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Sealaska Gets $500,000 From Nature Conservancy for Sustainable Business

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Business and environment will mix to the tune of $500,000 awarded to the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund Inc. by the Nature Conservancy.

The new collaboration is an “innovative finance partnership” to support environmentally conscious businesses in Southeast Alaska communities, Sealaska announced on January 28.

“The Nature Conservancy believes that environmentally sustainable businesses in Southeast Alaska will spark an economic resurgence in rural communities,” said Norman Cohen, director of Southeast Alaska programs for The Nature Conservancy, in a statement from Sealaska. “Our investment in the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund helps to make this a reality.”

The grant will support environmentally sustainable business enabled by the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, a community development financial institution, Sealaska said.

Haa Aaní, LLC was formed in 2010 to work on expanding the regional economy by fostering new and sustainable industries in rural Alaska with the goal of creating economic stability across the region, according to Sealaska’s website.

“The Nature Conservancy’s investment in the fund promotes financing of environmentally sustainable business ventures,” Sealaska said in its statement. “By design, loans from the fund are a financing option for businesses that otherwise may not qualify for a business loan through traditional financial institutions.”

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The funds will be invested in financing for businesses including tourism, fisheries, sustainable alternative energy and young-growth forest management, Sealaska said—in short, “businesses that promote sustainable natural resource management.”

Haa Aaní officials said the assistance would help them meet several types of challenges specific to their corner of the world.

“The economic development challenges in the region demand that all organizations work together and share resources and responsibilities as much as possible,” said Ed Davis, Haa Aaní Community Development Fund executive director. “This combined effort has a greater probability of success than one organization can create alone. Haa Aaní LLC and The Nature Conservancy share the same vision of creating a sustainable Southeast Alaska economy and this partnership is one example of what can be achieved collaboratively.”

The announcement comes a day after President Barack Obama said he would seek designation of 12.3 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuges off-limits to oil, thus preserving the pristine environment in which such businesses thrive. That came on the heels of a sweeping move at the end of last year that he made to save the watershed of Bristol Bay from the ravages of oil and gas leasing.

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