Blast From the Past: Heritage Forest Campaign Yesterday, Climate Forest Campaign Today

One of the points I like to make about our forest policy world is that it is a great space for folks raising families and with other commitments. You can take a few years off (or possibly decades) and come back and not really miss much.  Thanks to the TSW reader who found this hearing from the year 2000.  If you swapped out “Climate Forest Campaign” for “Heritage Forest Campaign” and OG for Roadless, and  Biden for Clinton-Gore, and probably increased the budget figures, it sounds like the same thing, and I think the questions asked are still worth pursuing.  Sorry about the formatting.  This is just Chenoweth-Hage’s introductory statement, I didn’t read the rest, there are 128 pages. Might be other interesting stuff there.

Recently , one of the lead stories in Philanthropy magazine was about foundation funding of environmental organizations . Now , the article said that today foundations have much of the public agenda , and nowhere more so than in the area of environmentalism , where foundations collectively spend upwards of $ 500 million per year that we know of . 

Today we are here to analyze the relationship among large foundations , environmental groups , and the Federal Government in Federal public land management policy , in regards to recreation , timber harvests , mining , and other public lands issues . We will also explore the impacts of these policies on local communities . Environmental groups are relying more and more on a core of wealthy , nonprofit foundations to fund their operations . 

The largest environmental grantmaker  the $ 4.9 billion Pew Charitable Trusts gives more than $ 35 million annually to environmental groups . Other large wealthy foundations such as the Turner Foundation , W. Alton Jones , and Lucile and David Packard Foundations , are not far behind Pew in their grantmaking to environmental groups . 

Foundations have funded environmental advocacy campaigns for more wilderness , curtailing timber harvests , and mining , breaching dams , and Federal control of ecosystem planning . An example of this type of activity is the Heritage Forest Campaign , the subject of an oversight hearing on February 15 , 2000 , by the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health .

The Heritage Forest Campaign , a coalition whose sole purpose appears to be lobbying the Clinton- Gore administration to implement the Roadless Initiative , which would withdraw up to 60 million acres of national forest lands from multiple use . This campaign is largely organized and funded by tax free grants from charitable foundations such as the Philadelphia based Pew Charitable Trusts , with $ 4.9 billion in assets the fifth largest U.S. charitable foundation . 

Now , since September 1998 , Pew has given the National Audubon Society more than $ 3.5 million in tax  free grants to organize the Heritage Forest Campaign , a coalition of about a dozen  environmental groups . The sole objective of the campaign appears to be the creation of widespread public support for the Clinton –  Gore administration’s initiative to restrict access on 60 million acres of national forest lands . 

The Heritage Forest Campaign illustrates several potential problems with foundation  financed environmental political advocacy , namely the lack of fair , broad based representation , and the absence of accountability . Particularly disturbing is this administration’s acquiescence to the campaign in the setting of policy . 

At a recent hearing on the Roadless Initiative , I asked George Frampton , Director of the Council on Environmental Quality , for the names of all those attending any meetings he had held regardinging the development of the Roadless Initiative . The list he sent in response is a who is who in the environmental community . Even more telling is that not one individual representing recreation , industry , academia , county commissioners , or local schools were in attendance . Only representatives of the national environmental groups participated . 

Not only was the public excluded during these meetings , but so was Congress . The administration’s Roadless Initiative appears to be an attempt to bypass the role of Congress . Under Article IV , Section 3 , of the United States Constitution , Congress possesses the ultimate power over management and use of lands belonging to the United States . 

If the Roadless Initiative is universally popular , why can’t the Heritage Forest Campaign get it enacted by Congress through the normal legislative process ? Administrative directives , such as the Roadless Initiative , bypass Congress and centralize policymaking authority within the hands of unelected bureaucrats in the execu- tive branch . 

Foundation-funded advocacy groups make backroom deals , thus denying the average citizen a voice and input into the policy through their elected representatives in Congress . As a result , our Government becomes more remote and unresponsive to the needs of the average citizen . 

To whom is the Heritage Forest Campaign accountable? This campaign is put together by foundations, not the participants . The grantees are accountable to the foundations that fund them , not their own members . Foundations have no voters , no customers , and no investors . The people who run big foundations are part of an elite and insulated group . They are typically located hundreds or even thousands of miles from the communities affected by policies they advocate .

They receive little or no feedback from those affected by their decisions , nor are they accountable to anyone for promoting policies which adversely affect the well  being of rural people and local economies . Today’s witnesses will tell us how their communities are being crushed by an inaccessible and faceless movement , wielding great power and influence . 

The role of large foundations in funding environmental advocacy raises some fundamental questions . Foundation wealth shapes public policy at the expense of all counter views . Even worse , those skeptical of foundation  supported policies are often smeared by foundation funded media campaigns in an attempt to marginalize them in the debate . Even alternative environmental solutions are rejected out of hand as environmental groups mold their programs and their agenda to please the large grantmakers . 

Does foundation financed advocacy prevent full and fair public debate on public lands issues ? Is the average citizen’s voice and input in the government decisionmaking process drowned out by foundation  funded advocacy groups ? 

