EGA Session Reveals Rockefeller Foundation
Funding Strategy for Long
Term Northern Forest Lands Campaign

by Erich Veyhl, Land Rights Letter, April 1993.

This research article was originally published in April, 1993 in Land Rights Letter as part of a series on the 1992 Environmental Grantmakers Association [EGA] conference. The series covered various aspects of the conference strategy sessions on how environmentalist activists should contend with the wise use movement, i.e., grass roots opposition to their campaign for government takeovers of private land and the throttling of natural resources industries across the nation. This brief article focuses on an EGA strategy discussion for New England, revealing the level of organization and long term agenda (“at least a decade”) for the goals anticipated in Audubon VP Brock Evans' “Take It All” speech.

Debra Callahan's EGA conference session on the “wise use” movement last October [Land Rights Letter, February 1993, March 1993] revealed one source of the funding for the preservationist campaign in New England:

“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.”

“[Enemies] Arnold, Gottlieb and Cushman all just went up to Maine about four weeks ago for a meeting. And they've been up there twice this summer and we know something is percolating up there and we're not exactly sure what it is, but we're getting organized anyway.”

(Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association, but not Alan Gottlieb, two leaders in the wise use movement, had come to Maine for public speaking engagements at two conferences, both monitored by preservationists whom Callahan refers to as “spies”.)

Part of “getting organized” turned out to be the EGA's failed attempt to manipulate local elections in New Hampshire and a vicious media hit–campaign against local landowners trying to defend their private property rights.

But funding from the Merck Fund driven by paranoia over Ron Arnold and Chuck Cushman is not all the EGA is doing in New England. EGA funding is supporting a long term political strategy for Federal control over 26 million acres in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Chuck Clusen, a leader of the EGA's conference session on forestry [Land Rights Letter, March 1993] described some of the New England organizing in more detail. Clusen said he had worked for the Sierra Club for eight years, later led the environmentalists' Alaska Lands Coalition, and in the mid–80's was Executive Director of the Adirondack Council (a local surrogate for national preservationist organizations such as the National Parks and Conservation Association and the Wilderness Society). He said he now works for Laurance Rockefeller's American Conservation Association (one of the major EGA funders) and specializes in “advocacy”, “public lands” and “land use regulation.”

At the EGA Forestry session, Clusen described the environmentalist campaign in Alaska, then turned to the northeast:

“I've had some background with the Adirondacks; this [New England forest lands] is sort of an extension.”

“Throughout this period the environmental community across these four [northeastern] states, which really did not have a history of collaboration, has come together in a very large coalition called the Northern Forest Alliance and now has I think 28 organizations. It has the major national groups as well as the principal state groups of these four states.”

“And I've been able working with them over the last year and a half, one, on their development of political strategies and soon, but also to facilitate their development of a campaign plan very similar to the Alaskan situation as to a campaign that will probably go on for at least a decade ...”

“In many ways this is a much more complex situation because of the private ownership in total of eighty percent of these 26 million acres ...”

“[T]here's no way we're gonna buy it all, unfortunately, although there is great interest in this Forest Legacy easement program and also more traditional land acquisition, but that's only gonna be part of the solution... there's a great deal of talk about, and work trying to figure out, how to make the transition to sustainable economic futures” [an environmentalist concept intended to make eco–system biodiversity the basic criterion of economics – see Land Rights Letter, March 1993].

Clusen attacked the timber companies, which are a major current focus of the campaign, but admitted that other private land is well–managed: “There is a real difference between the industrial forest lands, which are owned by the big companies like Champion or Bowater or whatever ... where there are real arguments with some of those companies about forest practices, clear–cutting, use of chemicals, over–cutting, etc. When you get to the non–industrial private landowners you have a very different situation... You have managers who really do care about the kind of forestry they're doing and what they're doing to the land overall.”

The admission that at least some of the “non–industrial” land is well cared for does not, however, deter them from wanting Federal acquisition, or at least a Greenline to control what they can't acquire.

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

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