The Wise-Use Movement

Thanks to Boone for his thoughtful comments on and useful link re. the Wise-Use Movement (see thread under “Do You Have a ‘Right’ to Hunt and Fish”). He reminds me that the following piece I did for Harrowsmith County Life may be of interest. It’s a bit dated, so if any of the offenders have seen the light, my apologies and bully for them. One of the offenders which has clearly NOT seen the light -- and has gotten worse (if possible) -- is the BlueRibbon Coalition. It gets my vote for the most despicable of all Wise-Use outfits; and, believe me, that’s going a goodly distance. Greenscam by Ted Williams There was, maybe still is, a thoroughly underwhelming TV series in which reptiles from outer space donned human garb, the better to destroy Planet Earth. So accurate were the disguises, that, despite the aliens' sharp teeth and venomous saliva, they could lure unsuspecting Americans into coitus. The single conceivable element of the story line was the ease with which seduction was effected. Americans are currently being seduced in precisely the same fashion by timber companies, livestock grazers, hard-rock miners, oil/gas extractors, wetlands developers, off-road-vehicle (ORV) manufacturers and other special interests who profit from exploiting public land and who would profit even more without environmental regulations. Coached by high-priced PR firms and well-heeled right-wing think tanks, they call their activity everything it isn't -- "wise use," "multiple use," "grassroots conservation." And they call themselves "environmentalists." The names of their fronts are littered with words like "sensible" and "responsible" which modify words like "control" and "solutions," as if it goes without saying that existing statutes are cruel and unusual. Example: "Citizens for Sensible Control of Acid Rain," which between 1983 and 1989 received $7,522,633 from air polluters and not a cent from a citizen, and which in 1986 spent more money fighting acid-rain control than any lobby pushing any agenda in the history of the United States. These groups are starting to coalesce under such misleading monikers as the 200-member "Wise-Use Movement" (a Who's Who of despoilers which advocates cutting all ancient forests, opening all wilderness and national parks to logging, oil drilling and mining, and lifting Endangered Species Act protection from all "non-adaptive species" (i.e., everything that can't cope with slap-dash development) and "The Alliance for America" -- which at its first convention last November consisted of 127 organizations. One of these -- the BlueRibbon Coalition (more about it directly) -- reports that the meeting was gloriously cathartic in that it allowed victims of environmental extremism to get together and have a good cry: "It was an emotional scene as speakers recalled personal tragedies inflicted by government edicts forbidding use of private property because it was judged to be wetlands, 'possible' habitat or an endangered species or a 'dangerous' coastal area. Throughout the meeting hall, cheeks were damp as delegates one by one pledged unanimous support for the basic aims of the new Alliance." The principal organizer of both the Wise Use Movement and the Alliance for America is Alan M. Gottlieb, a shy, balding little felon of 44 who has done time for filing false income tax returns and failing to pay taxes and whose not-for-profit "Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise" has been linked with Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. "For us the environmental movement has become the perfect bogeyman," he told The New York Times. It's easy to laugh at all the purring and posturing and ill-fitting costumes until you see what the actors are accomplishing. Consider the National Recreational Trails Funds Act, just signed into law. In a time when we are so desperate for fossil fuel that our government's administrative branch tells us we have to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the ORV manufacturers push through an amendment to the highway bill that provides for recreational trails on public land by annually siphoning $30 million in gasoline taxes from such energy-conservation projects as mass transit. This in itself would seem an impossible task, but there is more. ORV operators, whose use of fossil fuel is deemed "non-critical" even by their friends and who comprise 11 percent of all trail users, are eligible for up to 70 percent of the new money. How on earth did the ORV lobby pull it off? It went undercover, aping grassroots environmentalists through its front group, the BlueRibbon Coalition founded in 1987 by snowmobiler and anti-wilderness activist Darryl Harris (See "Wilderness Wars," Harrowsmith, January/February 1988.) The coalition's logo consists of a ribbon-wrapped vista of mountains and trees over the words: "Preserving our natural resources FOR the public instead of FROM the public." At every opportunity the group swaddles itself in green. "We have been labeled as anti-environmentalist when we are playing an active role in teaching environmental awareness," pronounces Executive Director Clark Collins, who as the director of a developer front called the Idaho Public Land Use Committee, won Harris' heart with such screeds as the one entitled "Nature Nazis" in which he compared the environmental community with the Third Reich: "Much like the German Nazis were able to distort the Christian faith into a tool they attempted to use for the cruel, in-human extermination of the entire Jewish race, the Nature Nazis have corrupted the environmental movement." An official member of the Wise Use Movement, the coalition claims to stand for "wise use" of natural resources. When a reader scolded BlueRibbon magazine columnist "Fossil Bill" Kramer for pretending to be an environmentalist, he responded as follows: "The letter writer and I have obvious differences over environmental matters. He is most likely a preservationist, while my sympathies are for wise use of whatever the earth has to offer. But that doesn't mean we aren't both environmentalists." "Grassroots" are an even more important part of the disguise for groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition, enabling a PAC-financed legislator to blame public pressure for his anti-environment stance. "The lobbying was intense," brags Collins, "but we were successful in retaining the trail fund proposal virtually intact. For a grassroots recreation organization that is less than five years old, that is a monumental achievement…This is a victory for grassroots trail users nationwide." Actually, the coalition's grassroots run about as deep as Astroturf. In its home state of Idaho, for instance, there are two (2) citizen members, one of whom served as aide to the senator who introduced the trails act -- Steve Symms of Idaho. And while "contributors" are said to include such private ORV groups as the Centralla, Washington Mudslingers ("Tread Lightly" is a coalition shibboleth), the real money comes from miners, timber barons and, especially, ORV manufacturers: Kawaski, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Bombardier, the Colorado Mining Association, American Petroleum Institute, Associated Logging Contractors, Boise Cascade, Louisiana Pacific, Potlach, Alaska Pulp, Intermountain Forest Industries, to mention just a few. In private correspondence to special interests the coalition takes credit for "organizing support" for: 1. the U.S. Forest Service's bloated budget for building haul roads for private timber companies (an activity which ensures a net loss in sales of public timber and, in the process, obliterates trails of all sorts); 2. "oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge"; 3. "protection of the Mining Act" (a vestigial statute enacted in 1872 that lets hard-rock miners buy public land for $2.50 per acre); and 4. "continuation of the present grazing formula" (a system of cowboy welfare in which the American taxpayers get less than a quarter of fair-market value for leasing their rangeland to an industry that converts it to desert). Still, I wondered what -- other than a little pan banging -- the miners and loggers were getting for their bucks. Then I learned that, under the new legislation, motor trails can be hacked into previously roadless areas, thereby reducing potential for future wilderness designation. There is no question that such reduction was one of the coalition's primary objectives in pushing the trails act. In a January 1991 letter to Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus concerning Idaho wilderness negotiations, Collins wrote that "information on where ORV funds have been spent on trail improvements have [sic] a definite bearing in these deliberations." Idaho has nine million acres of potential wilderness, which helps explain why the coalition is headquartered in the state and why it is acknowledged by the Wilderness Society as "a major contributor to the stalemate in introducing a wilderness bill." When Collins is addressing audiences who fancy themselves victimized by environmental regulators, wilderness is the route of all evil. "Wilderness designation is not good for recreation," he writes in a book edited by Alan Gottlieb called The Wise Use Agenda. "In actuality [wilderness proponents] want to lock up our public lands so our grandchildren can't use them either…They don't want to see one another in the backcountry, let alone a cow or a trailbike…The only method being promoted by the traditional environmentalist is to lock everyone else out." However, depending on the audience, the coalition can turn from brown to green faster than a chameleon. In a letter to the Sierra Club, Collins denied that his group is "anti-wilderness" and claimed that some of the "member organizations have supported reasonable additions to the wilderness preservation system." ******** Environmentalists are still trying to figure out how they got KOed on the trails act, but they admit it wasn't a lucky punch. "I have to give Collins a lot of credit," declares Mike Francis of the Wilderness Society. "The guy is good. As flaky as he seems, he is one hell of a tactician. He got Steve Symms to make the trails amendment his number-one project on the highway bill. The trails act is a flea on the rear end of an elephant when you compare it to the regular highway bill. Everyone wanted Symms support for something else. With the exception of Howard Metzenbaum [D-Ohio] our best environmentalists on the Senate Energy Committee weren't willing to take on Symms. They all took a walk. Symms and Clark played that thing beautifully." "Remarkable," is how Dave Alberswerth of the National Wildlife Federation describes the