Committee on Resources
U. S. House of Representatives
Committee on Resources
"Funding of Environmental Initiatives and Their Influence
on Federal Land Policies"
Testimony of Eric Williams, May 23, 2000
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee: I am honored and
sincerely appreciate the opportunity to testify before you
It's not news that there is a widespread effort to
dramatically change the culture and economy of rural America.
What I'd like to talk with you about today, however, is a
little-discussed aspect of the strategy. The tacticians of the
effort realized that while it's not particularly difficult to
get the public up in arms against "polluters" and "corporate
giants," another, stickier hurdle was in their way.
Real live people live out there, and the public wasn't
terribly keen on displacing them. A recognized and critical part
of every successful battle strategy had to be employed. The
rural residents had to be demonized. If the general public
viewed the folks who live in the hinterlands of Idaho and Nevada
as romantic and healthy ties to our heritage, Necessary Change
would be extremely difficult. Yet if they could, collectively
and stereotypically, be cast as Overpaid, Undereducated Social
Misfits who hate Mother Earth, then Necessary Change would
Wise Up to Wise Use
I always cringe when people from the rural
West tell the rest of us how to live. There's an arrogance to
their pronouncements, a foolhardy pretension that they are real
and the 95 percent of us who live in western cities don't
matter. Hal Rothman, Writers on the
Range, Spring 2000.
In April 1998, I attended a conference titled "Wise up to
Wise Use," sponsored by the Montana Human Rights Network. Even
though I'd been a newspaper reporter, for a kid who grew up in a
lunch-bucket union family in tiny Hobson, Montana, it was an
eye-opening experience. For I had largely been under the
impression that human rights groups met to focus on tolerance,
inclusion - generally better ways for folks to get along.
The presentations were anything but tolerant. "Wise Use
Connections and Collaborations with other Far Right Groups," was
the focus of the morning, as explained by Daniel Berry of
C.L.E.A.R. Dr. Thomas Power of the University of Montana told us
over lunch of "The Economic Fallacy of Wise Use." In the
afternoon, we took in concurrent workshops ranging from
"Corporate Consolidation of Hate," presented by Kevin Keenan of
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to "How to do
Research on the Wise Use and other Far Right Groups," again
conducted by Mr. Berry. I was struck by the very real dislike
many presenters and attendees had for farmers, ranchers, miners
and loggers, not to mention the companies those people may work
for - especially if those companies are large and from out of
That was the day I learned that I'm part of the Wise Use
Movement. Frankly, until then I didn't consider myself a member.
But, as I learned that day, who I am - or at least how I'm
categorized - isn't really up to me.
What I didn't realize at the time was that the sponsoring
organization and virtually every one of the speakers was
subsidized by foundation funding.
The Montana Human Rights Network itself is heavily funded by
foundations that are large and from out of state. Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility is heavily funded by
foundations that are large and from out of state. Dr. Thomas
Power is heavily funded by foundations that are large and from
out of state.
Funding the message of hatred of the 'wise use' movement
comes from a variety of sources, too numerous to mention in this
testimony. Some notable examples are:
Montana Human Rights Network Funding
1998 Turner Foundation "Grant for support of work to increase
understanding and action to mitigate threats against advocates
and to build linkages between local human rights groups and
environmentalists to focus on environmental protection."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, New York, grant "To organize
employees of the Office of Surface Mining, and to connect them
with community activists working on issues related to coal
mining and the environment: $25,000 to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (Washington, D.C.).
Dr. Thomas Power Funding
Dr. Power is first referenced in this testimony in this
section but is also connected with numerous other areas of my
My former economics professor, whose UM salary is
approximately 3 times the average Montanan's, is now chairman of
the department at the University of Montana, and is always
referenced by his University of Montana affiliation. To my
knowledge, none of the multitude of federal agency documents
that cite Dr. Power's work refer to him as affiliated with large
foundations that also fund the environmental movement. Perhaps
doing so would be helpful. Here is a mini-feature on one of the
Brainerd Foundation's success stories:
Center for Resource Economics
Bringing Environmental Economics to the Region
Many observers were amazed when the Idaho Statesman,
usually a conservative newspaper, ran a series about how
environmental preservation might be more important to the
state's economic future than extractive industries like timber,
mining, and ranching. One article even said that the state might
benefit from decommissioning the dams on the Lower Snake River.
