FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seduced by Greed: the Perils of Environmental Collaboration

Back in the mid-’90s, Republican Gov. Marc Racicot and the natural resource extraction industries came up with a dandy strategy to divide and conquer environmentalists and conservationists. It was called “collaboration” and began with Racicot’s hand-picked Consensus Council. The concept was simple: put some malleable representatives of a few organizations in the room with industry representatives/lobbyists and find “consensus” on natural resource issues.

The goal was always to enable more, not less, exploitation of Montana’s natural resources, whether it was logging, grazing, mining, road-building, coal or oil and gas development. For more than 20 years now the collaborators have openly undercut and insulted those who were actually fighting for the critical maintenance, restoration and preservation of Montana’s incredible array of fish, wildlife and the habitats they require to exist.

Driven by millions of dollars from foundations such as the PEW Charitable Trusts, which derived its money from Sunoco Oil, money-hungry conservation organizations flocked to the foundation handouts while masquerading as “grassroots” non-profits. The Wilderness Society has nearly $60 million in assets and owns a large office building in downtown Washington, D.C., while the Montana Wilderness Association bought a 24,238-square-foot, half-million-dollar stone mansion in Helena. Lubed by fossil fuel money, these former conservation organizations were on a roll. And they were not alone.

In a stunning lack of conviction, Democrat politicians jumped on the collaboration bandwagon, too. Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester tossed his environmentalist supporters who had worked hard to put him in office in favor of collaborators. Buying into the Bush-era “healthy forests” propaganda formulated by former timber lobbyist Mark Rey, Tester went so far as to introduce his ill-fated Forest Jobs and Recreation Act that contained unprecedented congressionally mandated logging levels on national forests.

The measure, which overrode the Forest Service, was nonetheless supported by collaborator organizations led by the Montana Wilderness Association, but including Montana Trout Unlimited, The Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation, among others.

Since then collaborators have continued to back measures that primarily benefit resource extraction industries in hopes that by doing so they’ll get a little something out of the deal. But that false narrative has now been dashed by the no-holds-barred Trump administration’s wild rush to exploit every possible resource on public lands.

Recent examples include the collaboration on sage grouse led by Gov. Steve Bullock, which was lauded for keeping the bird off the Endangered Species List, but just got tossed in favor of increased oil and gas development. Or how about losing four already-protected wilderness study areas to get a sliver of new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front? That backroom deal ensconced perpetual grazing rights with no environmental analysis in law and opened up a couple hundred thousand acres of roadless lands to logging.

From gutting the Environmental Protection Agency, dumping the Clean Power Plan, and kow-towing to a Canadian mining corporation to develop a 13-square-mile gold mine in the headwaters of the most productive wild salmon fishery on the planet in Bristol Bay, Alaska, the Trump administration is brutalizing what’s left of nature in favor of resource extraction.

That these now-wealthy so-called “conservation” organizations didn’t see this coming is simply a testament to their greed and political naiveté. That they sold out and undercut those with more vision and political savvy for a handful of silver is unforgivable. But now, with the runaway Trump administration bulldozing their agreements as well as the public resources owned by all Americans, it’s no wonder that the collaborators are strangely silent as their failed strategy chickens come home to roost.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail