PERC and River Access in Montana

Somebody must have noticed the successful float by ordinary Montana residents on James Cox Kennedy’s privatized stretch of the Big Sky’s Ruby River in July.

And stream access has come to be a fashionable topic in Montana.

Thus PERC, the ultra right-wing think tank down in Bozeman has announced plans for a seminar to discuss stream access in the state. The event is scheduled for Monday, September 19 and the purpose is, according to PERC, “to exchange views and encourage discussion in an independent environment.”

“Independent environment?”

Well, give me a break!

To discuss stream access at PERC headquarters is like saying a discussion of Social Security reform held at the Cato Institute would take place in an “independent environment.”

Again, give me a break!

Of course this is a well rehearsed humbug from the right-wing funded scholars down in Bozeman who identify themselves as “the center for free market environmentalism.”

PERC, otherwise the Property and Environment Research Center has long claimed, as part of its mission, that it produces independent scholarly research on environmental policies. Thus, PERC’s comments do not represent the views of any affected parties or special interest groups, but instead represent the interests of American citizens.

And in response to criticism that the center receives lavish funding from America’s polluting corporations, the spin is the organization receives less than one percent of its budget from corporations.

Again, give me a break!

The reality is that PERC is funded by many of the big right-wing foundations.

And PERC’S message, repeated over and over, is the privatization of all public lands.

And who would they be?

Well we can try the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the JM Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation as well as ExxonMobil, BP Amoco, Arco, The Chemical Manufacturers Association, Conoco, Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer, Coors and Coca Cola

I might also mention that the Castle Rock Foundation (1993) is a recent Joseph Coor’s production. Joe was the initial contributor to the Mountain States Legal Foundation and it was the same Joe Coors who hired James Watt as MSLF’s first president in 1976.

And we do know how the Mountain States Legal Foundation feels about Montana’s stream access law.

So what about PERC?

Well this is what PERC says about Montana’s stream access law.

A new threat to water markets and instream water ownership has arisen. It is called the public trust doctrine.

This concept was codified in Montana law in 1985 following two Montana court decisions. Montana law now specifies that 17,000 miles of streambeds be open to the public.

If instream water could be owned, other opportunities for quality fishing would probably develop because owners would be able to capture benefits from maintaining and improving habitats.

And that’s what PERC says about stream access in Montana.

But PERC’s ultimate goal goes a little further then stream access in Montana.

PERC favors auctioning off all federal land to the highest bidder. This includes the national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, Bureau of Land Management land and historic Civil War battlefields.

In Montana that means Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, the Big Hole National Battlefield, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument should be put up to the highest bidder.

And think of the marketing opportunities when Arlington National Cemetery, Yosemite, the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, the Washington Monument, Bryce Canyon, the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Mount Ranier, and other such attractive pieces of real estate are turned over to America’s privatization mob.

And it is America’s privatization mob that keeps the PERC scholars down in Bozeman so busy.

JACKIE CORR was an organizer and participant in the July 17 float on the
nine mile stretch of the Ruby River that Atlanta billionaire James Cox
Kennedy considers his personal propery. He can be reached at:






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August 17, 2005