees staff Barbara Ristow and Jeri Fergus and Board member Bill Eastwood. I had been contracting with Friends of Eel River (FOER) trying to estimate the Eel River fall Chinook salmon population, and many people I met with at the grassroots level expressed an interest in participating in volunteer monitoring. FOER didn’t have funds to support such work, so we were turning to Trees to see about founding a separate organization focused on monitoring. Barbara, Jeri, and Bill were all highly encouraging, and Bill suggested Eel River Recovery Project as the name.

We wrote a monitoring plan and began getting small grants as a fiscally sponsored group of Trees. Patagonia gave us grants for fish monitoring, and Rose Grassroots grants helped support temperature monitoring and organizing through a series of Water Day meetings from 2012 to 2015. Trees staff made posters for events and pitched in to help substantially in supporting our large-scale events. Jeff Hedin and Bruce Hilbach-Barger brought in Rose Foundation Wildlands grants and formed an active Wilderness Committee that helped clean up several cartel grow sites in and around the Red Mountain Wilderness Area.

The Rocky Road to Recovery

By 2016, ERRP had outgrown its sponsored group relationship with Trees, and we became our own 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, but not before Trees had administered over $100,000 in grants that supported our activities. We were able to receive grant funding without having to go through the expense of incorporation. Instead we could “just do it,” with Trees receiving grant funds, performing administration, and doling out the resources to ERRP contractors as we performed the work. Barbara at Trees was like our fairy godmother, but she practiced tough love and helped guide us along the way.

I can truly say that ERRP would have never formed if it were not for Trees Foundation. The role they play as an incubator for fledgling non-profits is a unique one, and our time as a sponsored group had kind of a magical quality. We are now administering millions of grant dollars, which is like a dream come true.

For more information: