Arnold Pulls Back the
Veil of `Green' Tyranny
By Sean Paige
Ron Arnold, executive vice
president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise often
is praised as one of the founders of the so-called "wise-use"
movement - a term Arnold coined to describe a national
grass-roots upwelling whose adherents defend free enterprise,
limited government, private-property rights and the multiple use
of public lands.
such, Arnold and a loose confederation of allied individuals and
organizations serve as a counterweight to the exertions of the
environmentalist left. Precise and professorial, the native
Texan has written six books, edited six others, testified on
numerous occasions before Congress and published more than 300
articles in newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics.
of late he has become best known for his well-documented probes
into the inner workings, financial re-sources and ideological
undercurrents of the environmentalist movement. These efforts
include Trashing the Economy (coauthored with Alan Gottlieb in
1994), an encyclopedic look at the largest and most politically
potent green groups, and EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save
Nature, a 1997 investigative look at Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and
other greens who have employed terror to further their agenda.
latest effort to peel away the bunny-hugging veneer of
environmental groups is titled Undue Influence: Wealthy
Foundations, Grant-Driven Environmental Groups and Zealous
Bureaucrats That Control Your Future, which exposes a web of
interrelated interests that finance and steer government policy
on the environmental front. The book's revelations have to date
resulted in at least four congressional hearings, Arnold tells
Insight, and at least one committee investigation into potential
Insight: You're often identified as a guiding light of the
"wise-use" movement. For those unfamiliar with that movement,
what is it and how did it evolve?
Arnold: It's essentially about providing grass-roots support to
everybody who provides America with its food, clothing, shelter,
manufactured goods and basic transportation. Just as the
environmental movement evolved in response to Industrial Age
abuses, the wise-use movement evolved as a response to
environmentalist abuses - especially its attacks on rural
America. Wise use isn't as strong or as rich as the
environmental movement, but we're definitely growing because
more and more people are being hurt by government environmental
policies. And every time the government hurts a person, it
creates another one of us wise-use activists.
Insight: You write in your latest book, Undue Influence, about a
phenomenon you call "rural cleansing." What is rural cleansing
and what does it have to do with the environmental movement?
It's essentially the deliberate use of environmental laws - by
appeals, lawsuits and administrative actions - to remove all the
resource workers from rural America. All of them. It's
essentially an effort to dismantle rural America so that there
no longer are loggers, miners, fishermen, ranchers or farmers,
with the intent of "offshoring" these jobs and industries to
Insight: Is there some explicit master plan against rural
America, or is all this just a consequence of environmental
regulations hitting some areas of the economy harder than
As far as whether there is a master plan that everybody is
following, that would be a conspiracy theory and all conspiracy
theories are false, in my opinion. If it's a conspiracy, it's a
conspiracy of shared values, more than anything. There certainly
is a cause-and-effect relationship between the economic
hardships we see in rural America and the literally hundreds of
thousands of environmental appeals of timber sales, appeals of
grazing permits and other lawsuits brought by environmental
groups. Today, if you take any environmental agenda item, there
is a coalition of groups behind it and one or more major
foundations bankrolling them through their grant-making process.
And yeah, people in these groups do talk about having to "speed
the transition" from a resource-based economy to what they call
a diverse economy. What they're talking about is boutique
economies - with the result that rural America would be filled
with high-dollar retirees or modem gypsies with a money
umbilical to some urban area, but no real working people. We see
it happening in many states.
Insight: One point of the book is that wealthy foundations,
through the funding of green groups, are exercising an "undue
influence" over the environmental agenda. Can you explain to our
readers a little more how this works?
There is a cluster of wealthy, well-known foundations, about 200
of which are in a loose confederation called the Environmental
Grant Makers Association. These foundations and individuals are
not only writing the checks to environmental groups these days,
they're also issuing the marching orders to go with them. So
they've got a blueprint of what they think society ought to look
like - which is essentially the postindustrial vision that
Daniel Bell wrote about years ago in a book called The Coming of
Post-Industrial Society, which advocated the offshoring to
foreign countries of hard American industries and
goods-producing sectors of the economy.
Insight: A lot of readers might not realize, until they read
your book, how much funding for the radical environmental
movement comes from a seemingly unlikely source - namely,
corporate foundations. Why is this happening?
This is largely the result of Internal Revenue Service
regulations that, structurally speaking, almost make it
inevitable because the law requires that there be no
self-dealing by a foundation, whether a corporate foundation or
any other foundation. What that means is that these foundations
can't do anything that would benefit the donor or donors. That's
why the wise-use movement gets almost nothing from industry, and
why the total corporate donations received by the whole wise-use
movement - all 3,000 or 4,000 grass-roots groups - is not as
much as one environmental group gets in that same year. But it's
also a result of the overall liberal cast of American society,
which has thoroughly permeated many big foundations, so you find
that $3 out of every $4 given by foundations go to left-leaning
groups rather than to right-leaning groups.
Insight: What hopes or indications, if any, do you have that a
Republican administration in the White House would mean a major
shift away from Clinton-era environmental policies?
I think what George W. Bush could do is to undo some of the
worst problems [created by the Clinton White House] and
introduce some really good programs to make our federal lands
both productive and accessible to the average person. One of the
things he could do is open up a lot of the national parks, which
are supposed to be for public use and enjoyment but essentially
have been shut down in bits and pieces by this administration.
He should open those places back up again because they do belong
to everyone and you should have a right to go in there, whereas
environmentalists have been saying: "This is everybody's
property so let's lock the lands up and kick people out."
Insight: You talk about a chasm that seems to exist between
rural America and urban America. Is there also an understanding
gap in this country between Easterners and Westerners concerning
federal environmental policy?
That is a problem, but the turn of Easterners is coming because
things like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and
wetlands regulations affect major population areas in the East
just as much as in the West, and maybe more so, given population
densities. I think that when it comes down to fundamental
liberties it doesn't matter where you live - you still get angry
if the government won't let you live in your house, won't let
you put a new porch on your home or rebuild it if it burns down
because of some endangered species. The love of liberty is not
regional. I think it's just that people in the East haven't been
kicked in the teeth as much [as people in the West]. But I
believe that you're going to have the same kind of sagebrush
rebellions here as we do there once all these misguided policies
begin to affect whole Eastern communities, rather than just one
person here and one person there.
PERSONAL: Born in Houston, 1937. Wife, Janet; three daughters,
six grandchildren. CURRENTLY: Executive vice president of the
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Wash.
EDUCATION: Studied business administration at the University of
Texas and the University of Washington. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
Founded Northwood Studio, a consulting firm for business and
industry, in 1971; produced more than 130 films on
natural-resource and social-conflict subjects; 1979 magazine
series "The Environmental Battle" (winner of the American
Business Press 1980 Editorial Achievement Award); author of
EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature, voted in 1991 one
of the 100 most important books of the 20th century in a Random
House/American Library readers poll. FAVORITE NATURAL SETTINGS:
The Grand Canyon; the Southwestern desert and Alaska's Glacier