The series was already in the works when Dr. Thomas Michael
Power spoke at the Boise City Club in June 1997 as part of a
tour sponsored by the Brainerd Foundation. But his visit was
fortunate. Power, the economics department chair at the
University of Montana in Missoula, is the author of Lost
Landscapes and Failed Economies: The Search for a Value of Place.
In his book he argues that a healthy environment attracts
employers and workers and that communities should preserve local
landscapes if they want their economies to be diversified,
stable, and prosperous. "The issue is not sacrificing economic
health to protect some obscure bird, fish, or plant," he writes,
"but rather ensuring economic health by avoiding needless damage
to the natural -- and therefore human -- environment."
While in Boise, Power met with the newspaper's reporters and
editorial board. Rocky Barker, one of the two reporters working
on the series, was at the City Club presentation and latched on
to Power's example of one Idaho community whose
resource-dependent economy was deteriorating while the statewide
economy improved. "Rocky used that example to good effect in the
series," says Cecily Kihn, program development manager for the
Center for Resource Economics (CRE). "And Tom's visit may have
given the Statesman editorial board a lot more
confidence in what it was doing."
The CRE is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit whose publishing
arm, Island Press, printed Power's book in 1996. In the summer
of that year, the Ford Foundation provided funds for Power to
visit major markets across the West and promote his message. The
Brainerd Foundation then approached the center about funding a
second tour; this time Power would also visit secondary markets,
and in addition to meeting with business leaders and the media,
he would meet with conservationists so they could use his
economic theories in their campaigns.
During the first six months of 1997, Power made four trips:
to Seattle and Olympia, Washington, Portland, Corvallis, and
Ashland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. He met
with journalists, business leaders, conservation activists,
students, and policymakers, generating radio, television, and
newspaper coverage along the way. "I think Tom's message got out
more broadly," says Kihn. "A lot of nonprofits weren't familiar
with his research. Now they better understand the economics
around conservation issues."
Western States Center
The importance of the old rural West has
ended and it's never coming back …We'll give up something, sure.
But discarding a myth that has deceived us for a century may be
the healthiest thing this region can do.
Hal Rothman, Writers on the Range,
The Ford Foundation (In excess of $500 million in grants in
1998), which sponsored one of Dr. Power's "Environmental
Economics" tours, is also a funder of the Western States Center.
Like Dr. Power, the Western States Center (WSC) was a major
player at the "Wise Up to Wise Use" conference.
WSC offers a variety of support and services to the
Progressives in the West, particularly in Washington, Idaho,
Montana, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and the Center's home state of
Oregon. WSC has been particularly effective at developing
databases loaded with campaign finance data that is used to
accomplish two principle goals - exclude business interests from
the political arena, including ballot measures, and to make
certain that conservative members of any party don't get
According to the Western States Center web site, their vision
"is of a just and equitable society governed by a strong,
grassroots democracy." WSC says it works on three levels:
strengthening Progressive grassroots organizing and community
based leadership; building long term, strategic alliances among
community, environmental, labor, social justice and other public
interest organizations; and developing the capacity of informed
communities to participate in the public policy process and in
From 1996-1998, WSC invested more than $140,000 annually into
its "Wise Use Exposure Project." Publications of the Project
· Dangerous Territory: the Attack
on Citizen Participation and the Environmental Movement
· Extremists and the
Anti-environmental Lobby: Activities Since Oklahoma City
· The Wise Use Radicals: Violence
Finds New Bedfellows
· Western States Coalition Summit
VIII: The Anti-Environmental Lobby and Environmental Education.
Essentially, WSC and its state affiliates help provide the
necessary clamor that allows our state and local governments to
produce documents that label miners as overpaid, undereducated
social misfits and loggers as three-time losers. The perversion
of this situation is that the Western States Center, the Montana
Human Rights Network and others use bigotry and stereotyping to
push their environmentalist agenda.
All of this is done under the guise of tolerance.
Now, it is completely legitimate that these entities put
their money where their mouth is -they are entitled to conduct
their particular brand of advocacy. That's the American way, the
Democratic process. But when they reach into the government and
use the government as their co-conspirators in developing
federal policy, and that federal policy wreaks havoc with people
in communities, something is amiss. I hope it's not the American
way to get your way by demonizing segments of our population.
Following is a chart which shows WSC state affiliates, its
programs, and some of its funding.
WESTERN STATES CENTER CHART
Historically, this country's advantage was
always cheap land and cheap labor … In this new world, trees
have more value as scenery than as timber … Montana and Wyoming
don't lead and, at this stage, don't have much to teach the rest
of us. They're the ones without a real city.
Hal Rothman, Writers on the Range,
In January of 1998, a few months before the "Wise Up to Wise
Use" Conference, the Kootenai National Forest and the Montana
Department of Environmental Quality issued the Supplemental
Draft Environmental Impact Statement on ASARCO's Rock Creek mine
project. Rock Creek, which ASARCO began permitting more than 12
years ago and for which a Final EIS is anticipated this summer,
is an underground copper-silver mine project in Northwest
Our company, Environomics, was engaged by local ASARCO
officials to assist them with their community and public
relations programs associated with the Supplemental Draft EIS.
When I opened this official government document, I was more than
disappointed. When residents of the communities around Rock
Creek opened to those pages, they were stunned. They were angry.
And more than a little hurt. For there, in black and white, the
Kootenai National Forest's Supplemental Draft Environmental
Impact Statement told them they were the type of people the
world would be better off without. The following are excerpts
from the Socioeconomic section.
1. Mine development would significantly hinder western
Sanders County's capacity to diversify its economic base using
its natural amenities, quality of life, and competitive cost
structures to lure new comers whose jobs or work could occur in
any location and retirees (Johnson and Rasker, 1993, Jobes
1992). Up to 300 future service jobs, mostly in health,
educational and business services would be foregone through mine
effects in the area (Heffner, 1991; Power 1992; Swanson 1992 a;
Nork and Luloff 1992).
2. Project Employment would be expected to raise local
wage structures and to cause increased rates of job shifting
during project development. These effects would increase local
businesses' costs, making some businesses less competitive in
national markets and would decrease the rate of local business
growth and job creation. (Wenner 1992).
3. Dependence on repeated natural resource cycles has
caused major fluctuations in area quality of life and emphasized
non-transferable job skills and reduced community
4. Economic and social dependence on resource extraction
industries is widely regarded as an economic and social
liability because it ties social well-being to declining
economic sectors, locking residents into untransferable sets of
skills (Baden and O'Brien, 1994; Humphrey, 1994). Mining
dependence decreases local social and economic capacity by
hindering local flexibility, capability, and diversity of social
processes (Freudenberg 1992). The project would be expected to
increase local labor costs, decrease average education levels,
and weaken the sense of community (Swanson 1992c; Bloomquist and
Killian 1998; Freudenberg 1992). Mining dependence increases
community underemployment and decreases social adaptability (Krannich
and Luloff 1991).
5. Local residents who believe that project benefits are
vital to community viability would tend to view project social
problems as reasonable tradeoffs for 30 years of mining
employment. Those who value small town communities, rural scenic
qualities, and a sustainable diversified local economy, would
tend to view project costs to be greater than its benefits.
6. Alternative I [the no-mine alternative] would have
long term socioeconomic benefits.
