Bay group to receive grant to launch education project Automaker to donate $2 million in 3 years

February 27, 1996|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which has blamed auto emissions for helping degrade the bay, is set to get $2 million from Toyota Motor Corp. to launch a nationwide environmental education program.

The three-year grant, to be announced today in Annapolis, is the largest in the 30-year history of the 83,000-member environmental group. Officials said the money will be used to develop "hands-on" environmental training in three cities yet to be named, as well as to expand the group's existing outreach to students and teachers in the bay region.

"It's the most significant boost to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's outdoor environmental education programs ever," said William C. Baker, the group's president.

Mr. Baker said the gift from the Japanese automaker would have no impact on the foundation's advocacy, which includes support for government mandates to produce cars and light trucks that emit less pollution than current models.

Up to one-fourth of the pollution degrading the bay comes from the air, including motor vehicle and power plant emissions. But the auto industry, including Toyota, has opposed efforts by California and some East Coast states to require sales of vehicles powered by natural gas and electric batteries.

"We would never tolerate any influence by a donor on policy decisions," said Mr. Baker. He noted that the foundation's agreement with Toyota limits use of the money to environmental education.

The foundation gives field trips on the Chesapeake to 36,000 students a year from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It has developed a bay-oriented environmental studies course used by most Maryland middle schools.

Under the grant, the foundation would launch a new program, called CLEAN, or Children Linking with the Environment Across the Nation. CLEAN would involve developing "hands-on" environmental training in three locations outside the bay region. Those communities are to be selected by fall, foundation officials said.

The new program will develop training for students and teachers in urban communities such as Baltimore, and will adapt the foundation's Maryland middle-school curriculum for use in Pennsylvania and the district.

The foundation plans to reach 96,070 students and 3,225 teachers at 946 schools nationwide over the next three years.

Nearly half of the foundation's $9 million annual budget comes from foundation and corporate donations, but this is the largest single gift the group has received. The next largest was $1.25 million from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

The automaker selected the bay foundation after a national search for a group to develop an environmental education program, said Frances Champion, spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Corporate Services of North America, the U.S. subsidiary of the Japanese company.

Toyota has focused much of its prior U.S. giving -- more than $50 million from 1991 through 1994 -- on education. But Ms. Champion said the company was branching out into the environment because the firm's research found that to be a major concern among Americans.

"It really didn't have much to do with auto emissions and air and water quality," she said. "We just saw a good program, an effective program and one we could help."

Until now, the foundation has focused its work almost exclusively on the Chesapeake Bay. But Mr. Baker said he had no qualms about expanding the group's efforts.

"We realize the risk of getting spread over too many issues," he said. But environmental education is one of the foundation's main missions, he said, and the group hopes to benefit from working with other communities.

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