The most fundamental question of all is , what happens to the towns and communities affected by policies resulting from foundation  funded advocacy ? The people living in these communities are left with a ruined local economy . Their towns lack the income to provide even basic services . Their schools have no revenue to teach their children. 

The important issue here is whether the foundation strategies used to fund the environmental movement are buying undue influence for those groups on public lands policy . I believe it will become very clear during this hearing that this isn’t an issue concerning the environment , but rather one concerning power and its use for political ends , with rural communities being trampled in the process.


Now, Rep. Chenoweth-Hage was appropriately concerned for rural communities as she represented Idaho.  At the same time, today, these policies influence all kinds of communities near Federal lands.  Another difference between then and now is our interest in the voices of Tribes, ethnic minorities and the poor and working class- marginalized communities.  How are these folks (say folks from poor rural communities)  represented on Boards and decision-making in these foundations?

“The important issue here is whether the foundation strategies used to fund the environmental movement are buying undue influence for those groups on public lands policy.” IMHO this question is still valid.

Finally, what is the endgame of these foundations, if they have one? Is it the same old “no oil and gas drilling, no mining, no grazing, no commercial logging, no OHV’s”?  I don’t know that we know, nor can I imagine who would have the political power to have that conversation.

8 thoughts on “Blast From the Past: Heritage Forest Campaign Yesterday, Climate Forest Campaign Today”

  1. The question of “undue” influence probably depends on your view of what is “due,” which is largely a political question.

    Replace “foundation – funded advocacy groups” with “corporation-funded advocacy groups” and we could compare their funding levels and degree of influence on political decisions.

      • Probably. But it’s also not a level playing field, so you can’t just compare dollars. I think the degree of influence is also related to preexisting biases of the agency and the congresspeople who represent the districts where the agency offices are located. Actions that would reduce agency discretion and corporate profits face an uphill fight.

  2. This dynamic is the root cause of recreational trail closures across the country. Closing trails is the stepping stone to much more designated wilderness, an end game goal. The way they have been doing this is by changing regulation, getting favored politicians into influential positions, constant lawsuits, having people in the agencies and manipulation of Collaborations. It takes a lot of money to wage these decades long political propaganda battles. Just like the right to life people have made inroads interrupting the right to abortion, the Green Mafia is making similar steady progress towards cramming recreation into smaller spaces so they can have ever more wilderness.

  3. SF: “The important issue here is whether the foundation strategies used to fund the environmental movement are buying undue influence for those groups on public lands policy.” IMHO this question is still valid.

    Undue influence? Get serious! Consider how many big “victories” the env NGO community has celebrated in the past 50-80 years? I toss out many env laws (ESA, NEPA, NFMA, etc) because they served to “stanch the bleeding”, responding to issues that were injurious to public lands and the broader public interest.

    The Roadless Rule and the current battle for CC/MOG/forest carbon consideration has many of the same dynamics – stanch the bleeding, cut the losses. I’d argue that these are not victories per se, but aimed at avoiding further losses.

    Why does the env NGO community exist, with such robust funding, if not for the fact that they have largely been losing public land debates – until the law intervenes. They tap into a sense of outrage. How different would things be for the FS if these same organizations viewed the agency as an ally rather than a foe? I don’t blame them for tapping into outrage. It’s the same card now being played by MAGA. When I take a long view, I’ve seen commercial interests “winning” – until stopped.

    • Jim, you said MOG was “staunching further losses”- please be more specific. I’ve been told that only two forests allowed OG cutting for economic purposes, the Nez Perce (?) (sorry I don’t remember this one) and the Tongass. So wouldn’t a simpler approach have been an OG amendment for the two forests?

      Some (of the powerful ENGOs described here) are funded by large foundations. And my own experience is that they do view the FS as an ally, as long as the FS does what they want. As to MAGA- not relevant IMHO. And “commercial interests” .. should we “stop” them? Wind, solar, geothermal, ski areas?

  4. “staunching further losses”- please be more specific…
    Roadless Rule intended to eliminate commercial logging and road building, thus protecting roadless character and many values therein (eg water quality, fish and wl hab). MOG – reduce commercial logging; keep tree standing and carbon in place. Proposal allows continued logging of MOG where commerce is not the primary obj- anywhere.

    You did not mention the biggest commercial interests such as logging, grazing, O/G, mining. True, not all such interests are “Bad” – not my point. I’m saying they’re winning – until stopped.

    • Sorry, Jim. But keeping out logging does not keep trees standing and carbon in place. In fact, it can have the opposite effect, as in not being able to develop fuel breaks.
      I guess your read of history is a little different from mine, or even Chief Thomas’s..

      “Fierce in battle, many of the eco-warriors have been unable to come to grips with the consequences of victory and are now reduced to wandering about the old battlefields ‘bayoneting the wounded.’.”
      My understanding is that the current proposal is about OG not MOG. What would you ideally like to see.. no grazing, logging, O/G, mining, wind, geothermal and solar, roads, ski areas?


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