Do people really know where their donation dollars go?

Editorial by Richard L. Coppock,
Blue Ribbon Coalition

Washington State

An odd thing happened on the way to a website, I ran head-on into a difference of opinion on where I thought my foundation support dollars were going. I was checking out one of the Pro-Wilderness advocate websites and found a Ridder/Braden opinion poll in which the Wilderness advocates were bragging about having increased numbers supporting their views.

Their statement was, "The Poll found 72% of Washington voters support a policy to protect National Forest roadless areas from logging, road construction, [off-highway] vehicle use and other damaging activities." Now I really don't think they come right out and ask them if they wanted to increase the National Forest Wilderness by 32% for a total in excess of 75 million acres.

This Pro-Wilderness group stated this was a poll of Washington State hunters, anglers, religious leaders and conservationists. Later they added hikers, campers, and bird watchers. That must be where they got the term "Washington Voters." They were claiming Republican, Democrat, and Independent support, the Washington association of churches, along with Mountaineers, League of Women voters, and Washington Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. The latter one intrigued me. With no motorized assistance allowed, how and when would the aged, infirm, and handicapped enjoy their Mountains and Meadows?

Truth becomes the biggest causality when polls are prefaced and later interpreted.

The Wilderness advocates feel that if it is not under Wilderness designation, it is not protected, as per their statement, "the amount of National Forest land that is currently protected (18%) is insufficient." I guess they don't want to tell anyone that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), analyzes all facets of any and all projects, provides alternatives, and allows public participation throughout the process. This process can take from 5 to 10 years or longer. Federal lands will continue to be impossible to manage for suitability due to the NEPA and Threatened and Endangered, meticulous law process and the lawsuits brought by environmental extremist and stakeholders alike.

It would be hard to make a case that the NEPA and T&E laws don't already favor the no-development, no-access, and no-use side of the Wilderness and land use issues. They are more of a hammer used to stop progress than a scientific analysis of the alternatives. True paralysis by analysis.

The alarms by extremist groups heralding the loss of roadless or open space land, such as, "In 11 Western states more than 40,000 square miles of open space will be developed in the next 50 years." Most of lands in the Western United States are under government ownership, so they must be talking about private land. Yours and mine.

The chairman of the board for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation claims that, "In the next 48 hours, more than 5,000 acres of wildlife habitat will be sacrificed to development." I contend that through neglect, we burn up more wildlife habitat than will ever be lost to development by our own benign neglect and our unwillingness to adequately manage our forest and grassland resources.

But let's get to the one that really caught my interest. The advocates for more Wilderness also claim that 86% of the fisherman and 83% of the hunters support efforts to keep the National Forest roadless areas free of roads. Now I don't see it that way, so I looked a little deeper. Websites are a deep well of information, you just need to dig deeper and be aware of the dirty water.

What I found was the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance (TRCA). See them online at And who are the member organizations, you ask? How about the organizations you and I have put many dollars and man-hours into supporting: the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Trout Unlimited, along with Wildlife Forever, Wildlife Management Institute, US Forest Service, and the Izaak Walton League.

Now you say "SO." Well let's hear what the Izaak Walton League ( has to say about Roadless, "Within roadless areas we support excluding all off-highway vehicles, including snowmobiles." I wonder if the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities bought into that? I doubt very seriously the aged, infirm and the handicapped would. They went on to say "Specifically, League policy states that roadless areas, including lands formally designated as Wilderness, should be managed to control recreation use and damage to environmental values." Does this mean they are promoting Wilderness use by only the young, physical elite hikers? It sure doesn't sound like an advertisement for a pack string of horses and hunters.

The organization close to my heart and wallet, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation ( has, by its alliance with the other member organizations, taken a walk over to the dark side. With a bit of deception, and under the pretext of bringing together people with different backgrounds and giving them a stronger collective voice, they have joined the other Wilderness groups in the race for more dollars.

