CLEAR View -- Volume
9 Number 1
SPECIAL ALERT -- Post
9/11 Anti-Environmentalism Threatens Green Activism
January 23, 2002
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In this Issue:
2. Federal "eco-terror"
legislation -- dubious outcome, potential abuse
3. Using "eco-terrorism" to taint the environmental movement
4. More attacks on 501c3 tax status
5. Public Interestis "unpatriotic"
6. Appendix: NCPPR's letter to CLEAR
Wise Use leader Ron Arnold
of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise once said, "We want to destroy
environmentalists by taking away their money and their members" (New York
Times, December 19, 1991). We always regarded this statement as hyperbole,
but lately we aren't sosure.
Some are using the horrific
terrorist attacks of September 11 to further their own agendas against environmentalism.
There have been rhetorical attacks branding public interest groups as elitist
And unpatriotic, further attacks
on non-profit status of a handful of groups, and a renewed intensity infighting "eco-terrorism,"
a term and concept environmental backlash leaders are trying desperately
to get into circulation.
While most Americans think
eco-terrorism consists of arson and other widely condemned extremist activities, some anti-environmentalists
define "eco-terror" to include civil disobedience actions suchas tree sitting, blocking
roads, targeting corporations with boycotts, and even advocating that theU.S. ratify the Kyoto global
Currently, there appear to
be four major themes coming out of the renewed interest in"eco-terrorism."
1) A renewed effort
to enact vaguely defined federal "eco-terror" legislation that could limit
rights to non-violent protests and would not deter violent crime.
Ron Arnold gave environmentalists
his game plan over a decade ago -- to take away our members and our money. A central
tactic for accomplishing these goals has been and remains today to redefine the terms of environmentalism
in favor of "wise use" ideals and away from those of true environmental organizations.
By convincing people that environmentalism is a criminal enterprise, Arnold et al hope to erode
our support, both in financial terms and in the court of public opinion.
By attacking the tax-exemptions
and reputations of certain groups, this campaign also aims to erode foundation and donor support
for their efforts. It is not too far-fetched to suppose that individual donors and foundations could
be the next targets in this campaign -- for sponsoring organizations that some would call "eco-terrorist."
2) A nasty public relations
ploy attempting to cast ALL environmentalism as "eco-terrorism" to varying
3) Unfriendly demands that
law-abiding environmental groups provide a position on the criminal activities
of the Earth Liberation Front
4) Ongoing attacks on the
tax-exempt status of a handful of leading environmental organizations,
such at the Rainforest Action Network and the Rukus Society, based on complaints
that direct action violates their IRS tax status.
2. Federal Eco-Terror
Legislation -- dubious outcome, potential abuse
After failing to get any
significant Federal legislation passed for the past three years, anti-environmental lawmakers
may be on the verge of turning the acts of peaceful, non-violent protests, such as sitting
in a tree, into felony offenses under Rep. George Nethercutt's proposed "Agroterrorism Prevention
Act." Capitalizing on the public's fear since the horrific terrorist attacks
Of September 11, proponents
continue to push legislation that does far more than create increased penalties for fringe individuals
guilty of trespassing and property destruction. Your right to peaceful protest may be yet another
casualty of the "war on terrorism" if an economic loss of more than$10,000 can be claimed as
a result of your action.
If this seems far-fetched,
"wise use" guru Ron Arnold testified before a congressional committee in1998 on the subject of "eco-terrorism."
He defined "eco-terror" explicitly to include civil disobedience. In his
testimony, Arnold argued: "For the past five years, our members have routinely contacted our headquarters
to report crimes committed against them of a type we've come to call eco-terrorism, that is a
crime committed to save nature. These crimes generally take the form
of equipment vandalism, but
may include package bombs, blockades using physical force to obstructworkers from going where
they have a right to go, and invasions of private or government offices
to commit the crime of civil
disobedience" (House Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, June 9, 1998).
