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An Alternative Use of Non-Profit Environmental Funds

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  • Bruce at Island Resources
    [For members of Island Resources who read this NY Times article about the role of the Pew Trust in the public environmental debate in the US, I just want to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2001
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      [For members of Island Resources who read this NY Times article about
      the role of the Pew Trust in the public environmental debate in the
      US, I just want to reassure you that Island Resources Foundation is
      no tool of Pew.

      There has been no attempt by Pew to buy us off with one of their $5
      million dollar grants---like the Sierra Club, Island Resources
      Foundation has never received a Pew grant. Unlike the Sierra Club
      (which is far from being the biggest environmental group as suggested
      by this article) , we do not have a $75 million budget of our own.
      ;=)

      best wishes

      bruce potter]


      June 28, 2001

      Charity Is New Force in Environmental Fight

      By DOUGLAS JEHL
      copyright by the NY Times

      PHILADELPHIA - From a suite of offices in a high-rise here, a $4.8
      billion foundation called the Pew Charitable Trusts has quietly
      become not only the largest grant maker to environmental causes, but
      also one that controls much more than the purse strings.

      Unlike many philanthropies that give to conservationist groups, Pew
      has been anything but hands-off, serving as the behind-the-scenes
      architect of highly visible recent campaigns to preserve national
      forests and combat global warming. Though some of its money goes to
      long-established groups, Pew has also created its own organizations,
      with names like the National Environmental Trust and the Heritage
      Forest Campaign.

      Over the last decade, financing by wealthy foundations has swollen
      the budgets of environmental groups that depend heavily on donations
      for things like land acquisition and scientific research. But with
      its deep pockets and focus on aggressive political advocacy, Pew is
      not only the most important new player but also the most
      controversial, among fellow environmentalists and its opponents in
      industry.

      "I don't think you make social change happen on the basis of paid
      staff in Washington and paid ads anywhere," Carl Pope, the executive
      director of the Sierra Club, said, referring to the Pew groups'
      reputation for top-down management.

      The Sierra Club, still the largest environmental organization, has
      applied for Pew grants but has never been successful and has stopped
      trying, Mr. Pope said.

      The reason has less to do with substance - the groups are more or
      less united on the issues - than with style. With 700,000 members,
      the Sierra Club has many grass-roots constituents to please, while
      Pew's approach is focused on the issues that the managers in
      Philadelphia deem ripe for intervention.

      For example, while forest protection remains one of many areas of
      concern for the Sierra Club, with most efforts waged by local
      organizers, the issue has been among just three areas identified by
      Pew for intensive attention. The others are global warming and marine
      conservation.

      Pew's executives and their supporters dismiss the griping as sour
      grapes, saying that traditional organizations fear being eclipsed by
      Pew and that the other foundations that contribute to conservationist
      causes feel threatened by its willingness to jump into the political
      fray.

      "If you ride the ridges, you get shot at more often than if you stay
      in the valleys," Joshua W. Reichert, Pew's powerful director of
      environmental programs, said.

      With $52 million to spend on environmental causes this year, Pew
      tries to articulate a single voice - that of the trust and, in
      particular, Mr. Reichert.

      Until a decade ago, the Pew Trusts, established by descendants of
      Joseph N. Pew, the founder of the Sun Oil Company, made more
      conventional environmental grants, financing things like research and
      land acquisition. Today, its other main areas of attention include
      culture, education, journalism programs, health, public policy and
      religion.

      But under Mr. Reichert, 51, a social anthropologist with a broad
      background in environmental protection, the organization has shifted
      its attention to trying to advance a particular policy and has
      quintupled its spending on environmental programs since 1990.

      It was the force behind the effort that generated more than a million
      public comments last year in favor of the Clinton administration's
      forest-protection plan.

      Mr. Reichert, who keeps a low profile, has been so dominant in
      overseeing Pew-backed campaigns that the officials of the groups it
      finances typically refer to the foundation as "he."

      "We are extremely results-oriented and hold ourselves and our
      partners accountable for our performance," Mr. Reichert said in an
      interview here.

