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Congress investigates road to roadlessness

WASHINGTON — The ethics of a former Clinton administration official
were called into question yesterday for possible “undue influence” in
the controversial “Roadless Initiative” of the Heritage Forest Campaign,
which resulted in the elimination of public access to almost 60 million

Questioning before the House Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on
Forests and Forests Health focused squarely on Dan Beard.

Witnesses question whether Beard, formerly head of the federal Bureau
of Reclamation under Clinton — but now public policy director for the
National Audubon Society — used his influence with Clinton to
facilitate an “end run” around Congress by a powerful environmental
foundation and the issuance of a presidential mandate to effectively
eliminate public access to huge expanses of public lands. They are
asking for a congressional investigation.

According to the lead witness Ron Arnold, author of the new book
Undue Influence, “there is evidence
that the Pew Charitable Trusts planned an end-run around Congress and
arranged the Clinton administration’s new policy to eliminate access to
almost 60 million acres of federal land. They did it by an initiative
they called the ‘Heritage Forest Campaign.'”

To explain how it happened, Arnold described to the committee how the
environmental movement consists of “a three-cornered structure beginning
with tax-exempt foundations which devise multi-million-dollar
environmental programs to eliminate resource extraction industries and
private property rights. The foundations direct their funds to the
second leg of the triangle, environmental groups with insider access to
the third leg, executive branch agencies. This powerful ‘iron triangle’
unfairly influences federal policy to devastate local economies and
private property.”

President Clinton announced the roadless initiative on Oct. 13, 1999,
creating what has been called “de facto wilderness areas” in a move
critics have called a blatant usurpation of congressional power.

“Audubon was able to produce this controversial result because its
new director of public policy is Dan Beard, who came straight from the
Clinton administration, where he served as head of the Bureau of
Reclamation,” said Arnold.

According to Arnold, the Pew Charitable Trusts created the Heritage
Forest Campaign in order to stop all resource extraction on 60 million
acres of federal land.

Audubon has received $3.5 million from the Philadelphia-based Pew
Charitable Trusts since September 1998 “to organize the Heritage Forests
Campaign, a coalition whose sole purpose appears to be lobbying the
Clinton-Gore administration on the roadless initiative,” said Arnold.
“Audubon funneled the money to 12 other environmental groups under its

Audubon hired President Clinton’s pollster, the Mellman Group, Inc.
which “produced results saying that the public favored wilderness over
jobs,” added Arnold. Audubon provided these controversial poll results
to the White House chief of staff, and soon after, Clinton called for
permanent roadless status of 60 million acres of federal land.

Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R.-Idaho, chair of the subcommittee said
in her statement that the Heritage Forests Campaign raises several
potential problems “with foundation-financed environmental policy
advocacy — namely, the lack of fair, broad-based representation and the
absence of accountability.”

Beard, quoted in the minutes of the National Audubon Society’s board
meeting of Sept. 17-18, 1999, seemed to validate all of Chenoweth’s and
Arnold’s worst fears:

“There are 60 million acres of 1,000 acres-plus plots in our national
forests that are still roadless,” said Beard. “There is no hope of
congressional action to preserve them as wilderness. Administrative
protection is possible. We have raised the issue’s visibility in the
White House, but that’s not enough. So we did a poll, using the
president’s pollster. He sent the results to White House chief of
staff. The poll shows that Americans, strongly, care about wilderness
to the extent of favoring it over jobs. Even Republican men in
intermountain states support it at the 50% level. The administration
has said they will take some kind of action. We hope for an
announcement from the president of some kind of administrative
protection. We probably won’t get all 60 million acres, but if we did
it would represent the biggest chunk of land protection since the Alaska
Lands Act.”

Beard continued, “The Pew Trust is pleased with the campaign so far.
2nd year funding will take it to January 2001: $2.2 million for about
12 organizations under our supervision. Our visibility among fellow
forest protection organizations has been raised.”

Just how much influence did Beard’s previous position with the
Clinton administration have on facilitating the multimillion-dollar
grant to Audubon?

According to the Audubon minutes, John Flicker, who was in attendance
at the board meeting, commented, “This grant came to us because of Dan
Beard’s reputation and good name.”

The Heritage Forest Campaign appears to be the work of foundations,
said Chenoweth-Hage, not the local loggers, ranchers and miners who will
be adversely affected by it.

“The grantees are accountable to the foundations that fund them,” and
not to anyone else, Chenoweth-Hage explained. “Foundations have no
voters, no customers, no investors. The people who run big foundations
are part of an elite, insulated group. They are typically located
hundreds or even thousands of miles from the communities affected by
policies they advocate.”

Other witnesses testifying at the hearing included Jeff A Lyall, a disabled outdoorsman
from Catawba, Virginia; Diana White Horse Capp, chairman of the Upper
Columbia Resource council, Curlew, Washington; and Antonia DeVargas,
officer, Rio Arriba County Land Planning Department, La Madera, New

Previous stories:

People don’t like roadless forests

Idaho sues U.S. Forest Service

Richard Jefferson is a columnist
for Timberline magazine.