Beldon Fund

Final Impact Assessment: Legacy #6

The Beldon Fund:
Final Impact Assessment

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The infrastructure connecting environmental health advocates remains strong, despite Beldon’s exit and the absence of increased funding.

With chemicals policy reform as a core focus of its environmental health program, Beldon recognized the importance of building an infrastructure to connect and support the state-based campaigns. In 2005, the Safer States network was formalized, with central staff connecting advocates at the forefront of state policy reform efforts. In each state, the coalitions include an array of constituencies, such as nurses, doctors, parents, cancer survivors, firefighters, public health professionals, and others.

Encouragement and early funding from Beldon made this level of coordination possible. A large final grant to the Safer States network provided financial stability for a period of time, but replacement funding has been difficult to find. Even without increased funding, the network is growing and momentum is continuing. In 2013, state policy leaders were tracking more than 110 bills in 29 states. Funding constraints have forced the network to focus its resources on a smaller number of states where progress is most likely.

“We continue to win because of the base Beldon helped build.”

This infrastructure makes it possible for groups across the country to coordinate their strategies, learn from each other’s setbacks, build on their successes, and share tactics and messaging. Safer States partners with the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition based in Washington, DC, which is focused on helping to shape federal policy. The DC effort is an outgrowth of Beldon’s funding, made possible by one of Beldon’s last environmental health grants. This national coalition, which has 450 organizational members and claims to represent 11 million people, works in tandem with the Safer States network, leveraging its collective muscle.

“Look at the co-sponsors of the Lautenberg [Federal chemicals policy reform] bill... 23 of 28 co-sponsors were from Safer States. That was not an accident.”

Two other Beldon-legacy grantees are key partners in this effort and provide important components of the environmental health infrastructure. The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) helps state legislators advance a wide range of pro-environmental policies. In its early years, generous funding from the Beldon Fund enabled the group to establish itself as a viable organization. During the past five years, NCEL has received support from environmental health funders to convene annual forums on chemicals policy. A recent forum attracted 60 state legislators from 20 states, many of whom were outside the Safer States network. This level of participation is an indication of the salience of chemical policy issues for state legislators. Although these bills attract powerful opposition from the chemical industry, they often pass with bipartisan support.

Complementing the work of these partners is the engagement of the national League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, another key Beldon grantee. The League, with affiliated organizations in more than 30 states, is able to deploy its resources to bolster the support of policy-makers at the national level, and LCVEF is able to work in targeted geographies when additional support is needed.

The infrastructure that connects groups working on chemicals policy reform is a clear legacy of Beldon’s work. And the fact that the groups have maintained strong networks in the face of declining funding is evidence that environmental health leaders recognize the value of collaboration. Finally, Beldon’s lasting influence can be seen in the integration of nonpartisan civic engagement strategies in environmental health work. Advocates working at the state level have a growing understanding of the power of these tools and tactics.