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Behind the Green(back) Curtain


Armchair warriors often fail
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie…

Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby

Gormer Mother Jones editor Mark Dowie has had a long career as an award-winning investigative journalist. He is credited with breaking the Ford Pinto exploding gas tank story and that of the corporate cover-up of the hazards of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device.

In 1996 he wrote the Pulitzer-Prize-nominated Losing Ground, a critical take on the ever-failing tactics of the Big Greens and followed that up with an expose of the big foundations, American Foundations. An Investigative History.

Lately, Dowie has focused on the convergence of his two book topics; the money fueling the feeble environmental movement, a topic I’ve written about time and again.

Dowie has referred to the foundations’ funding of diversionary, slowdown tactics as “drag anchor funding.” New Mexico forest activist Sam Hitt famously and irrefutably called the influence of the big foundations the movement’s “Death Star.”(One foundation minion, to his credit actually, once told a group of us forest defenders, “We fund reform, not revolution.”)

Dowie’s most recent take is presented in the short film “Empowering the Grassroots” by Randy Olson.

Dowie notes the constant disparagement of grassroots activists that emanates from the offices of the big foundations and the Big Greens. He notes the $3.5 billion that enters the coffers of the movement each year; with 70% of that ($2.45 billion) going to the 25 largest “conservation” groups. The other 15,000 or so groups — mostly small local groups on the front lines thousands of miles away from the orbit of the Beltway “greens”— taking on subsidized extraction corporations, the usual rural oligarchy and their politician allies, make do on the rest… most of that raised by themselves with the usual bake sales, benefits, auctions, etc.


Go on take the Money and Spin

All so devastatingly true. But, the question begging to be answered is: “What has all this lucre bought us?”

The Ancient Forest case study:

According to the mantra of most all who have been paid enviros on the foundation dole this past decade: “Bill Clinton saved the public-owned Ancient Forests with his Northwest Forest Plan (Option 9) in 1994; he then saved 60 million acres with his ‘Roadless Rule’ (as he went out the door, eight days before Bush’s inauguration): and it’s only since Bush II arrived on the scene that Ancient Forests and Roadless Areas again came on the chopping block.”

Truthout environmental writer Kelpie Wilson sums up this flying-in-the-face-of-the-facts view this way recently in her article about the post-fire logging of Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest:

“In the 1990s, I transitioned from civil disobedience to mainstream activism. I worked for the Siskiyou Regional Education Project during that whole decade on the major campaigns – the Northwest Forest Plan and the Roadless Rule – that defined our success. Looking back, those were banner years for forest activism. Although each gain came in tiny, painfully won increments, at least we were gaining.

Since 2000, our fall has been swift and hard. On every front, we are losing what we built in the 1990s. Two weeks ago, Bush’s forest chief, Mark Rey, announced the end of the Roadless Rule. The government is systematically chipping away at the Northwest Forest Plan protections and using the fear of wildfire to drive the logging program. Scientific objectivity has been buried under a mound of logging slash.”

And historical objectivity has been buried under mounds of grant applications. Sadly, these twin paper tigers really did “define our success” during Clintontime when an average of 1.9 billion board feet of public Ancient Forest were cut annually, as opposed to this decade where just under 200 million board feet have been cut yearly under the great, Green Clinton administration’s successor.

Here’s my quick take (more at end): Ancient Forest liquidation was stopped under an Injunction issued by the Reagan-appointed judge William Dwyer for the last two years of the Bush I regime; grassroots activists were told repeatedly by the Big Greens to rally around Clinton’s campaign as his election would make the logging ban permanent; Bubba, once-elected, immediately leaned on the Big Greens, their funders and attorneys who bullied and bought off the regional groups who then surrendered the Injunction (Judge Dwyer went to his grave perplexed about that); Clinton held a stage-managed “Forest Conference” in Portland in April 1993 with “our” representatives chosen by the foundations and the Democrats, certainly not through any plebiscite of the very grassroots activists who elevated the issue in the first place; Clinton forced the eco-scientists involved to come up with an option that cut enough to satisfy his Big Timber supporters (Clinton and Weyerhaeuser go way back to his days in Arkansas); the chainsaws roared and the co-opted Big Greens called the resulting Option 9 managed Extinction Plan “our greatest victory.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the multi-billion dollar Democrat Greenwash machine then went on to promote another tree-flesh tiger, the “Roadless Rule” of which they said, “This reasonable and well-balanced rule protects the last remaining wild and intact 58.5 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands from road construction and most logging, drilling, and mining.”

Yep. And we went into Iraq for the WMDs and Clinton did not have sex with that womantalk about your political lies; talk about being poisoned by fairy tales!


The End of the Innocence

I wrote about the bogus Clinton Roadless Rule earlier this month the day after the Bush II regime replaced it with its own spurious version. Ever on top of it, the very same day, the Big Greens launched their new Roadless fund-raising/greenwash con.

