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for people who care about the West

Of "stump pimps' and "wolf pimps'

  Dear HCN,


Criticize Alex Cockburn if you must, and he certainly gives one plenty of opportunity (HCN, 5/11/98). No one ever accused him of keeping his opinions to himself. And, no one would ever accuse him of infallibility - remember, he thinks Lee Oswald was a lone Socialist hero!


But, claiming that environmental groups use threats to public lands and species as a means of "making money" is hardly startling news. Jon Margolis' ad hominem attack conveniently dismisses such an obvious notion.


As I write this, the foundation-dependent community is holding a much-hyped Wilderness Conference in Seattle. There has been but one new wilderness in the Pacific Northwest in the last 14 years - Opal Creek. Yet, not one of us who actually did the heavy lifting for two-plus decades on Opal Creek was invited to share our success. In fact, when this glaring oversight was pointed out to the conference's organizers, we were pointedly rebuffed.


Why? Well it cost us money to save Opal Creek - tens of thousands. It was a classic grassroots effort. And, that's not a model of success for the foundation grant-dependent groups. Neither, apparently, is our effort to turn around the former timber town of Detroit, Ore., whose remarkable stance against further logging HCN featured in a well-written article recently. We've had a lot of success (and some dismal failures) in Oregon's Santiam Canyon, but you'd never know it by looking at the list of presenters at any mainstream enviro conference.


For example, prominent among the conference's sponsor groups is the Kettle Range Conservation Group. KRCG was founded in 1976 with the sole stated purpose of gaining wilderness designation for Washington state's Kettle Crest in the 1978 Seiberling additions.


Despite the worthiness of the Kettle Range and despite the many good folks working for and volunteering for the KRCG, 22 years later not one acre has been designated wilderness. But KRCG now has a six-figure budget, grants from big foundations and an office on Republic's main street. KRCG is far from the exception, more like the rule, in the foundation-dependent community.


Also prominent among the conference groups is the Hells Canyon Preservation Council (HCPC), which now ignores as unrealistic (read: unfundable) its own visionary national park proposal.


In 1993, the plaintiff groups in the spotted owl lawsuits gave in and surrendered the injunctions and approved of Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan. Immediately, each group was rewarded with a six-figure grant to, in their own words, "monitor the implementation of Option 9 in a tight campaign fashion."


Now, with the monitoring money gone and Option 9 still liquidating ancient forests, these same groups have re-invented themselves as the Forest Water Alliance and put out PR pieces and raised funds based on the fact that "Option 9 is cutting old growth."


No mention of the fact that in 1993 they attacked conservationists who wouldn't go along with their game plan and who pointed out then how bad the Forest Plan was. I was attacked in the mainstream press as a "renegade," a "fringe element" and a "dissident" simply because I and three other experienced forest activists tried to intervene in the release of the injunction.


Failure is lavishly rewarded in this movement. Success is a threat to future fund-raising - that failure to invite Opal Creek's successful defenders a case in point.


The Right constantly accuses Jesse Jackson of being a "poverty pimp," meaning that rather than having an interest in ending poverty, Jackson "uses' poverty to raise funds and build a bureaucratic empire.


The conservation movement is beset by "stump pimps," "wolf pimps," etc. That is what Cockburn is railing and warning against. Someone has to look at just why big foundations, many with their wealth deriving from oil, seek out and fund groups and individuals who will put the interests of ecosystems subordinate to the interests of their grant portfolios. Cockburn has done a fine job of pointing this out. He once quoted me saying, "There appears to be an inverse relationship between the size of an organization's budget and the amount of acres they succeed in protecting." I still stand by that quote.





Michael Donnelly


Salem, Oregon





Michael Donnelly was co-founder of Friends of the Breitenbush Cascades, Friends of Opal Creek and the Santiam Watershed Guardians.