There is currently a bill
under consideration (hearings have been postponed until February 2002)introduced by Rep. George
Nethercutt (R-WA) that looks suspiciously like what Arnold and others recommended at the 1998
eco-terrorism hearings. H.R.2795, "The Agroterrorism Prevention Act of 2001," expands the 1992
Animal Enterprise Protection Act to ostensibly protect biotech, timber, and other agricultural or
biological products from "terrorists" who engage or conspire in activities that include "physical disruption"
resulting in "loss of any property" (total loss still has to be over$10,000). The
bill contains increased sentencing for all levels of violation and an expanded definition of types of businesses
defined as "plant enterprises," including stores that sell "plant products" (i.e. paper or
wood). Under this extremely broad definition, blocking access to
an office supply store, or "conspiring"
to limit profitability of paper products, could be considered "agro-terrorism" if the
loss of revenue met the law's threshold. Likewise, putting "frankenfood" stickers on GMO products
in grocery stores, if the profit loss could be proven, would be considered a terrorist act.
Tree-sitting or road blocking to prevent a timber sale would almost certainly qualify as a disruption
that would meet the revenue loss threshold.
Nethercutt's bill (see bill
analysis in separate message) was publicly unveiled at the Frontiers of Freedom "eco-terrorism"
conference in June 2001. It is based on a failed bill introduced
in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Hatch told attendees at the Frontiers of Freedom conference (which also featured Ron Arnold) that
his legislation was "inspired in part by the writings of Ron Arnold.
So it should come as no surprise
that we are getting closer to adopting Arnold's definition of eco-terrorism that includes
civil disobedience and non-violent protest as activities potentially prosecuted as terrorist
The bill itself, if adopted,
would probably not pose much of a risk to non-violent activists, but it
is written vaguely enough that
the potential exists for broad interpretation of its meaning. It
is worth mentioning that only one
person has been prosecuted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act since 1992, indicating that
prosecutors do not find it a useful tool. It has also obviously not
had a deterrent effect on the
activities of the Animal Liberation Front.
[Ironically, The Heartland
Institute, a free-market think tank and policy organization with strong anti-environmental credentials,
recently published an article chiding environmentalists and their supporters in Congress for
renewing efforts to increase fuel efficiency standards for automobiles,
in a post-September 11 effort
to address our dependence on foreign oil. Writing for Heartland,
Joseph Bast argues "The tragedy
of September 11 is being evoked to justify legislation that didn't deserve approval before that date,
and doesn't deserve it now. One such proposal is to impose tougher fuel economy standards on cars
and trucks. Increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, as the enclosed
set of articles proves, is bad public policy."(http://www.free-market.net/rd/589424463.html)]
Read the text of the "Agroterrorism
Protection Act" HR 2795: http://www.theorator.com/bills107/hr2795.html
"Animal Enterprise Protection
Act" USC Title 18 Section 43 http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/43.text.html
3. Using "eco-terrorism"
to marginalize the environmental message
In June 2001, Senator Orrin
Hatch (R-UT) implied that the environmental movement as a whole is responsible for eco-terrorism:
"It is unfortunate that the general public has not fully caught onto the radicalization of the environmental
movement. We know instead that their funding has only increased. Over the
past several years, though, we have seen an even more alarming trend.
The radicalization of the green
movement has led to a surge in eco-terrorism" (Frontiers for Freedom event transcript, June 13,
Unfortunately, Hatch is not
alone in his assessment. Many in the anti-environmental movement
go even further and routinely
call ANY environmental activist an "eco-terrorist," arguing on the basis
of guilt-by-association (or
worse, guilt-by-faint-condemnation). The term has been tossed around
foryears in wise use circles,
loosely used to describe virtually any activity (or activist) they don't
For example, the free-market
e-zine Tech Central Station ran an October 3, 2001, headline suggesting environmentalists
in favor of the Kyoto treaty and other environmental policies/laws/treaties are
"eco-terrorists." Tech Central Station is a free-market mainstream
publication, not a back water militia web site where conspiracy theories
are frequently the topic du jour. http://www.techcentralstation.com/EnviroExtra.asp?id=80
It has been further suggested
-- both before and after 9/11 -- that mainstream environmental groups either cause, condone, or
are secretly party to "eco-terror" attacks. This despite the fact
that a cursory review of press
clips on the subject in the past few years reveals that most large mainstream environmental groups and
many grass roots environmental groups have strongly condemned the use of violence for supposed
environmental goals. For example, a letter in USA Today in November1998, spearheaded by the
Environmental Working Group and the National Environmental Trust and signed by more than a dozen
DC-based environmental organizations, decried the use of violent tactics in the name of the
environment in no uncertain terms. Signatories included organizations
such as Defenders of Wildlife,
Environmental Defense, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and US Public Interest Research
Group. The letter read, "We want to make clear that these arsonists
Have nothing to do with the environmental
community...Extreme, violent acts aren't activism; they are crimes."