The message was clear. According to the agencies, this
region, with some of the highest unemployment in one of the
nation's poorest states, is better off without a mine that would
employ more than 300 people for 25 years or more. The fact that
the mine would pay high wages and offer good benefits is a
negative, because other businesses might have to pay more to
compete. This underground mine would, simply by its existence,
scare off telecommuters and retirees, which, after all, are a
better type of person to have around than are miners. And
despite the fact that the mine would employ everyone from
accountants to lab technicians, heavy equipment operators to
environmental engineers, computer experts to metallurgists,
their job skills are not transferable.
Mysteriously, the Supplemental Draft EIS virtually declared
that miners' children are not as educable as other children are
and those communities with mines inherently lack diversity and
are socially backward. As excerpt 6 boldly states, the community
is better off without the mine.
This Supplemental Draft EIS professed that miners are, as
community residents mockingly began to refer to themselves,
"Overpaid, Undereducated Social Misfits."
The sort of dismissive, condemning language that appeared in
the Rock Creek document would have never been considered
substantive for use in an EIS a few years prior. It's becoming
The main opposition to the Rock Creek Mine comes from a
conglomeration of grant-dependent groups that have overlapping,
intermingling relationships, including fiscal agency.
Brainerd Foundation, Washington
Cabinet Resource Group
1997 - $15,000
To address environmental concerns related to the Troy Mine
and proposed Rock Creek mine.
1998 - $20,000
To challenge the permitting of the ASARCO Rock Creek copper
and silver mine under the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness in
Bullitt Foundation, Washington
Cabinet Resource Group
1997 - $15,000
Support a lawsuit against Asarco at northwestern Montana's
Troy mine and the expansion of the organization's public
outreach campaign addressing the environmental challenges of the
proposed Rock Creek Mine.
Rock Creek Alliance
1998 - $10,000
1999 - $10,000
Support a project to halt a proposed silver/copper mine in
the Rock Creek drainage area of the Cabinet Mountains of
northwestern Montana …The Montana Environmental Information
Center served as fiscal agent for Rock Creek Alliance in 1998.
Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition
Support the organization's overall operations as it continues
to challenge mining proposals that will further degrade water
quality in the basin.
The Educational Foundation of America, Connecticut
Clark Fork Coalition
Clark Fork Coalition, which is a member organization of the
Rock Creek Alliance, $80,000 over two years for "Rivers and
Mining: The Two Don't Mix."
The Educational Foundation of America's Foundation's
description of its Environment grants division says that "EFA's
environmental priorities included supporting the monitoring of
the utility restructuring process as it impacts the, combating
the growth of the 'wise-use' movement, opposing large-scale
livestock confinement, and cutting federal "polluter pork"
programs through green scissors campaigns."
Turner Foundation, Georgia
Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition
1998 - $20,000
To oppose mining and help protect and restore the Clark Fork
1997 - $15,000
Protect water quality from hard rock mining, toxic waste,
industry poisons, nutrient pollution, sedimentation, and
Center for Science in Public Participation
1998 - 20,000
Technical assistance to grassroots organizations that are
focused on opposing mining.
Roadless Area Conservation Draft EIS
The rural West sure doesn't pay the bills
… And its industries, ranching, agriculture, timber, mining and
the like are tossed on the scrap heap of our transfer-payment,
federal, tourist-based regional economy.
Hal Rothman, Writers on the Range,
Most recently, disparaging commentary toward the men and
women who make their living in natural resource businesses has
worked its way into Chapter 3 of the Roadless Area Conservation
Draft EIS. This new document states:
Logging and lumber millwork are not an inter-generational way
of life for all participants in the wood products industry. In
1991, median tenure of employment in the wood products industry
was 5.3 years (Power 1996). Timber communities have been noted
for their instability for over a century, due to the migratory
nature of the industry (Kaufman & Kaufman 1990). Timber jobs
migrate in response to the expansion and contraction of the
industry in local areas, with boom and bust cycles caused in
large part by unsustainable harvest levels (Power 1996). Even
reasonably prosperous timber-dependent communities are among the
least prosperous rural communities, having high seasonal
unemployment, high rates of population turnover, high divorce
rates, and poor housing, social services, and community
infrastructures (Drielsma and others, 1990, Power 1996).
Moreover, timber industry jobs are dangerous, having high injury
and mortality rates. Many people enter the wood products
industry because it provides opportunities to earn high wages
without having a high level of education. For these people what
is at stake is not a traditional lifestyle and occupational
culture, but rather an accessible route to a middle-class
lifestyle. If equivalent jobs were readily available, these
individuals would be happy to take advantage of them.
That single paragraph has three references to the works of
Dr. Thomas Power, who is mentioned in more detail above. As a
former miner, it's of little consolation to me (an overpaid,
undereducated social misfit), that the Forest Service now
considers loggers as possessing not only those non-redeeming
values, but also as being culturally ignorant trailer trash
who'll do anything for a buck and a new woman.
There's a reason this sort of language is now appearing in
these documents, which ostensibly are based in science and fact,
not political rhetoric and dogma. It's because of all the
pressure brought to bear by the environmental industry, being
well organized and heavily funded by wealthy foundations to
produce exactly those results.
This well-funded machine has generated (through the
necessary, strategic atmosphere for excluding from normal moral
and ethical consideration) a whole segment of society - rural
resource providers. This atmosphere has been set with
pseudo-scientific reports and non-peer reviewed studies released
to the public through the media and through public agencies.
This atmosphere has allowed agenda-driven personnel within both
federal and state agencies to repeat the mantra of cultural
smearing that we find in many management plans being implemented
and being proposed throughout the United States.
ICBEMP/Northern Rockies Campaign
The truth is hard, but clear. The rural
West has become a playground, a colony the rest of us visit when
we want to relax or indulge our fantasies. We camp, hike, swim,
boat, bike, ski, hunt, fish and ATV throughout the rural West,
making our living and our lives in its increasingly stretched
out and stunningly dense cities. Hal
Rothman, Writers on the Range, Spring 2000.
In May 1997, a consortium of four federal agencies released
their long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement regarding the
Interior Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP). ICBEMP
essentially is a one-size-fits all approach to managing (or not)
an area the size of France, half of which is federal land, in
the Inland Northwest.
As early as 1996, grants were sent to various - some obscure
- organizations to help influence the outcome of ICBEMP. One
such contribution came from the Ruth Mott Fund in Michigan and
was described like this:
Upper Columbia Working Group, Helena,
Support for start-up funding for the Upper Columbia River
Basin Ecosystem Management Project - $10,000
Others that year came from the David and Lucile Packard
Foundation. (Nearly $88 million of the Packard Foundation's $412
million in 1999 grants went to "Conservation" efforts).
Wilderness Society, Seattle, Washington
To support continued analytical work on the forest
ecosystems and economy of the Interior Columbia River Basin
National Audubon Society,
New York -
Second-year support for the Columbia River Bioregion
Here's how Audubon describes that Columbia River Bioregion
The National Audubon Society is a member of Columbia River
Bioregion Campaign (CRBC), a coalition of local, state and
national environmental groups that was formed 3 years ago to try
to improve the management of federal lands in the Columbia
Basin. The Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US
Forest Service (USFS) are currently in the process of developing
the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICBEMP).
This Plan is intended to implement the President's Northwest
Forest Plan east of the Cascades. The scientific findings which
have been included in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
released earlier this year are excellent, but the management
plan recommended by the Project has been judged inadequate by
the CRBC. The major shortcoming identified by CRBC in this
alternative is that it emphasizes grazing, logging, and
controlled burning as primary activities to restore the Basin's
The role of the State Office in the CRBC is to recruit and
coordinate the involvement of chapters in the Campaign to
influence the BLM and the USFS to make improvements in the Plan
so it will do a better job of improving the management of
federal lands in the Columbia Basin ecosystem for the benefit of
birds and other wildlife. State Office staff will also
coordinate chapter responses to the DEIS for the ICBEMP. The
CRBC has already asked the USFS and the BLM to either withdraw
the DEIS or release a Supplement later which would provide a
satisfactory alternative to protect old growth habitat, bird,
fish and wildlife population viability, and community resiliency
So, did these foundations see any fruits from their
In the ICBEMP document new, unreviewed methodology was used
to study the communities of the interior west and determine
which communities were 'resilient' and which were not. Criteria
for 'resiliency' included: strong civic leadership, positive,
proactive attitude toward change and strong social cohesion. The
ICBEMP document then listed community resiliency of all
communities with less than 10,000 persons (population being a
determining factor in resiliency) and a scale was developed that
divided the communities into four equal categories of low,
moderately low, moderately high and high resiliency. In other
words, rather than looking at communities for what they are,
this methodology pigeonholed towns into four equal parts.
Moreover, the methodology was such that a community of 10,001
people automatically was more resilient than one with 9,999.
The underlying supposition of this federal document remains
clear: a community that is low in 'resiliency' lacks strong
civic leadership, is not positive and proactive toward change
and does not possess strong social cohesion. Again the
underlying message was clear: Because yours is a
resource-dependent community, its social structure is ill and
needs to be dismantled and then rebuilt, largely by outsiders
who know better than you. It's going to be painful for you, but
it's in the public interest.
While several grant-dependant organizations became heavily
involved in the politics of ICBEMP, it was the Northern Rockies
Campaign run by Desktop Assistance had the most impact. Here's
Desktop's description of its program:
During the summer of 1997, the Northern Rockies Campaign
(NRC), with primary support provided by the Pew Charitable
Trusts, initiated an aggressive strategy to influence the
outcome of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management
Project (ICBEMP), an inter-agency federal process that would
dictate management of 1/4 of all public lands in the United
States for the next several decades.
[U]sing a variety of innovative and creative public outreach
strategies, including canvassing campgrounds in Yellowstone and
Glacier National Parks as well as eliciting Working Assets Long
Distance (WALD) to include a "Help Protect The Big Wild" appeal
in one of its monthly statements, in just 8 months NRC collected
73,000 public comments in favor of protecting wild places in the
[W]hen the Clinton Administration announced on January 22,
1998 its directive to the Forest Service to institute a
temporary moratorium on road building in most national forest
roadless areas, the Northern Rockies Campaign took it as a sign
that our efforts the previous eight months bore fruit.
[N]RC public comment campaign proved decisive in the new
policy - the Administration heard us and set almost all roadless
areas in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming temporarily off limits to
Forest Service development. We wanted to thank the
Administration for their action and to press for permanent
protection of the "last best place."
Desktop Assistance, a founding member of NRC, initiated an
email campaign to re-engage citizens who had submitted public
comments to ICBEMP. On January 27, at the opening of the 30-day
public comment period, we sent email to 6,957 people asking them
to do two things: thank the Administration for its policy and
submit an official public comment on the policy.
Desktop, which relies heavily on the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation ($8.4 million in Environmental grants in
1999), wasn't the only organization to get substantial money
from Pew early on for this effort. (More than $53 million of
Pew's $250 million in grants in 1999 went to environmental and
public policy) A 1996 Pew grant to the Greater Yellowstone
Coalition said this:
Greater Yellowstone Coalition -
With its renewed funding, the Northern Rockies
Campaign (NRC) will seek to protect key old-growth forest tracts
in the Northern Rockies through a comprehensive land management
planning process currently being developed by the Forest Service
and the Bureau of Land Management.
I'm not an anti-government right-winger. I was raised a
lunch-bucket Democrat and believe strongly in my country and my
government. Yet I find it extremely disconcerting when nonprofit
organizations and federal land agencies are stating loudly that
most people carrying lunch buckets are over-paid, under-educated
It's unfortunate that certain foundation funding of
environmental groups makes it possible for the government to use
this type of language, and to use these types of programs to
destroy rural America.
Incidentally, Writers on the Range, which sponsored Mr.
Rothman's italicized comments on the New West, is funded by the
Needmor Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Thank you for considering my testimony.