My Turn: Preserving Alaska for Outside environmentalists

Posted: Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Deborah Williams' letter (Sept. 28) attempts to rebut Lew Williams' excellent piece (Sept. 17) on environmental organizations. With two Williamses involved, I have taken the liberty to refer to them as Deborah and Lew.

Deborah's letter at best was astounding, at worst misleading. First, it was interesting what Deborah did not say:

Deborah does not (because she cannot) dispute Lew's figures on the $20 million raised by the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) - mostly from Outside environmental foundations - nor the $ 9 million spent mainly stopping Alaska development projects.

Instead she proudly lists 10 organizations who received ACF grants for "encouraging sustainable livelihoods for Alaskans."

Going through the ACF's annual reports from 1998-2001 one finds that grants totaling $87,000 were made to these 10 organizations. This is less than 1 percent of the total grants disbursed by ACF during that time!

Has Deborah given your readers an honest and accurate reflection of ACF's main mission?

Why has she not informed your readers of the $124,000 given to the Trustees of Alaska who at this writing are trying to shut down the Red Dog Mine?

Why didn't she mention the $287,000 given to the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, which is trying to prevent the development of the National Petroleum Reserve?

Or the $700,000 given to the Sierra Club and Alaska Center for the Environment, which are leading the band in trying to stop the renewal of the Aleyska pipeline permit?

How about the $1.2 million given to the Alaska Defense Initiative to prevent drilling in ANWR?

Is that "encouraging sustainable livelihoods for Alaskans"?

Secondly, Deborah vainly tries to hide behind legalese in covering ACF's money trail.

Nobody disputes her assertion that ACF is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Deborah does not dispute Lew's statement that ACF gave Alaska Conservation Voters (ACV) $228,500.

What she conveniently omits in her high-sounding but erroneous statement is that ACV is a 501(c)(4) organization. Do Alaskans care about (3) and (4)?

Lew was right: Follow the money.

Outside environmentalists give money to ACF

ACF gives $228,500 to ACV

ACV selects, trains and supports candidates for (among other things) the Anchorage Assembly.

These candidates are elected, and then vote down a Little League complex.

What's so complicated about that? It's perfectly legal, so why try to hide behind legalese?

Finally, Deborah's high-sounding and benign description of ACF's mission and purpose masks the truth. Here is what she has to say when she is talking to the faithful and the Outside environmental big money crowd.

Deborah Williams, ACF 2001 Annual Report, Page 1:

"Working together, we are succeeding - as we must - in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling, the Tongass National Forest from massive clear-cutting, and the heart of Denali from being overrun by snowmachines among many other issues."

That is a legitimate point of view. But it is not conservation, it is preservation. Preservation of Alaska lands for the benefit of those Outside environmentalists that put up the majority of ACF's money.

Why try to sell it as something else?

One final point: Jimmy Carter is the honorary chairman of the Alaska Conservation Foundation. Wasn't he the one that tried to lock up Alaska in the late 1970s?

Tony Motley of McLean, Va., served as commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development from 1975-77.



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