Since "USA Today" is hardly
a marginal publication, we at CLEAR wonder how backlash activists who have recently called
upon environmental groups to take a stand against "eco-terror" could have missed this one?
As a result either of shoddy
research or an intentional (and manipulative) oversight, a round of letters was sent late last year
to large DC-based environmental organizations demanding statements condemning "eco-terrorism."
One letter came from HR 2795 sponsor Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO),and was signed by colleagues
Jim Hansen (R-UT), John Peterson (R-PA), Bob Schaffer (R-CO),Greg Walden (R-OR), J.D.
Hayworth (R-OR) and George Nethercutt Jr. (R-WA). A few years behind the curve, the letter
demanded organizations disavow ELF/ALF in a written response to his subcommittee by December
1, 2001 (a Sunday, incidentally). The letter specifically mentioned September 11 as a reason
to pursue eco-terrorism: "In probing the threat of terrorism, it only stands to reason that Congress
should probe the threat of eco-terrorism as well."
Environmentalists have called
the tactic "McCarthyesque" and a "witch hunt." So why is Congress probing peaceful, law abiding
environmental organizations? John Passacantando of Greenpeace answered this very question
in a Denver Post interview: "Because these are the groups that are trying to convince the public that
drilling in ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is a bad idea. These are the groups
that are saying, "There has never been a better time to conserve and to
reduce the nation's dependence
on foreign oil. These congressmen are afraid of our message" (DenverPost, November 26, 2001).
In a similar (and perhaps
unrelated) effort, a number of environmental organizations (including CLEAR) received a letter
late last year from Tom Randall of the National Center for Public Policy Research demanding to know
our position on the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front (Tom: the short answer
is we cherish American citizens' right to peaceful protest and oppose acts of violence and property
destruction. Oh, and sorry we missed your deadline). Among
other things, Randall claimed,
"Nowhere, however, have I seen any denunciation of their acts by 'mainstream' environmental
groups" (notice that "mainstream" is in quotations, suggesting Mr. Randall doesn't believe in such
a thing). CLEAR and other groups were given the deadline of
November 15 to respond.
We fear that the results
of NCPPR's "research" will be twisted to malign the environmental movement, regardless of
our individual or collective response. Or, in a worse case but not out-of-the-realm-of-the-possible
scenario, the responses (or lack there of) could be used to suggest "conspiracy" to commit terrorism
under the beefed-up anti-terrorism laws that can de-fund and dismantle groups.
We have nothing to hide and absolutely do not support terrorists, but there
have been other dark times in
our nation's history when the truth didn't count for much when conspiracy charges were the order of
[Ironically, the environmental
backlash has remained silent on the series of protests in the Klamath Basin in Oregon conducted
by ranchers and anti-environmental activists opposed to irrigation water impoundment resulting from
a recent drought, blaming this on environmentalists and the ESA. Protesters have forcibly
broken into the head gate on several occasions to release water, trespassing and destroying public property
in the process of stealing natural resources. Security at the site
has been costly as a result
of these criminal acts. The site was recently enclosed with barbed wire-topped security fencing
and surveillance cameras in an effort to protect the facility and reduce costs associated with round-the-clock
guards posted there since last year. These violent criminal acts were perpetrated in
protest to make a political point, seemingly perfectly adhering to the parameters set out by the
proponents of "ecoterror" legislation.]
4. Attacks on 501c3 Status
Reports on the recent attacks
on the tax-exempt status of Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have made news in the past several
months. This campaign argues that RAN's protest actions are in violation of the IRS's regulations
regarding the educational purpose conveyed through a 501 c3status.
This is just the latest effort
in a long-running campaign to defund RAN. The RANamuck.org website, a project of Ron Arnold's
Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, has branded RAN as extremists and liars.
Among other things, the site features a link to send email to the Turner Foundation asking them to
stop funding RAN. Boise Cascade is suspected of supporting theRANamuck .org web site,
and admits writing letters to RAN's funders asking them to end support. Boise Cascade, a primary
RAN target, funded Arnold's Center for Defense of Free Enterprise early in its history (CLEAR
database). CDFE's current funders are unknown.