Let's look at the Alliance they joined. The #1 initiative of the TRCA is "Room to Roam, keeping roadless areas roadless." They talk a lot about letting science determine the outcome of land management decisions, but they don't say whose scientist. They say they get their funding from a single source, the Pew Charitable Trusts, that's a big outfit, with lots of tentacles. They're the ones that gave dollars in 6 figures to American Rivers, the ones who want to remove the Snake River Dams. Or maybe you remember them as the Trust that gave over $150,000 to just one of the Natural Resource Defense Council Lawyers (you remember the NRDC, they were behind the phony Alar scare). So just where does the direction for the TRCA come from? Take a look for yourself, check their website.

Let's also not forget the US Forest Service who was given the 1994 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) BUGLE article "Road Closed" to further their road closure agenda. The Government couldn't reprint the article without the permission of the RMEF. The article talks about reducing road densities to 1 or 2 miles per square mile. Now, I'm going to make you do some math-1 mile of road in a square mile: an airport? ...has no turnouts? a straight line? ...cannot be shared with off-road vehicles? on flat ground? These are all correct. Even 2 miles per square mile doesn't allow for many campsites or turnouts, and is usually the main travel way. According to the Forest Service, if half the roads in eastern Oregon were closed, there would still be two miles of open roads per square mile. The answer to that statement is simple, don't close half, close only one quarter of them. The road closure, road density issues cannot be solved on a national level and must be based on road type along with local use and need issues. One size does not fit all. If the National Forest has 380,000 miles of road x 4 acres/mile (33' wide) = 1,520,000 acres of road, does that not also mean that it has over 189,000,000 acres out of 191,000,000 acres undisturbed by roads in the National Forest System. You do the math. Money is not as big of an issue as the Federal agencies make it out to be, unless you buy into the idea of an overhead rate in excess of 33%. Ask your local road contractor what it cost him to blade a mile of natural surface road.

The thing that stands out about the Wilderness advocates, the Alliance, and their elitist posture is the fact that they make no allowance to the fact that everything changes, nothing stays the same. They just continue to support the management direction of benign neglect.

No mention is made by any of the organizations, foundations, or alliances of the need for motorized assistance to visit and enjoy the mountains and meadows of the National Forest System by the aged, infirm, and the handicapped.

Make no mistake, the call for more Wildernesses and reducing the loss of wildlife habitat lands is a big moneymaker for the environmental groups. This includes 6 digit salaries for CEO's plus travel and paid staff. This includes mass mailings that require up to 85% of the monies taken in to go for more mass mailing to keep the wheels of environmentalism turning. You can see why other groups and foundations can no longer fight the temptation to go after the big dollars. But when they do, they lose their focus on the reasons they were founded by grassroots, caring people.

Even the National Rifle Association staff went whole hog in their support of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, salivating for the grant money, because they saw it as a money tree, even though animal rights, anti-gun, and environmental groups would be the dominant beneficiaries. The NRA board of directors put the restraining harness on the NRA staff and made future support of CARA dependent on "the principle of no net loss in federal land ownership open to the public for hunting and shooting." Even the NRA needs to think about access for their hunter and shooting membership.

There is always a clear and present danger to public access when groups are species or purpose specific.

Do you know where your organization, foundation, club, alliance, coalition, association, etc., dollars are being spent? Get on the websites, write the letters, ask the questions, and withhold your dollars until the questions are answered to your satisfaction. Don't blindly support these large groups and foundations unless they have a majority of volunteer management and staff. That's what grassroots support is all about, and it does make a difference because it stays focused and draws its strength from a wider range of ideas and individuals.

I would also ask you to join with me in backing the BlueRibbon Coalition proposal on "Back Country Designation." It is multiple use at its best, and a designation whose time has come.

--For questions or comments on this article, the author may be reached through the BlueRibbon Coalition office: 4555 Burley Drive, Suite A, Pocatello, ID 83202-1921. Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Or the author may be contacted directly via email at:


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