In the January/February 1993 issue of Land Rights Letter we reported that a major environmental strategy session took place at the annual meeting of the Environmental Grantmakers Association last October in Washington state. The purpose of the session was to tell participants representing the over 130 foundations and corporations which fund environmental causes about the results of a 50–state study of the Wise Use and Property Rights Movements. Debra Callahan of the Charlottosville, VA–based W. Alton Jones Foundation told an obviously stunned audience that. “...we have come to the conclusion that this is pretty much generally a grass roots movement, which is a problem, because it means there's no silver bullet.”
Land Rights Letter has now obtained an updated copy of this investigation which was “prepared under the direction of The Wilderness Society and its president George Frampton.” Frampton, you will recall, is President Clinton's Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in the U.S. Department of Interior. Entitled, The Wise Use Movement – Strategic Analysis and Fifty State Review, the report, in addition to containing inaccurate summaries of wise use and property rights political action in each state, lays out a step–by–step strategy that the investigation's “advisory committee” suggests environmentalists must follow to defeat wise use.
Lacking a single “silver bullet”, here are the “strategic building blocks” with which environmentalists propose to defeat the growing Wise Use/Property Rights Movements:
- 1 The Mainstream Message:
Preservationists are obviously concerned that in the “wise use war” we are reaching “Middle America” while they are not. They are very self–conscious about environmentalists' city–dwelling elitist image. They appear to believe that those in the Property Rights/Wise Use Movements have calculatedly developed a media message built around concern for the economy, jobs, and rural people's ties to the land. Their complete misunderstanding of our movements is summed up in the following few sentences: “We cannot discern whether this strategy was planned or happenstance, the truth is irrelevant. The fact is Wise Use has a strong message that is targeted at our Achilles Heel.”
The truth is irrelevant? Apparently, it does not even occur to them that there is a third possibility – that people are being hurt by environmental extremism and those people are simply fighting back.
To develop their own “mainstream message” they propose to:
Tell the conservation story !n order to place “the environmental movement squarely on Main Street.”
Use the word “public” land instead of “federal” land. The objective is to encourage the public to think of this land as theirs instead of belonging to the federal government.
“Identify Clearly Our Opponents And How They Are Ripping Off America.” Leslie Spencer writing in Forbes magazine recently referred to this report as “a search–and–destroy strategy guide.” Once again revealing that “The Truth is irrelevant” the report's authors propose to continue to tell the public that we are the “big boys...in league with other powerful interests.”
“Side With The Mainstream” Here they propose to begin distancing themselves from their own “fringe elements” such as Earth First! and the animal rights movement. “The general silence of the environmental movement on animal rights has placed the movement in a convenient box for Wise Use and the media”.
“Address Economic and Environmental Concerns Simultaneously.” We have already begun to see the public relations campaign to attempt to show that environmental regulation creates new jobs and industries. Vice President Al Gore used this refrain throughout the presidential campaign last year. And, the National Audubon promotes this theme in its new “documentary” film. “Backlash in the Wild” to air on Turner Broadcasting this month.
- 2 Coalition Building
The divide–and–conquer strategy is clearly on their minds when they propose building block number two: “It is time we systematically reached out beyond our own network of activists and worked to build strong lasting bonds with natural allies and enlisted them in our fight against Wise Use. Primary targets for coalition building include: working people, agricultural producers, sportsmen and women and mainstream churches.”
They especially emphasized bringing farmers into the environmental fold. It is devastating for preservationists, particularly from a media standpoint, to have farmers who are generally good stewards of the land on the side of wise use and property rights. I was surprised to see Audubon magazine publish a story in its July–August 1993 issue about a California farmer who enhances wildlife habitat on his 9,000–acre ranch and is quoted as supporting private property as a way of protecting wildlife. I was surprised, that is, until I read the environmenlalists’ “war” plan.
- 3 Attack Wise Use
Again, they are relying, in their “war”, on a “search– and–destroy” strategy as they advise their fellow environmentalists: “When potential ideological or policy divisions within the Wise Use Movement are discovered, the environmental movement must expose, highlight and deepen the divisions.” Under building block number three, Frampton's investigators also go on to suggest that environmentalists “Reveal The Extreme Issue Positions Of The Wise Use Movement.” And, “Expose The Connections Between Wise Use Leaders And Other Extremists.” Remember: “The truth is irrelevant.”
A more specific recommendation that logically fits in this category is their proposal to “prepare articles, monographs and books that expose Wise Use activities and leaders...” Some readers of Land Rights Letter may have recently had a call from an investigator, David Helvarg, who is working on one such book for Sierra Club books [and not telling people who the actual publisher is].
One of the most interesting suggestions in building block number three is to: “Pick A Legislative Fight With Wise Use We Can Win.” Here they suggest, and use considerable space discussing, how to “hammer” wise use in the ongoing Congressional battle over the 1872 Mining Act. They seem to think that they can “bloody [our] image” with a win on this piece of legislation, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has already started to implement this strategy by requesting state BLM offices to provide photo–op sites of abandoned mining sites for the requisite media campaign against mining.
- 4 Reinvigorate the Grassroots
Most of the major environmental groups long ago lost their “grassroots” appeal as they became top–heavy, establishment, inside–the–beltway bureaucracies. Now, and it is amusing to watch, they are scrambling to rebuild their “grassroots,” obviously in direct response to the strong grassroots nature of the property rights and wise use movements.
They specifically discuss three regions of the country they see as important to their reinvigoration of grassroots – “We recommend targeting three regions of the country for intensive anti–Wise Use campaigns — New England and the Adbondacks. Northern Rockies and the Southwest. These regional campaigns should not be directed by national environmental groups. They should be run by statewide or regional organizations.” Indeed upon analysis of financial reports of major Environmental Grantmakers Association members, it is obvious that wealthy foundations are generously funding the appearance of environmental “grassroots”, (See Foundation Profile on previous page ).
In fact, the imperative to build an environmental grassroots movement was repeated throughout the Environmental Grantmakers Association meeting. While Debra Callahan presented the strategy against wise use, keynote speaker Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, continuing the grassroots theme after presenting his radical vision for a new world, had this to say:“If Rio told us anything, we are not going to get the profound changes from the top down... It's got to come from the ground up. I've talked to Al Gore about this many many times and be understands it clearly.”
The Wise Use Movement – Strategic Analysis and Fifty State Review is available for $11.00 c/o Center for Resource Economics, 1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW, #300, Washington. D. C. 20009.
Copyright © 1993 Ann Corcoran and Land Rights Letter. All Rights Reserved
Page last updated: 6/14/05