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GOP sees foundations as the
menace in federal land restrictions
AP Photos WX115-116
By JOHN HUGHES
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) The House GOP has been taking on Democrats, President Clinton and
environmental groups for years in their fight to keep federal land available for
recreationists, cattlemen and loggers.
But now the lawmakers are taking aim at a new target they
see as an increasingly powerful menace: foundations.
Organizations such as The Pew Charitable Trusts and Turner
Foundation are pouring millions of dollars into environmental groups, who launch campaigns
and use White House access to influence natural resource policy decisions, GOP lawmakers
and foundation critics say.
The environmental groups while well-funded and
powerful do not represent a broad base of people and are accountable only to
foundations that fund them, said Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho.
``This is a malignant mess and the metastasis is growing
very quickly,'' said Chenoweth-Hage, who chairs a House Resources Committee panel that
held a hearing on foundations earlier this month.
Ron Arnold, executive vice president of a Bellevue, Wash.,
non-profit group, said foundations, environmentalists and federal agencies form an ``iron
triangle'' that unfairly influences policy to devastate local economies and private
``This is an intolerable program of rural cleansing,''
Arnold, of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, said at the hearing.
``Foundations are not accountable to anyone. They are totally unregulated.''
Political attacks on foundations are not new, but
Democrats and environmentalists say the GOP has little to gain.
Foundations' practice of giving grants to environmental
groups is not only legal, they say, but fairly typical of what foundations do for a score
of causes liberal and conservative from education and health care to
property rights and religious freedom.
A Portland, Ore., environmentalist whose group has
received foundation money dismissed Chenoweth-Hage's effort as a ``groundless witch hunt''
designed to squelch public participation in government.
``The Resources Committee's desperate inquisition is
little more than an attack on democracy,'' said Ken Rait, director of the Heritage Forests
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the ranking Democrat
on the forests and forest health panel that Chenoweth-Hage chairs, said corporations form
trusts dedicated to extracting natural resources.
``It's not fair to stand up here and say, `How dare these
folks advocate for a position,''' Smith said. ``What should be the policy are we
saying the Pew Trusts doesn't have the right to exist?''
No one disputes, however, that environmental groups rely
on multimillion-dollar donations from foundations to fund sophisticated, high-tech
campaigns geared to influence policy makers and the public.
Bruce Lovelin, executive director of a Portland,
Ore.-based river industries group, last summer tried to publicize the fact that
foundations had given millions of dollars to salmon restoration groups.
Lovelin of the Columbia River Alliance said he raised the
issue not to say that foundations were doing anything wrong, but to try to knock down
perceptions that environmentalists are the Davids facing industrial Goliaths.
``They've got the cash and we don't,'' Lovelin said.
``We're just being out-funded out here in the Pacific Northwest on these salmon issues.''
But Dan Beard, senior vice president at the National
Audubon Society in Washington, D.C., said even with the foundation grants to
environmentalists, resource extraction groups have the upper hand with money.
``I have always felt that in this town on environmental
issues it was a contest between the peanut and the elephant,'' Beard said.
``We're the peanut.''
Pew, a Philadelphia-based foundation with $4.9 billion in
assets, has especially been a GOP target.
The organization gave nearly $3.5 million to finance the
Heritage Forests Campaign, which has pushed for a rule-making process that could protect
up to 50 million acres of already roadless federal forests.
Republican lawmakers, recreationists and other land users
view the process, announced last October by President Clinton, as a federal land grab that
attempts to sidestep Congress.
In hearings and reports since Clinton announced the plan,
GOP lawmakers have carefully structured a case to argue the rulemaking is not only flawed
``The roadless initiative was hatched in a back room with
special interests,'' Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., said at a hearing Tuesday.
The complaints could lay the groundwork for legislation to
revamp the plan and lawsuits to derail it.
But Joshua Reichert, director of the environment program
at Pew, said he was befuddled by Chenoweth-Hage's hearing.
Reichert said the foundation's job is to help the public
better understand the nature of the roadless debate. He said the success of the initiative
so far has more to do with the public support for protecting forests than the influence of
any particular group.
``Congress has given us and other foundations in the
country the right to do what we do on issues that we care about and we care about
wilderness,'' Reichert said.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press
This Associated Press
story is copyright © 2000 by The Associated Press.
Wednesday, March 15, 2000
Dombeck would sign no agreement with environmentalists on
By JOHN HUGHES, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) Forest Service Chief Mike
Dombeck said Tuesday he would
not sign an agreement that would have environmental groups carry
out analysis for President Clinton's proposal to ban development in 50 million acres of forests.
Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage questioned Dombeck about a memo that she said shows the Forest Service was developing an agreement to have environmental groups help map and
assess roadless forests, a key step in carrying out Clinton's plan.
"That has not merely crossed the line, it totally obliterates the line" between government and interest groups, the Idaho Republican said at a hearing of her forests
and forest health subcommittee.
But Dombeck said the Forest Service has signed no such agreement and that he can't be held accountable for a memo written by environmentalists.
"It's basically a suggestion on the part of
someone," Dombeck said,
adding that the memo is likely "just staff dialogue."
The 11-page memo is a draft
of a proposal from the Wildlife
Fund and the Conservation
Biology Institute to The David
and Lucile Packard Foundation
for a $650,000 grant.
In the memo, the environmentalists tell Packard the Forest Service was eager to sign an agreement that would have the agency and the two groups "work together to create a sound, science-based roadless areas assessment" and that at the Forest Service's urging the agreement "will be national in scope."
Staff members for Chenoweth's subcommittee
found the memo among several
stacks of documents the administration
handed over to satisfy a
subcommittee request for materials related to Clinton's proposal.
Dominick DellaSalla, director of the Klamath-Siskiyou regional program for the World Wildlife Fund, confirmed the authenticity of the document Tuesday, though he said the
requested $400,000 from Packard.
Scott Rehmus, an associate program manager at the Packard
foundation, said no final decision has been made on
Chris Wood, a Forest Service spokesman, said the World
Wildlife Fund has a draft of a
proposed "memorandum of understanding" pending with the agency. But he declined to
disclose the nature of the
agreement, saying it had not been finalized.
DellaSalla said working on roadless areas is only a
part of the proposed agreement.
He said he believes the proposal also includes a pilot project in southwestern Oregon on adaptive forest management and other types of projects, although he could not
name the other projects that
would be covered.
DellaSalla said group members were "exaggerating for the purpose of trying to get a foundation
grant" when they wrote that the essence of the proposed agreement was to help the Forest
Service create a science-based roadless areas
Dombeck told Chenoweth at a hearing of the House Resources Committee panel on Tuesday that the Forest Service has 5,000 memoranda of understandings with outside
groups for activities on forest
lands, and that such agreements are common.
Dombeck said he had no knowledge of the memo until he
read media accounts about the
Agriculture Undersecretary Jim Lyons, who oversees the Forest Service, said the memo is from the environmental groups to Packard and "doesn't involve the Forest
Service in any way."
But Chenoweth-Hage pointed out the memo was sent to the subcommittee from agency offices. "Chief, to say you are
unaware doesn't satisfy us at
all," she told Dombeck.
Clinton has launched a process hailed by conservationists as one of the great environmental acts of the 20th century to
craft a regulation that would
permanently protect 50 million acres or
more of already roadless federal forests from development.
The regulation is expected to be complete near the end of the year, before Clinton leaves office.
GOP Congress members, recreation
groups and the timber industry have been assailing Clinton's initiative almost from the day it
was announced, saying it
restricts access to forest lands.
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