      Pew, as a nonprofit organization, stops short of lobbying and
      supporting candidates for office, something that some other
      environmental groups, like the Sierra Club and the League of
      Conservation Voters, which do not have nonprofit status, are
      permitted to do.

      But Pew is free to advocate specific causes, and its organizations
      have done so in many ways, including buying full-page advertisements
      in newspapers.

      Doug Crandall, staff director of the Republican-controlled House
      subcommittee on forests, called the Pew groups "the 800-pound
      gorilla" on environmental issues "because they focus and target these
      issues quite effectively."

      At a Congressional hearing last year, Helen Chenoweth-Hage, then a
      Republican representative from Idaho, singled out the foundation and
      its campaign to prevent development of the national forests as an
      example of how communities "are being crushed by an inaccessible and
      faceless movement wielding great power and influence."

      Like most foundations, Pew saw its endowment soar in the surging
      stock market of the 1990's, and to maintain its tax-exempt status, it
      increased its grants proportionately, to nearly $236 million last
      year from $147 million in 1990. Environmental programs grew fastest,
      to $52 million last year from $11 million in 1990.

      Its smaller beneficiaries include some long-established groups, like
      American Rivers Inc., Ducks Unlimited and the Wilderness Society,
      though only when their work closely fits Pew's agenda. But the
      largest recipients are a closely linked network of new groups, like
      the National Environmental Trust, which was created in 1995 and
      received $6 million last year as the Washington voice for Pew's
      message.

      Mr. Reichert said the environmental trust was "born amidst a climate
      of criticism from many of the national environmental groups." Some
      environmentalists argue that the group's advocacy mostly overlaps
      that done by other organizations, like the Natural Resources Defense
      Council and Environmental Defense, and that Pew's money would be
      better spent supporting those organizations. But Mr. Reichert said
      the trust was determined "to look for opportunities where we can make
      a difference."

      Other big recipients include the Pew Center on Global Climate Change,
      which was founded in 1998 and includes some industry representatives.

      It received more than $5 million last year. The Heritage Forests
      Campaign, a coalition of about a dozen environmental groups, also
      established by Pew in 1998, has received about $10 million from the
      foundation.

      With Pew money, the groups helped solicit the overwhelming public
      support for the Clinton plan to put a third of the national forests
      off limits to road construction.

      The Clinton administration used that support to justify bypassing
      opposition from Congress and several Western states. (A federal court
      in Idaho blocked the plan this year, and the Bush administration is
      drafting an alternative it says will be less sweeping.)

      The most recent ranking of donation trends, by the Foundation Center
      of New York, puts the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with $82.5
      million, at the top of a 1999 list of sources for grants related to
      the environment and animals.

      Other top donors included the Ford Foundation, at $31 million; the
      Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, at $27.9 million; and the W. Alton
      Jones Foundation, at $23.9 million. In all, private foundations spend
      more than $700 million a year on grants related to the environment
      and animals, a 350 percent increase since 1990, the Foundation Center
      estimates.

      But many of the other top environmental grant makers devote most of
      their budgets to research rather than advocacy.

      Traditional groups, like the Sierra Club, whose annual budget of
      about $75 million is the largest among environmental organizations,
      must devote a substantial part of their spending to raising money and
      providing services to members.

      Without such burdens and with such a narrow focus on particular
      policy areas, environmentalists say, Pew's relative effect has been
      greater than its spending alone would suggest.

      Some of Pew's main campaigns, including one on global warming, have
      put the foundation at odds with the Bush administration.

      But in an interview, Rebecca M. Rimel, the foundation's president,
      said she was confident that Pew's efforts would have a great effect
      on the national debate.

      "Let's wait and see what the outcome is," Ms. Rimel said. "Let's see
      who has been able to win the hearts and minds of the public."

      --
      Island Resources, the Virgin Islands and Washington
      For fastest mail service: 1718 "P" St NW # T-4, Washington, DC 20036
      Fone 202/265-9712 fax 202/232-0748; E-mail: <bpotter@...>
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