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Here They Come Again Another Big Green Election Year Raid

Here They Come Again

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

History lesson time — again.

Anyone wondering how the hapless Big Greens would respond to their latest defeat, the passage of the Wyden/Feinstein Stealthy Timber Act (HFI), need look no further than the foundation-sponsored agenda of the Headwaters 13th Annual Forest Conference, set for this coming January 29th in Ashland, Oregon.

With no current legislation slated (read: DC-based fundraising opportunities), the Big Greens have once again decided to mine the grassroots for issues they can take over and grab the money. Also as important to the Big Greens is delivering the grassroots vote to the Democratic Party.

FOREST ADVOCATE

Both these entrenched goals nicely fall under the rubric of this year’s conference — titled, "Mobilizing the Grassroots in 2004." It’s there, as well, in the impossibly inane choice of Les AuCoin featured in not one, but two two-and-a-half hour "State of the Movement" plenary sessions. AuCoin is titled, "Former Congressman and forest advocate" in the conference agenda. Of course, as a Congressman, the only forest advocating he did was for the forest to be horizontal.

Les AuCoin, famously described by Andy Kerr as "always having a smile that never reached his eyes" is one of the main Architects of Extinction, pure and simple. Between 1984 and 1989, environmental laws were either limited or eliminated for national forests in the Pacific Northwest nine different times. AuCoin joined with the Republicans and voted for every one of these assaults!

It was at AuCoin’s behest that his staff helped write the infamous Section 318 of the FY 1990 Appropriations Act for the Department of Interior and Related Agencies, the "Rider from Hell." This one act led to the sale of over 9.6 billion board feet of timber in one year–130,000 acres of clearcut Ancient Forest–with all the relevant environmental laws suspended. The Rider from Hell suspended NFMA, NEPA, FLPMA, but it expressly said that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) still applied to those sales. That was only way they could get around Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA) who had jurisdiction over the ESA — not that it mattered — the chainsaws roared.

Though Section 318 was AuCoin’s crowning achievement in years of pimping for Big Timber, it was just a fraction of what he did for the industry. AuCoin did all he could to abet public Ancient Forest logging levels which were at their all-time highest (up to 5 billion board feet per year) during his 18 years in the House — until 1992, when he barely beat true conservationist Harry Lonsdale in the primary fight to choose who would run against incumbent Senator Bob Packwood.

Upon launching his failed run for the Senate, AuCoin came to real forest advocates and announced that he "had found religion." He told me personally that, "I was wrong. You guys were right." Gulled by this lie, I even agreed to squire him around my downtown Salem one night during the campaign, introducing him to dozens of environmental and peace activists. During the campaign, Les AuCoin also pledged that he would never work for the timber industry again. Yet, within six months of his defeat, he took a job as a high-priced Big Timber lobbyist. Upon leaving Congress, AuCoin took the job of lobbyist/PR hack for a timber baron, Aaron Jones, who financed not one, but TWO failed Recall efforts against courageousA Democrat Governor Barbara Roberts. Seems sheA had the gall to tell the truth about protecting spotted owls and old growth ecosystems. Les AuCoin’s never apologized for 318 or his other many votes to suspend the laws to favor clearcutting our public Ancient Forests, for lying about the Timber Lobbying positions or any other of his timber toadying activities.

Forest advocate, indeed!

SHOW ME THE MONEY

As if reinventing Les AuCoin wasn’t enough for the foundation-dependent "greens," the conference also features workshops on "Foundation Priorities in 2004" led by the astoundingly arrogant and inept Bullitt Foundation, part of the Seattle foundation Mafia that have been calling the losing shots for some time now–ever since the infamous 1989 cocktail party in Portland when the foundations led by Donald Ross of Rockefeller and Deb Callahan of the W. Alton Jones Foundation came in and took over the Ancient Forest movement after grassroots activists had elevated it to a national concern.

The line is direct from that takeover to Section 318, to the 1993 Deal of Shame release of sales from Injunction by these foundations’ grant recipients, to resultant Big and Little Green approval of the Clinton Option 9 liquidation plan in exchange for six-figure "monitoring" grants, to last year’s waste of some $10 million to fight the "Healthy Forest" Initiative that morphed at the last minute into the Wyden/Feinstien Stealthy Timber Act and passed with but 14 dissenting votes and only one nay, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), on the crucial vote authorizing the pseudo-Democrat Wyden’s substitute bill.