coalition's victory. "They pulled the wool over a lot of people's eyes about what the impacts of this thing were going to be. We tried to unmask them, but they got about what they wanted." The coalition's accomplishment is all the more impressive when you consider the obstacles it overcame. For one thing, it had to make Congress and a large segment of the public accept as truth something patently false -- i.e., that ORV riding is just another "multiple use." One does not have to hate ORVs to recognize that the devices impede multiple use. They obliterate fish and wildlife habitat; and their racket is like cigarette smoke: those who produce it victimize those who do not, while the reverse is never true. At least one can escape cigarette smoke by exiting into the outdoors; not so with ORVs. I, for example, enjoy identifying birds by their songs. When I do my thing ORV operators everywhere are utterly unaffected, ignorant in fact. Yet for ORV operators to do theirs means that I must cease doing mine. To a lesser extent the same is true for fishermen, hunters and horseback riders. And yet the coalition managed to win over these very user groups, convincing them that there would be no real conflicts on motor trails. Herewith, a few anecdotes -- not to build a case against ORVs, but to illustrate the seemingly insurmountable PR challenge faced by the BlueRibbon Coalition: At the north end of Michigan's lower peninsula, where the Au Sable River creeps down to Lake Huron, retired fighter pilot Colonel George Buchner found ORV users popping wheelies in his posted trout stream. Buchner, a veteran of over 500 combat missions in Vietnam, reports that when he demanded names one rider dismounted, jumped on his back and broke his noise. When he fenced his posted property ORV users cut the wire and pulled the stakes. When he reinforced the stakes with cement, ORV users knocked them down. When he chronicled ORV damage along the broken, bleeding banks of a public trout stream, he was buzzed and pelted with sand. When he pushed for state regulations he received death threats and his street lights were shot out. When he persevered, his mail box was smashed and his driveway seeded with broken glass. On one of the 17 occasions that ORV users broke into his property he and his wife Robin confronted an operator. "The guy goosed it and ran up on her leg," Buchner told me. "She was screaming, and he calmly cranked it up again and finished running over her. He'd come through multiple barriers, multiple posted signs, three fences and a gate." Even if one concedes the coalition's hypothesis that such horror stories are the acts of a "few bad apples," appalling conflicts between motorized and non-motorized trail users have been chronicled all over the nation. A survey conducted in the fall of 1990 by the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts on roughly a third of the state revealed 600,000 acres damaged by ORVs with repair costs conservatively set at $1 billion. The ground cover along some power rights of way was so torn up that utility poles fell over. Lynn Young, who serves as Public Affairs Specialist for the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in central Colorado and who goes on and on about how he's not anti-internal-combustion and how he supports "responsible" motorized use, said this: "It just makes me furious. They're ripping up wilderness areas that will take a hundred years to regenerate. What's happened is the land ethic has changed. Fifty years ago most people lived on the land and understood how you could hurt it. Now most of the visitors come from the city, in these big vehicles, and don't know anything about the land." Kathy Albert of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington reports that hikers are abandoning trails they're obliged to share with ORV users and that it's becoming clear "that the two uses aren't compatible." Washington fisheries biologists report that ORV damage to salmon habitat could cost commercial fisherman millions. In Wyoming snowmobiles have driven elk from winter range in the Bighorn National Forest. In the California/Nevada desert the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had to cancel the annual Barstow to Las Vegas motorcycle race to save remaining habitat of the threatened desert tortoise. BLM's action invoked the ire of the "Sahara Club," a band of motorized bikers who post the names of particularly offensive tree huggers in a publication called The Sahara Club Bulletin and who are unaffectionately known in environmental circles as "Earth Last!" Recently, the club participated in a legal, nine-man protest ride along the old race route, gleefully reporting that "the look on the faces of the rangers was butt-ugly" and that they were "mightily pissed." All environmental extremists who might be planning to sabotage trails are warned that they will be turned over to the baseball-bat-wielding "Sahara Clubbers," none of whom weighs less than 220 and all of whom are "ugly." Such is no-conflict, multiple use in action. ******** But the BlueRibbon Coalition didn't just get sportsmen and equestrians to back off on the trails act. It persuaded them to actively campaign for it. Playing Honest John Fox to their Pinocchio, it concocted and disseminated wild stories about the pleasures of "multiple use" and the horrors of wilderness. "Environmentalists," it