Apparently neither of these
de-funding tactics has had the desired effect, because Frontiers of Freedom, a group run by
former Senator Malcolm Wallop, has asked the IRS to revoke RAN's501c3 status. The complaint
argues that because RAN members have been arrested in the course of non-violent protests, the
organization is in violation of its 501c3 status. Boise Cascade denies
being behind the attacks or paying
Frontiers of Freedom to lodge the complaint.
At the same June 2001 Frontiers
of Freedom conference on eco-terrorism where Ron Arnold talked about RAN and George
Nethercutt (R-WA) publicly unveiled his new "Agroterrorism Prevention Act of 2001,"
it was repeatedly suggested by participants that "somebody" should try
to get RAN's (and other groups
that engage in direct action) 501c3 tax status revoked. Scarcely
a week later, Frontiers of
Freedom announced it was asking the IRS to investigate RAN's tax exempt status. It was also
falsely stated at the conference that mainstream environmentalists have
failed to condemn acts of arson and
similar committed by ELF, and that "somebody" ought to get them totake a position (the full
text of the proceedings of this conference is well worth reading, and can
be downloaded in PDF format
Scarcely six months later, efforts to
demonize environmental groups and revoke their tax-exemption were moving forward.
The tactic of attacking non-profit
status is catching on. Leaders of the Inupiat Eskimo tribe, one of whom works for the tribe's
Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, recently filed a similar complaint against the Alaska Wilderness
League, arguing that their activities to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil
drilling are not "educational" and constitute lobbying in violation of
their non-profit status (Sacramento
Bee, November 11, 2001). http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/environment/story/1153075p-1220773c.html
Frontiers of Freedom is now
making a similar complaint about the Ruckus Society (read Frontier's view at http://www.ff.org/events/mutants.html).
Frontiers of Freedom does not appear to have taken any action, but claim
"the crazy thing is not that their tax-exempt status is being challenged,
but that sometime during the
environmental love-in that was 90s, the IRS actually granted this group tax-exempt status in the
first place!" [That wacky, impulsive, Internal Revenue Service! -Ed]
Even if attacks on non-profit
status are unsuccessful, they will take time, money, and personal energy to deal with.
Expect to see more of this in the future, even on groups that are well
Within their legal limit on lobbying
and conform to all legal definitions of "education." Again, we at
CLEAR suspect that such attacks
will extend beyond environmental groups to their funders in short order. Foundations could
very well be taken to task for providing support to organizations and campaigns that the backlash has deemed
5. Public Interest is
(Adapted with permission
from P.R. Watch's "Spin of the Day")
The Washington Legal Foundation,
a corporate-funded right wing non-profit legal foundation, has jumped on the bandwagon
calling public interest activism "unpatriotic." In a biweekly "In
All Fairness" ad in the New
York Times, WLF's Daniel Popeo condemns "self-anointed consumer protection groups, working
closely with profiteering plaintiff lawyers," "Naderite food police," and"no-growth activists," saying
that "in the post-September 11 world we can no longer afford to put the narrow agendas of a
'public interest' elite ahead of our own national interests." Look
for this rhetorical attack to heighten
in the months ahead as corporate front groups exploit tragedy and war for political gain.
Read the ad: http://www.wlf.org/Communicating/
6. NCPPR's letter to
Tom Randall and the National
Center for Public Policy Research have posted letters to many leading environmental organizations
demanding their position on "ecoterror." Below is the text of the letter we received from
"At a time of unprecedented
terrorist attacks in America and concern regarding future attacks, one type of terrorist continues
to operate unfettered, even uncriticized: ecoterrorists.
"The Earth Liberation Front
and the Animal Liberation Front continue to take credit for numerous acts of terrorism, including
arson, in the name of environmentalism. They even incite others to terrorism. All of
this can be seen on their web site, http://www.earthliberationfront.com.
Since they have been operating in the
name of the environmental movement since 1996, I assume you are familiar with them.
"Nowhere, however, have I
seen any denunciation of their acts by "mainstream" environmental groups. At this time
of unprecedented concern, we would appreciate it if you would advise
us of your position relative to
the activities of the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front
and other ecoterrorist organizations.
In the interests of completing our research in a timely manner, we ask that you reply to us
by November 15, 2001.
"Thank you for your prompt
consideration of this matter.
"Yours truly," Tom Randall, Director John P. McGovern Center
for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs National Center for Public
A cursory check of www.nationalcenter.org
indicates that the results of Randall's research have not yet been made public.
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