Why Do Mainstream Environmental Organizations Support the Compact?

by Paul Donahue


Since the birth of the "Compact for Maine's Forests" last summer, many environmentalists around the state have been asking the same questions. Why did the mainstream environmental groups - Maine Audubon Society, Natural Resources Council of Maine, The Nature Conservancy and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust - sell out to the paper corporations? How could these groups possibly support the Compact, knowing full well it would permit the continuing destruction of Maine's forests? Aren't these organizations supposedly committed to protecting our environment and natural resources? One must look behind the scenes to understand the dilemma.

In his very informative and eye-opening book Beyond the Beauty Strip: Saving What's Left of Our Forests, Mitch Lansky laments the many conflicts of interest on so many levels that are found surrounding forestry issues in Maine, stating "that it is sometimes hard to identify the players without their hats on." The ultimate example he gives is Paul McCann, former director of public relations for Great Northern Paper and for the Paper Industry Information Office, dubbed the "Minister of Misinformation." In 1990, McCann was elected chairperson of the state's Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The names have changed somewhat since Lansky outlined the "musical chairs" between the paper industry, the government and the mainstream environmental groups in his 1992 book, but conflicts of interest are at least as rampant today. The relationships between those three parties are numerous, deep and incestuous.

The connections between the paper industry and government are well established and long running. Unfortunately, given our badly corrupted electoral process, they are to be expected. The large campaign contributions by the multinational paper corporations to Angus King and the members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and the Natural Resources Committee in the state legislature have certainly paid off amply.

On the other hand, the ties between the paper industry and the mainstream environmental organizations are not as well understood by the public. One would normally expect the two parties to be adversaries in the battle over our natural resources. But more and more, corporate America is learning the lesson that the most effective way to neutralize environmental organizations is from the inside. The money and access to power that large corporations offer to the environmental groups proves, in many cases, to be irresistible. Lured in with rhetoric about accomplishing more through cooperation than confrontation, environmental groups across the country have been badly co-opted by industry. This sellout is not at all a reflection on the membership of these organizations, most of whom, unfortunately, remain unaware of the degree to which their organizations have been compromised.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) does wonderful work around the country, and deserves lots of credit for saving many important areas from development. But TNC is also the recognized leader in corporate co-opting. The organization's national board of governors includes representatives from International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, and Boise-Cascade. Here in Maine, TNC's Corporate Conservation Council includes Great Northern Paper, J.M. Huber Corporation, Dead River Company, Hancock Timber Resource Group, Prentiss & Carlisle, Inc., and Seven Islands Land Company. These corporate timber industry members pay council dues which begin at $1000 annually. To claim that these corporations do not exert influence over policy, even if only subtly, as TNC director Kent Wommack did in a recent letter, is absurd.

The Maine Audubon Society also has well-established ties to the paper industry and corporate donations have influenced past policy decisions of the organization. These corporate donations certainly have played a role in Maine Audubon Society's sponsorship of the hopelessly flawed Forest Practices Act under which the beleaguered forest is currently being destroyed. And when they have decided to back the corporations, Maine Audubon Society apparently does not appreciate dissent among the trustees. Michael Good was a trustee for the Downeast Chapter of Maine Audubon Society, but was quietly replaced last year when he became a vocal proponent of the Ban Clearcutting referendum.

Below, in alphabetical order, is a listing of some of those individuals from the paper industry, government and mainstream environmental organizations that would appear to have a clear conflict of interest, or at least mixed loyalties, when it comes to dealing with forestry issues around the state. It is important to remember that these are only some of the obvious connections, found without digging terribly deeply. We will probably never know all the less obvious, subtle connections, such as the number of paper corporation stockholders on the boards of environmental organizations in question.

Linwood E. Bell was appointed by Angus King to chair the state's Productivity Realization Task Force and is a past director of trustee of the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mr. Bell was also on The Nature Conservancy's board of trustees up through the spring of 1996.

John Cashwell is the president of Seven Islands Land Company, the company chosen by the paper industry as the poster child for sustainable forestry. Before going to work for Seven Islands he was the director of the Maine Forest Service, and before that he was with Georgia- Pacific. Mr. Cashwell is also on the steering committee of TNC's Corporate Conservation Council.

Chuck Gadzik is the director of the Maine Forest Service. Prior to that he was the head forester for Baskehegan Lands, Roger Milliken, Jr.'s company (see below).

Chuck Hewitt is the chief operation officer in the King Administration and is a close advisor to Angus King. Before that he was with Swift River, a company that develops biomass plants, and before that he was the executive director of the Maine Audubon Society.

Sherry Huber is an executive and a large stockholder in the J.M. Huber Corporation of New Jersey, an industrial forest landowner in Maine controlling 405,000 acres. She is one of a group pushing for development of a chip mill in Millinocket, an operation that would eat up large areas of Maine forest land (See page 13). Ms. Huber is also very active on the other side of the fence. She is on the Natural Resource Council of Maine's board of directors, she is on the Maine Audubon Society board of trustees, and she was elected to the Nature Conservancy's board of trustees in the fall of 1996. She is also on the steering committee of TNC's Corporate Conservation Council and on TNC's national board of governors, and has recently bought a major interest in The Maine Times, once considered Maine's 'alternative' newspaper.

Ron Lovaglio is the commissioner of the Department of Conservation. Prior to accepting that position he was an International Paper executive, in charge of chipping operations in Ashland.

Don McNeill is an executive with Bowater Great Northern Paper. He is also on the steering committee of TNC's Corporate Conservation Council.

Roger Milliken, Jr. is one of the more prominent personalities in the continuing forestry debate in Maine.To begin with, Mr. Milliken is head of Baskehegan Lands Company, a company which owns and manages 100,000 acres of forest land in the state. He is also a board member of the Maine Forest Product Council, the principle lobbying group for the forest products industry in Maine, and is a past chairperson of the council. He was a primary architect and proponent of the "Compact for Maine's Forests," and it was at his decree that the Ban Clearcutting group was excluded from the negotiations for the Compact. On the other side, he is on The Nature Conservancy's board of trustees and the steering committee of TNC's Corporate Conservation Council, and was on the Natural Resource Council of Maine's board of directors from 1987-1994.

Kathryn (Kay) J. Rand is the director of policy and legislation in the King Administration and was on the board of directors of the Maine Business Alliance. She is also on The Nature Conservancy's board of trustees.

William Vail is not only the executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, but was also the person heading "Citizens for a Healthy Forest and Economy," the industry-funded political action committee working to defeat the clearcutting referendum. He is a past commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Mr. Vail was on The Nature Conservancy's board of trustees up until the fall of 1996.

Richard Warren is the publisher of The Bangor Daily News, a newspaper sympathetic to the Compact. He is on The Nature Conservancy's board of trustees.

It is hard to think of another state that has been as badly corrupted by a single industry as Maine has been corrupted by the timber and paper industry. Unfortunately, Maine's mainstream environmental groups seem to have been corrupted, as well. Have these organizations been so badly co-opted by industry, with corporate donations and corporate executives manning their boards, that they do not realize that they have crossed over to the oppositions side in this battle to protect our forests for future generations? Who will now be there to represent true environmental protection? Who will stand up to protect our forests if the co-opted environmental organizations, in their quest to appear respectable and responsible, cave in to pressure from the same industry that wants to destroy those forests? For the sake of environment and economy, I hope the people of Maine can see through the smoke screen put up by these groups and pressure them to do the right thing by working to protect our forest resource.


Paul Donahue is an artist and naturalist living in Machias. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Forest Ecology Network and is the editor of The Maine Woods.


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