reported in BlueRibbon magazine, "demand that 26 million acres of forest land in the northeastern states be added to official wilderness and preserved forever from public use." (The plan carefully avoids calling for wilderness designation. Instead, it guarantees traditional public access and all traditional public uses, including fishing, hunting, horseback riding, ORV use and timbering.) Another BlueRibbon item: "Wilderness laws make it impossible to adequately manage wildlife. This is the case of the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. In the past four decades they worked hard at developing desert water holes to make the areas usable by wildlife. Under wilderness rules they had to abandon the very water sources they created because their personnel couldn't enter the areas to maintain them." Having worked for a game and fish department myself, the water-hole tale struck me as fishy, so I checked it out with Bob Weaver, Habitat Branch Supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. No water sources had been abandoned; BLM had merely requested that the department alert it before performing normal maintenance so as to avoid conflicts with organized wilderness outings. Moreover, wilderness designation, which never results in the exclusion of hunters or fishermen, is an essential tool for management of countless game species intolerant of human disturbance -- big horn sheep, for instance. And it is essential to quality hunting and fishing. In the words of hunter, fisherman and wilderness activist Aldo Leopold, who sired the science of game management as well as America's first designated wilderness area (the Gila in New Mexico), "the recreational value of game is inverse to the artificiality of its origin." But when Collins hawked his motor-trail bill to The Wildlife Legislative Fund of America -- a hunters' rights group -- he was told that it looked like "a priority piece of legislation," that the fund would fight for it and that "the [ORV] 'antis' are undoubtedly the same people who combat hunting, fishing and trapping." The Central Idaho Rod and Gun Club went so far as to become a member of the coalition. "We don't believe in a lot of them road closures," explains Vice President Steve Cobbley. When I asked him how the club stands on wilderness, he said: "No more wilderness. What good is it? There won't be any hunting allowed back there." When I told him that hunting was permitted on all federal wilderness areas, save National Park land which is closed anyway, he refused to believe me. Horseback riders are about as naturally allied with ORV operators as are crows with hawks, and yet they signed on with Collins. "If we all hang on together and forgive and forget those bad times, we may make a difference in the future of our public and private lands," gushed Milaine Locher of Backcountry Horsemen in a letter to BlueRibbon magazine. "By the way, 'Tread Lightly!' is a motto for Backcountry Horsemen, too." Now her Washington State chapter is a member of the coalition. Frances Land, founder of the equestrian group Trailriders USA, whooped it up for the legislation in her regular column for the Sentinel, a horse journal published by the Libertyville, Illinois Saddle Shop. And, borrowing the coalition's rhetoric, she accused non-motorists of trying to "lock up the woods." Finally, she charged the National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club with "actively working to oppose horse use of trails." When I asked her which Wildlife Federation people were causing trouble she told me that someone in Iowa, whose name escaped her, had once told her that someone "claiming to represent the Wildlife Federation" had once opposed a trail in a location she couldn't remember. (The federation couldn't help me either, plaintively denying that it ever opposed equestrian use and claiming it had pushed for an $85 million increase for trails in 1991.) Nor could Frances Land provide details on alleged Sierra Club opposition. When I asked her how the Trailriders felt about wilderness, she said: "Fine if it doesn't exclude equestrian use." But it doesn't, never has. Collins hasn't finished puffing and blowing about the National Recreational Trails Funds Act, but he tells me his grassroots, environmental group isn't about to rest on its laurels. Next mission: gutting the Endangered Species Act. See, it's like this: "The spotted owl, red-cockaded woodpecker, all these so-called endangered species have been misused by the anti's, the folks who are against everybody's activities but their own. Because of the way that law is written they were able to close down a lot of areas. All the multiple-use groups, all the resource industries, all the recreational interests, farm bureaus, all the sportsmen's groups are going to be working together on this." Fortunately for Collins, there's a front group already in place. It's called "the Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition." With the ORV lobby on board it just might succeed in paralyzing humanity's first major push to save Earth's biodiversity. This wouldn't surprise Darryl Harris. As he prophetizes in BlueRibbon magazine, "We will gain more victories because we have truth on our side." - 30 - The author, who writes environmental columns for Audubon and Fly Rod & Reel magazines, shares a love of fishing but