Published: June 28, 2019

Idaho Smart Growth thankful for philanthropy

Idaho Smart Growth worked with the University of Idaho to develop a trail system on their Sandpoint campus. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Smart Growth)

Idaho Smart Growth worked with the University of Idaho to develop a trail system on their Sandpoint campus. (Photo courtesy of Idaho Smart Growth)

A Seattle environmental foundation is nearing the end of its grant-giving commitments toward groups around the Pacific Northwest, phasing out a key resource partner to a North Idaho group that specializes in Idaho growth management assistance.

Idaho Smart Growth — a nonprofit out of Moscow specializing in research, training and assessments to help localities build healthier, more sustainable communities — is one of the Bullitt Foundation’s target organizations. Bullitt, a Seattle-based, family foundation that has become a hallmark for philanthropic work across the Northwest, will scale back its donations and grant programs over the next five years.

“When we endowed the Foundation in 1991, we intended to completely spend it down in 10 years,” Foundation trustee Harriet Bullitt said in a statement. “But we invested wisely and have been able to greatly extend its life despite our very generous grant-making programs.”

Though recipients of the Bullitt Foundation have had time to prepare for the change, Idaho Smart Growth Program Coordinator Deanne Smith said the departing annual donation represents more than just a void of financial stability.

“The work they’ve done has helped and funded and established many nonproftis around the area,” Smith said. “We’ve received between $30,000 and $35,000 from their foundation annually for a number of years. Those general grants were really helpful in growing a new nonprofit. We’re very thankful for all the support they’ve given us, and we’re glad we could partner with them to help cities and towns around Idaho grow smarter.”

Bullitt Foundation grants and donations exceed $200 million since 1992, funding projects that began in the roots of conservation but have since expanded to green education and policy development. The Bullitt family originally made their fortune from timber.

Idaho Smart Growth works with cities, towns, counties and groups around the state to advise on a variety of growth issues, from transit to land management to utility consumption. Smith said the Bullitt Foundation’s decision gives Idahoans an opportunity to step forward and champion the state’s own environmental legacy. Idaho Smart Growth has worked with the city of Rathdrum to examine infrastructure options and develop policies to better protect students crossing Highway 41, as well as worked with the towns of Kootenai and Ponderay on developing bike trails through town. They have most recently worked with the University of Idaho to enhance the walking trail network on its Sandpoint campus.

“My advice to our citizens is to grow smart,” Smith said. “This region is obviously going to keep growing into the future. We can take this opportunity to look around and see how other cities are looking ahead and growing greener. The Bullitt Foundation helped remind us there are a lot of pathways to grow greener: Are your building codes insisting on green buildings? Are you using your land efficiently? Are you managing greener transit options?”

Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, said the development of a greener Northwest is by no means finished, urging others to pick up where the foundation will leave off.

“We’ve worked hard to establish a model of deeply sustainable development in this region,” he said, “and we are now approaching the point when we must pass the torch to the next generation of environmental philanthropists.”


Photo courtesy of IDAHO SMART GROWTH