The American Lands Alliance (ALA), a wholly-owned foundation/Big Green subsidiary which morphed from its late-80s creation as the Western Ancient Forest Campaign (WAFC) after a decade wherein they and the Big Greens collectively raised and spent $100 million yet failed to permanently (obviously) save a single Ancient Tree. ALA jumped up with the 2005 National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act, another going nowhere effort with 78 co-sponsors, but with lots of fund-raising potential.

These same folks attacked as “unviable” the grassroots efforts; the Act to Save America’s Forests, which was sponsored by 133 representatives and six Senators and the 1997 Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) – sponsored National Forest Protection and Restoration Act (NFPRA) which would have immediately canceled all the Clinton roadless sales and those that came under the Clinton Salvage Rider, saving priceless ecosystems and hundreds of millions in annual Big Timber subsidies.

ALA and their sham grassroots ally, the Heritage Forest Campaign, a Pew Charitable Trust marionette, are now sounding the alarms and raising funds to defend what they continually told us was previously saved by their grand victories.

These Democrat Greenwashers will never tell you that Ancient Forest logging, a lot in roadless areas and more in the more biologically diverse “uninventoried roadless areas” has been going on unabated since Clinton “saved the Ancient Forests” by resuming logging back in 1994. They won’t tell you that if Bush’s average cut continues, he will have not liquidated in eight years total what Clinton averaged per year. No, they tell us that Option 9 which didn’t leave a single tree inviolate was “our greatest victory.”

They won’t tell you that Clinton’s Roadless Rule had a seven-year “grandfather” clause allowing continued logging in roadless Ancient Forests; a loophole that never did run out before Bush replaced the “rule.” No, they tell us that ‘Clinton saved 60 million acres.”


The More Things Change…

The Ancient Forests have been headed down to the mills and export docks ever since Clinton resumed logging them (talk about “systematically chipping away at the Northwest Forest Plan!”) Grassroots activists have been fighting for their backyard favorite irreplaceable places ever since. The only thing that has really changed is that less has been cut under Bush than under his predecessor. The rationale the Big Greens use for unending funding appeals remains the same: Republican stumps market better.

“I like to fuck. But, if someone pays me to fuck, that makes mea whore.”

— Steve “PWT with a GED” Spahr

Oh, the non-profit professionals will tell you they’re activists, too (better ones than you, at that); that they love the planet, too; that they’re so dedicated and good at it that they deserve to get the salaries they get despite the lack of anything tangible in the win column.

Mark Dowie is correct. Until the grassroots get at least half of that $3.5 billion annually, we’ll continue to see non-profit professionals disparage the grassroots while taking credit for any grassroots victory when not sabotaging it while simultaneously using it as a fund-raiser. They’ll always provide cover for any Democrat-led depravation and conversely attack any Republicans for doing the same.

Unless we break the partisan chokehold on all things environmental and hold all politicians and non-profits accountable, pro-Democrat funders will continue to find spineless, ethically-challenged “enviros” who’ll gladly take the money and spin while the Earth unravels.


A Grim Fairy Tale

{Note: the first eight options of the original Northwest Forest Plan did not cut enough big trees, so Clinton sequestered the Forest Ecosystems Management Assessment Team (FEMAT) scientists in a hotel until they came up with a more rapacious option; hence Option 9. Every one of the 11 regional groups who ceded the Injunction got six-figure grants to, in their own words, “monitor the implementation of Option 9 in a tight, campaign fashion…”

And what was it that these groups agreed to have implemented? The Extinction Pan actually is predicated on continued logging of the Ancient Forest ecosystem with continued decline in the number of northern Spotted Owls, the indicator species for the ecosystem whose rapid decline triggered the lawsuit and Dwyer Injunction. Option 9 predicts a loss of 1% of existing owls for the next fifty years! The preposterous psuedo-science behind it then claims that even though the owls will be down to half their 1994 endangered numbers by 2044, the owls will not drop below the point of no return. They will then miraculously recover once all the stumplands set aside in Late Successional Reserves (LSRs) will have grown into suitable habitat and the owls and others species they represent will rebound.

If you buy that improbable fairy tale as the Big Greens would have you – (remember, to them it is “our greatest victory”), I’ve got a slightly used Bridge to the 21st Century for sale.

Meanwhile the logging of big, old trees on public lands continues – even the big trees in the LSRs are being cut, as again, nothing was permanently put off limits by Option 9. Over three-fourths of the Siskiyou post-fire logging Wilson refers to in her article is in the LSRs and, get this, Roadless Areas of our twin great “victories.”

As could be expected, owl numbers have crashed. The 50% point is here ten years into the plan as the owls have declined by over 3.5% across their range, and over 7.3% in Washington state , meaning that they are down 35% across their range and 73% in Washington already!}

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR is a long-time grassroots activist instrumental in the nationalizing of the Ancient Forest issue. He and his allies have been vigilant in defending their local forests…long before and ever since Clinton “saved” them.

He can be reached at:


















MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at

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