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Environmental Groups: Only Deep Pockets Need Apply

by Dusty Rhodes, Reprinted from "The New Jersey Angler" June 2001, Vol 6.

(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2002 Newsletter)

Environmentalists are seeking money, and in some cases aren’t too particular about how they get it.  In this first of a two-part analysis of environmental funding, I have presented the results of research conducted by Nils Stolpe, editor of Fishnet USA, a fishery matters publication funded by several commercial fishing businesses in New Jersey.  In the second part I will review research by Tom Knudson, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Sacramento (California) Bee, who has penned a five-part, penetrating series on the techniques environmental groups use to pry money from the unsuspecting public.  While neither this publication nor I intend comments presented here as an endorsement of any program or position of either Fishnet USA or the Sacramento Bee, their research merits consideration.

According to Stolpe, one of the country’s deepest pockets funding environmental initiatives is the Pew Trusts.  Based in Philadelphia, PA, the trusts, seven in all, were established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Joseph N Pew and his wife.  For those who purchase gasoline, Pew is the fellow who founded Sunoco Inc.  From the Pew Foundation website, Stolpe discovered that the trusts have combined assets of $4.8 billion (no, that isn’t a typo) and last year alone granted $235.6 million.  Also, $50 million have gone for “fisheries-focused” grants since 1995.

More specifically, said Stolpe, since 1996 Pew has granted Earthjustice Legal Defense (Earthjustice) $9.797 million to help defray the costs of that organization’s actions in fisheries lawsuits.  Interestingly, Earthjustice used to be the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, said Stolpe, and on its website claimed it is “a non-profit law firm for the environment, which for more than a quarter century, has represented hundreds of environmental clients, large and small, without charge.”  According to Stolpe, Earthjustice lawyers were “behind suits on summer flounder and scallops and continued overfishing” (under the Magnuson Act as revised in 1996 through the Sustainable Fisheries Act).  In other words, they’re the cats that helped win the environmental lawsuit against the government concerning summer flounder that has led to the regulatory mess we’re now in.

Listed among Earthjustice’s clients are:  The Conservation Law Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the Center for Marine Conservation, the National Audubon Society and the National Resources Defense Council.  The last three were co-plaintiffs in the summer flounder lawsuit.  Arguably, Pew money has helped fuel the summer flounder brouhaha.  

At this juncture I hasten to comment that some of the work performed by environmental groups is decidedly in the public interest.  Further, I suspect that were we to know how every penny of Pew Trust money was spent relative to fishery issues we would likely endorse some of those expenditures.   On the other hand, it’s also clearly evident that some long green has found its way into the ongoing squabble over how effectively our marine resources are being managed.  Whether an angler approves or disapproves of the fishery management structure, they should be very concerned about the power and funding wielded by the environmentalist.  For all it’s faults (and I am all too familiar with them) the fishery management process is much like this country’s two-party system (not exactly without its own blemishes).  Extreme power by either party isn’t in the public’s interest.  Neither is extreme control of natural resources no matter what the objective.  Yet that’s what environmentalists want, and it’s coming to light just where they’re getting the monetary clout.

Before sending off any money to groups claiming to need help to “defend our natural resources,” make sure their objectives are understood and who the “Daddy Warbucks” behind them actually are.  An angler just might help buy his or her way out of a right to fish!

Next week, how environmental groups tug on the public’s heartstrings to open their wallets.

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