I was astonished to read Malcolm Menzies' diatribe against the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. As director of the Southeast Region for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, his responsibility is to listen to all members of the public with an open mind.
I worked several years for a federal agency, whose directors at every level listened to all sides politely. I never heard them putting down any individuals or organizations, even those suing us, and not even in private.
Menzies harps on SEACC's "outside" funding from groups such as the Pew Charitable Trust and the Brainerd Foundation, which "give millions of dollars to organizations like SEACC to promote their preservationist agenda."
That is misleading. The modestly paid staff of SEACC would, I'm sure, love to be the recipient of millions of dollars. SEACC would fall apart without the support of its members, most of whom are Alaskans. The group, which works on federal land issues, depends on national foundations. The key here is that the people who run the Pew Charitable Trust and the Brainerd Foundation do not profit from helping struggling environmental groups. They are essentially altruistic organizations.
The essential problem for people trying to defend clean water, clean air and wilderness is that individuals generally don't have the means to counteract the lobbying campaigns of the companies which stand to profit from a given project. Without many citizens banding together, the ethical side of these questions, the side saying we should slow down and consider the health costs and the environmental costs, would hardly be heard.
By the way, I hope that next time an employee of the Murkowski administration feels the need to set the record straight, he will have the decency to call people by the name they prefer, conservationists or environmentalists. The word "preservationist" is a right-wing coded insult.
As a direct result of Mr. Menzies' letter, I have joined SEACC. I can see both pros and cons to the road plan, but I'm convinced that we ought to wait to embark on any major project until we have elected people who understand environmental concerns as well as business concerns. Its stunning beauty and healthy environment are Southeast Alaska's greatest assets.
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