Environmental Grantmakers Association Funders
Tell Activists How to Contend with Grass Roots Opposition

Funding and Organizing
the Military Strategy

by Erich Veyhl, Land Rights Letter, March 1993.

The role of EGA coordination in funding environmentalist political activities to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars was summarized last month.

Here we provide a few snapshots, based on statements of Callahan and others, of examples describing the strategic, military–like mind–set behind “on the ground” (as they put it) operations. Callahan argued that

“the majority of the best [anti–] wise use organizing being done around the country isn't done ... in a vacuum as anti–wise use organizing; it's done in the context of an issue campaign; it's done in the context of endangered species protection; it's done in the context of wetlands protection. It's done in the context of other things so probably most of you in this room have actually, or many of you in the room, have actually made grants that have supported environmentalists whose adversaries are largely wise users. So in fact you may already be engaged in some of this...”

A description of an operation in Montana included:

“So what has been the response by the existing organizations in the state, by national organizations to what's been going on... what have funders been doing?”

“One has been to beef up the amount of grass roots organizing that's already going on. It's kind of a base line concern, just make sure that we're still – it's neighbor to neighbor – that we're talking to each other, adding additional field organizers on our side.” [“Field organizers” are “neighbor to neighbor”?]

“Getting more information – there have been discreet polls funded to find out if the people's perceptions, or the assumptions of what people think about say the 18th [sic] century mining act are true, and that's been very useful information in a political sense as well as strategic sense for the environmental community there.”

“Folks have gone through some media training so that they can better respond to what's been going on and have a maybe more active aggressive strategy on how to deal with media.”

“There's been one national group, the Wilderness Society that has set up a mini–grant program that has been able to direct $563 dollars to a particular group for a particular action at the right time and it's much faster response mechanism than I think any of us are able to do, including the Beldon Fund. And so that's been very helpful. It's helped at least a half a dozen groups there in a very key and a very quick way.”

“... The groups in Helena and Bozeman and Missoula are connecting with groups in Wyoming and Idaho and Colorado, and cross fertilizing and exchanging information and that's also a very important function.”

“So there's all kinds of opportunities for funders to be involved at any of those layers. And that's just a single state.”

The Wilderness Society and other national organizations are funneling foundation money into PR agencies as well as local surrogate pressure groups. Other speakers revealed that the Wilderness Society is also used as a “fiscal agent” to funnel tax exempt donations out of the country to support foreign political activity.

In the Pacific Northwest where environmentalists have already used the spotted owl to destroy 11,000 jobs (expected to reach from 25,000 to 50,000), Speaker of the House Thomas Foley (D–WA) is attempting to reach a compromise. But not the environmentalists – One participant revealed: “There is a full–time organizer, working [in Foley's District] trying to make his [Foley's] life miserable, even if he can't be defeated – but it will be a major issue in the next session and it's going to be intertwined with the Endangered Species Act.”

In the Northeast, EGA funders are especially interested in the latest preservationist initiative: the Northern Forests Lands campaign for Federal acquisition and Greenlining of 26 million acres of mostly private land in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. The “Wise Use” session revealed:

“Ruth Hennig with the John Merck Fund up in New England has put together – is in process of putting together a really wonderful program that is again a New England state coalition building effort of organizations that are working on wise use, and that's an effort that's being organized. It's gonna be very strategic and I think it's gonna be really powerful up there, up in New England. They've got some pretty heavy issues up there.”

Copyright © 1993 Erich Veyhl and Land Rights Letter. All Rights Reserved

Page last updated: 6/13/05