Dave Skinner's red herrings


Dear HCN,

Ed Marston's essay (HCN, 6/04/01: Environmentalism meets a fierce friend) regarding future strategies of the conservation movement was dead-on, and sparked a predictable response from Dave Skinner (HCN, 7/02/01: Greens are still a minority) with a list of red-herring comments that completely ignored the important facts in the fight to protect America's heritage of public wildlands. Yes, the conservation movement must employ a many-pronged approach in the conservation battle, including professionally run, business-minded organizations that can match the destructive agenda of extractive industry.

Mr. Skinner throws out some salary figures for conservation leaders and staff, as if he expects them to employ their talents for free.

Should we be suspicious if organizations must pay executive talent below-market wages? One must wonder what someone of Carl Pope's leadership abilities would earn in a private, for-profit corporation. I am sure he is taking an effective pay cut to work to protect what he loves, much like most dedicated "professional" environmentalists I have met.

They don't even get option-like compensation for the billions of dollars in ecosystem services that their work generates directly for the economy. The missing analysis in this exchange is actually the massive resources invested by extractive industry to further their agenda. Don't think for a moment that the mining, logging, real estate development, agri-business, energy, and motorized "recreation" industries (did I leave anyone out?) do not employ their staff and resources to fight for access to every square-inch of the public land, often at the taxpayer's subsidy, of course.

It speaks to the force of their argument that a few conservation organizations, being run on donations and underpaid staffers, have been able to achieve so much in the face of a profit-motivated and politically connected opposition.

Maybe Mr. Skinner has failed to notice from Whitefish, but the West is changing, and the conservation agenda is taking hold as the preferred alternative among reasonable people in cities and rural areas alike. It's time that the region's business leaders and politicians take notice.

Paul Brookshire
Seattle, Washington
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