not baseball with the "real" or, as he much prefers, "elder" Ted Williams. Sidebar With all the fine environmental organizations desperate for money it is inexcusable to fund despoilers who paint themselves green. A few basic precautions: Never give money to a group you don't know a lot about. Ask for a copy of the annual report, a list of supporters, a written statement of mission and the percent of receipts spent on overhead. An outfit that doesn't promptly provide this information may have something to hide. Remember, the vast majority of legitimate environmental groups are undeserving and ineffective. For instance, if your purpose is to help fish, wildlife and the environment, avoid all animal-rights/humane organizations since they rarely address the real issues threatening our biota. Following is a list of groups you can't go wrong with; they are the very best. In most cases their names are self-explanatory. There are other, smaller ones just as worthy, but these are too numerous to mention here. -- T.W. The Best of the Legitimate Environmental Groups American Rivers Atlantic Center for the Environment Center for Marine Conservation Environmental Action Environmental Defense Fund Conservation Law Foundation Friends of the Earth Greater Yellowstone Coalition (pushes coordinated management of the planet's largest intact temperate ecosystem.) Izaak Walton League League of Conservation Voters (prepares and publicizes environmental report cards on the president, presidential candidates and all members of Congress.) National Audubon Society National Fish and Wildlife Foundation National Parks and Conservation Association National Wildlife Federation Native Forest Council Natural Resources Defense Council Nature Conservancy Population-Environment Balance Rain Forest Alliance Scenic America (sounds like a front, but it controls billboard blight along highways.) Sierra Club Wilderness Society The Wolf Fund (mission: restoring wolves to greater Yellowstone, as per the mandate of the Endangered Species Act.) World Wildlife Fund Zero Population Growth The Worst of the Despoiler Front Groups (Note: More precise monikers, translated from the Orwellian Doublespeak, appear in parentheses.) Alliance for Environment and Resources (translation: Alliance for Extracting Resources from the Environment.) Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy (translation: Alliance to Ensure Continued Profits for Chloro-Fluorocarbon Makers.) BlueRibbon Coalition (translation: The Mining Industry, the Forest Products Industry and Off-Road-Vehicle Manufacturers). California Desert Coalition (translation: the Motorcycle Industry Council and the American Motorcyclists Association.) Citizens for Sensible Control of Acid Rain (translation: Air Polluters Who Claim that Controlling Acid Rain is Nonsense.) Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (translation: The Very Worst Enemies of Fish and Wildlife in Congress Who Seduce Sportsmen by Mouthing Such Litany as How Vile are Anti-Hunters and by Writing Such Propaganda for Wide-Eyed and Innocent Hook-and-Bullet Editors as "Why Alaskan Sportsmen Support Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [to oil development].") Council for Solid Waste Solutions (translation: Trash Makers Against Source Reduction). Desert Conservation Institute (translation, courtesy of BlueRibbon magazine: "a mining industry education program.") Environmental Conservation Organization -- ECO (translation: Extractors and Cattlemen Out for free lunches on public land.) Evergreen Foundation (translation: Foundation for Keeping Clearcuts Forever Painted Green.) Information Council for the Environment -- ICE (translation: Industrial Center for Environmental disinformation from coal and electric companies whose PR firm recommends they target "older, less-educated males" and "younger, lower-income women.") Keep America Beautiful -- KAB (translation: Keep America Buying throw-way containers.) National Council for Environmental Balance (translation: Special Interests for Even Greater Neglect of Planet Earth.) National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (translation: Habitat Wreckers for Emasculation of America's Most Important Wildlife Law.) National Wetlands Coalition (translation: Developers for Redefining "Wetlands" So as to Drain and Fill Half of What Remain.) National Wilderness Institute (translation: Institute for Research into Ways of Raping Potential Wilderness.) Oregon Lands Coalition (translation: Timber Companies Coveting the Last Ten Percent of America's Temperate Rain Forest.) People for the USA (translation: the Hard-Rock Mining Industry). Responsible Industry for a Safe Environment -- RISE (translation: Requesting Impunity for Savaging Earth.) Taxpayers for the Environment and its Management -- TEAM (translation: Take, Eat, And be Merry.) West Coast Alliance for Resources and the Environment -- WE CARE (translation: WE CARE about ancient forests when measured in board feet.) Wilderness Impact Research Foundation (Foundation for Research into Ways of Blocking Wilderness Designation.) Wise Use Movement (translation: Movement to Use Up Everything Before Americans Get Wise.) Yellow Ribbon Coalition (translation: Low-income Loggers Incited by Rich Timber Barons To Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Radio Antenna and Honk if they Love Clearcutting.)