51 Years of The Mountaineers Foundation

It is a sad moment in the history of The Mountaineers. With a heavy heart, we learned that the foundation we created more than 50 years ago has filed a lawsuit against The Mountaineers. We want to explain the events that led to this and share our plan to defend our beloved organization and the wishes of our donors.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
CEO, The Mountaineers
November 27, 2019

It is a sad moment in the history of The Mountaineers. With a heavy heart, we learned that the foundation we created more than 50 years ago has filed a lawsuit against The Mountaineers. We want to explain the events that led to this and share our plan to defend our beloved organization and the wishes of our donors.

In May 1968, our board of directors voted to establish an independent 501(c)(3) organization, which could accept tax-deductible gifts and make those funds available to The Mountaineers for our charitable purposes. In creating this independent organization, The Mountaineers board provided the new entity with a license to use The Mountaineers name, and The Mountaineers Foundation came into existence.

For decades, The Mountaineers and The Mountaineers Foundation worked collaboratively toward shared goals. The Mountaineers Foundation raised funds and awarded grants to The Mountaineers and other organizations that supported our common mission of protecting the environment, conservation, outdoor education and recreation, and natural history. However, in 2018 The Mountaineers Foundation wholly revised and restated its mission, which now reads: “To promote actions and foster understanding to inspire conservation from the Rhododendron Preserve to the Salish Sea region.” In connection with its change in vision, it also changed its name to Keta Legacy Foundation. But Keta did not release “The Mountaineers Foundation” from its corporate registration with the secretary of state.

In the time since The Mountaineers Foundation revised its operating name to Keta Legacy Foundation, we have been made aware of repeated instances in which gifts and bequests apparently intended for The Mountaineers were being misdirected to Keta Legacy Foundation due to its former affiliation with us. When we learned of this, we reached out to Keta Legacy Foundation requesting that it stop using our name and work with us to develop a common-sense solution that honored our shared history while protecting the interest of donors who are likely to be confused by recent changes. First and foremost, we want to ensure that donors’ wishes are carried out as they intended. Instead, Keta Legacy Foundation filed a lawsuit against The Mountaineers, demanding that the court not only allow it to continue using our name, but that it prohibit us from doing so in connection with charitable fundraising activities.

We have been The Mountaineers for more than 100 years. We have engaged in fundraising and provided charitable services since long before Keta Legacy Foundation even existed, and The Mountaineers Foundation was born from the generous spirit of Mountaineers members and with the consent and approval of our board. Despite its choice to adopt an entirely new name and mission, Keta Legacy Foundation insists on continuing to trade off of the goodwill of The Mountaineers and its members, without regard for the confusion it causes. We are hurt by Keta Legacy Foundation’s refusal to work with us to protect donors, and are upset by its attempt to take our very name from us.

Fortunately, The Mountaineers has never been a community that gives up. We will defend against this lawsuit, and in doing so, defend our donors, our members, and our name itself. We have been known as The Mountaineers for 114 years, and we intend to carry forward our mission for another 114 years and beyond.

The road ahead

It's important that Mountaineers members and supporters understand that gifts and bequests intended to benefit The Mountaineers or The Mountaineers Foundation should be directed to The Mountaineers at our Seattle address: 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Those wishing to support the Rhododendron Preserve or Keta Legacy Foundation should direct gifts or bequests to its address in Bremerton. Any questions about making a donation to The Mountaineers or The Mountaineers Foundation should be directed to development@mountaineers.org.

We believe it is of paramount importance to respect the wishes of our generous donors. The Mountaineers will do everything in its power to ensure gifts and bequests by donors are not misdirected. If you have concerns or questions about a gift you have made, please contact The Mountaineers CEO, Tom Vogl at tomv@mountaineers.org.

While this is a sad moment in our history, we sincerely wish Keta Legacy Foundation success in its effort to improve the health of the Salish Sea and local salmon habitat. The Mountaineers desires to honor its long relationship with Keta Legacy Foundation through continued cooperation in the stewardship of the Rhododendron Preserve and our deep commitment to conservation advocacy.

The Mountaineers FoundationTM is a philanthropic arm and trademark of The Mountaineers®, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, tax ID: 27-3009280, 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

 

History: The Rhododendron Preserve

For more than 30 years, The Mountaineers and The Mountaineers Foundation have closely partnered to support the Kitsap Rhododendron Preserve. The Preserve dates back to 1915 when The Mountaineers acquired 74 acres of old-growth forest adjacent to Hidden Valley Ranch, owned by Edward Paschall.

S. Edward Paschall. Photo by Celia D. Shelton, Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, Neg. no. 18144.

 

A group of 66 Mountaineers made the acquaintance of Paschall and his family on a 1909 outing near their family ranch. The Mountaineers and the Paschalls became fast friends, which led to the 1915 acquisition of land to help protect this unique and valuable ecosystem. Over time and with the help and generosity of the Paschalls and Mountaineers donors, The Mountaineers was able to add to the Preserve by purchasing adjoining property. In 1985, The Mountaineers transferred ownership of the Preserve to The Mountaineers Foundation which could, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, hold and protect the property without paying costly property taxes.

Since that time, the Preserve has grown to more than 468 acres with purchases of additional land made possible through donations from generous Mountaineers members. The Mountaineers continues to help steward the Preserve’s combined acreage by providing an onsite caretaker, access to meeting and education space, parking, and a trailhead on its adjacent property – free of charge to Keta Legacy Foundation. The Mountaineers continues to own and maintain the 20 adjacent acres, home to the Kitsap Forest Theater, one of the oldest outdoor theatres in the US.  

Main blog image: One of the single largest grants ever made by The Mountaineers Foundation was from a bequest by Brunhilde (Bruni) Wislicenus. Her generous bequest provided the funds that made it possible to renovate The Mountaineers Tacoma Program Center in 2012. Photo courtesy of The Mountaineers.

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