Alexander Cockburn, in the 1996 book, Washington Babylon, described the role of major foundations and corporate philanthropy as "engulf-and-neuter" tactics (the awarding of grants, ostensibly for grassroots issues, but designed to co-opt those advocating such issues into positions that ultimately sustain their opposite). This "engulf and neuter" methodology was once described by activist Sam Hitt as a "Death Star" for grassroots environmentalism. So, skip the workshop session; this is still the definition of "Foundation Priorities in 2004." Instead, jump ahead to the other foundation workshop, titled, "Foundations: Up Close & Personal–How to Work with Foundations to Fund Your Forest Protection Efforts."

How well has this "close & personal" stuff worked in the past? Well, Ashland, Oregon-based Headwaters, the main sponsor of the event, has received millions of grant dollars for its efforts. Yet, in 2001, their former executive director Richard Lee Gwynallen pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated theft, admitting that he and his two wives, Marajai and Allysen, stole $159,345 in grants to the organization over an 18 month period in 1999–2000.

This little episode is enlightening for a few reasons, primary among them–how could the funds not be missed? How about the efforts the grants purported to support? Well, it just proves that the foundations are buying inaction, not protection. As long as Headwaters was receiving the grants and doing nothing to upset the status quo, nobody noticed! Other, far more worthy groups, who actually have caused heartburn in the timber industry, never get the grants in the first place.

It has to be noted that the most recent hotbed of timber extraction has been the very area Headwaters was created to defend, Southern Oregon’s Siskiyou region. This year alone, the USFS is planning to sell off for "salvage" logging up to 60,000 acres of the Biscuit Fire area. Given that Headwaters earlier Clinton dealmaking sentenced the area grassroots’ precious Sugarloaf Mountain Ancient Forest to the saws, does anyone really think that Headwaters is the group to defend against this renewed assault?

FYI–Gwynallen? After his plea bargain and slap-on-the-wrist probation, he was last seen working for another nonprofit — the National Federation for the Blind in Baltimore. His Headwaters grant expertise cinched his hiring.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The message is clear: support the "Foundation Priorities" — i.e. "organize the grassroots" to support the Democratic Party |or don’t bother to apply. "Getting Rid of Bush" is the unstated (but not for long) real theme of the conference–a blind man on a galloping horse could easily see that.

And, how will this organizing the grassroots come about? Another workshop is titled, "Uniting the Tribe: Revitalizing the Grassroots Movement for the Northwest’s Ancient Forests." For starters, one should ask how the movement lost its vitality in the first place, as none of the six panelists was around when the movement had much vigor and actually gained protections for some areas and an Injunction against ALL Ancient Forest logging. In fact, a couple of them come from one of the worst foundation-dependent "engulf-and-neuter" groups of them all. And, doesn’t anyone wonder just where the folks who have been at this for many years are — someone who has actually gained permanent protection for their favorite Ancient Forest?

After years of trying to get the DC Big Greens to take on the issue of liquidation of old growth forests and being told, "We’d like to help, but it’s a regional issue not a national one," activists set out to nationalize it. Once James Montieth coined the term "Ancient Forests," hundreds of activists blockaded timber sales and Restraining Orders and Injunctions were won, the Big Greens arrived in force. The aforementioned Mau Mau-chic cocktail party was the watershed event.

It was a quick hop from there to the Deal of Shame and Clinton’s Option 9 and Salvage Rider. Once Clinton and the Big Greens colluded to get old growth again headed down the road to the mills and export docks, the vitality of the always-shaky larger coalition was sapped. Folks have been fruitlessly trying to get that soufflA(C) to rise again for a decade now.

Another panel titled, "Environmental Outreach–What’s Working & What Isn’t?" — is also on the agenda. Again, save yourself the time you’d waste at this one. What isn’t working is obvious: constant whoring for grants from hubris-ridden foundations that insist on failing campaigns, thus destroying any possible esprit de corps in the process. How many points on the data line does it take to get this? After all, it was a foundation-dependent group (one of the Conference cosponsors, Klamath Forest Alliance) that first brought up logging for "Forest Health," not the timber industry which then used that opening to drive log trucks through the laws — the futile stopping of which was last year’s stated Big Green and Foundation Priority.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

This year, the Big Greens and the foundations have launched all of this "Revitalizing" posturing under a front group called the United Forest Defense Campaign (UFDC), really the grant-sucking creation of the Wilderness Society’s longtime grassroots neuterer, Mike Francis. Francis and acolyte Mat Jacobsen will undoubtedly funnel a tiny fraction of moneys raised to compliant grassroots groups through what they call "mini-grants" of less than $3000 — a practice akin to the "walking around" money the Democratic National Committee (DNC) funnels to black pastors in their attempts to con African-American voters.

The UFDC defines itself as "A consortium of national environmental organizations, operating as the Unified Forest Defense Campaign, whose members include American Lands, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resource Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, National Environmental Trust, EarthJustice, US PIRG, Trout Unlimited, the Alaska Rainforest Coalition, and the Sierra Club are interested in determining how they can best work together with grassroots forest defense organizations to achieve these goals."

The short answer? Dissolve and never darken the grassroots’ door with your Enron-worthy scams again.

Let me say it again: Lining up your group’s goals to match foundation priorities in order to get mini-grants DOES NOT WORK for protection of forests. It NEVER HAS.

A DOSE OF IRONY

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the forests have fared far better under Bush than they did under his Democrat predecessor. Under Clinton’s Option 9 Extinction Plan, some 1.1 billion board feet of Ancient Forest stumps were authorized annually. Much to industry’s chagrin, under Bush, around 200 million per year has been cut. Already, that means that 2.7 billion board feet LESS has been cut under Bush than would have been under a Gore administration with the Big Greens’ usual silence regarding Democrat stump-creation. (At least with a Republican in the White House, the Big Greens will mount some defense!)

Let’s put that in further perspective: once Bush is elected this time around and if his logging success rate stays the same, then in eight years Bush’s total cut of Ancient Forests will be 1.6 billion board feet, exactly what was cut in just one year under Clinton’s 1995 "Salvage Rider."

CONFERENCE HISTORY

It was at the same Headwaters Conference in 1993 that the foundations and Big Greens unveiled their flack, Bob Chlopak, as their choice to run the Ancient Forest Campaign. This Democratic Party factotum then proceeded to choose "our" representatives to the upcoming Clinton Forest Conference (read: Timber Summit). "Our" undemocratically selected representatives sat silently then, and later, while Clinton and Big Timber presented the blueprint for his eventual Option 9 Extinction Plan, their silence bought by those "monitoring" grants.

It was the next year, 1994, when Mark Ottenad of the successful grassroots group, Friends of Opal Creek, polled the assembled crowd at the Headwaters Conference. He first asked, "How many people here think it’s time for Zero Cut–an end to all commercial logging on public lands?" About half the hands present shot up. He then asked, "How many, for whatever reason, oppose such an effort?" Again, half the hands were raised.

A murmur went through the crowd when it became apparent that the second set of hands were all foundation-dependent paid staffers of one group or another, fearful of losing their grants if they embraced Zero Cut. The first set of hands belonged to the front-line, unpaid/underpaid activists who were doing all the real grassroots defense efforts the Big Greens were claiming in their grant applications. Same as it ever was. The Truth has been out there for a decade!

And, now the grants are drying up. The Big Greens have failed to get positive protection legislation passed — the Sierra Club even undermined the grassroots National Forest Protection Act and, thus, its own stated "End Commercial Logging" policy. And this year, with nary a "bad" industry-sponsored forest destruction bill (Wyden/Feinstein handsomely takes care of that for now, thank you) to send out the shrill fundraising letters over, the Big Greens have chosen, once again, to mine the "organizing the grassroots" shaft. A The added benefit of this raid is the mailing lists of forest defenders which will quickly arrive on the desks of the DNC’s Dean/Clark presidential campaign.

In order for the forests and their defenders to avoid the shaft themselves, the true grassroots must rise up and sever the abused spouse-like connections with the defeated DC Green/Foundation/Democrat cartel and move on–poorer maybe, but stronger with integrity.

Send the failed green establishment a message. Refuse to participate in any more diversionary political and economic games. Take the case directly to the public. Fundraise one advocate at a time. It’s now or never for the forests.

And, send Les AuCoin, phony smile and all, packing — back to his timber industry masters.

MICHAEL DONNELLY was instrumental in the successful 20-year-plus effort to gain Wilderness status for the spectacular Opal Creek Ancient Forest, an effort Rep. Les AuCoin consistently refused to embrace. He can be reached at: pahtoo@aol.com