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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 20, 2000
4:14 PM
CONTACT:  US Public Interest Research Group
Aaron Viles (202) 547-9707
Blue Ribbon Coalition Promotes Timber, Mining, and Oil and Gas Interests Over Recreation
 
WASHINGTON - June 20 - The Blue Ribbon Coalition, one of the most active opponents of the Forest Serviceís efforts to preserve large, intact areas in national forests, is closely tied to the timber, mining, and oil and gas industry, according to a report released today by U.S. PIRG.

The Pocatello, Idaho based Coalition has actively opposed any proposal to protect roadless areas in national forests even if such a proposal would further the Coalitionís stated recreational interests. While the groupís mission statement values land stewardship and responsible use, the organization receives funding from 355 corporations including the American Forest and Paper Association, Exxon, and Sierra Forest Products.

"Far from being a grassroots organization simply advancing an agenda of access to public lands for the public, the Blue Ribbon Coalition is working hand-in-hand with industry to keep our national forests open to chainsaws, bulldozers and oil rigs," said U.S. PIRG Forest Campaign Coordinator Aaron Viles.

The U.S. PIRG report, "The Blue Ribbon Coalition: Protector of Recreation or Industry?" was released as a battle is waged over how the last third, or 60 million acres, of untouched, pristine wilderness in national forests will be managed. In May, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft proposal on managing these wild forests, otherwise known as roadless areas, and is soliciting public comment and holding more than 400 public hearings around the country, including a hearing in Arlington, VA on June 26.

Findings of the report include:

    • The Blue Ribbon Coalition receives financial support from numerous timber, oil and gas, and mining companies including Boise Cascade Corp., Exxon, Chevron, and the American Forest and Paper Association.

    • Companies funding the Blue Ribbon Coalition are also involved in intensive lobbying efforts in Washington, DC to advance their anti-environmental agenda, including the demise of the proposed policy to protect roadless areas in our national forests. These companies have spent $46,115,748 lobbying Congress the Forest Service and other federal agencies in during the period the Administration has been working on a roadless area proposal (1997 ó 1999), and have had 146 lobbyists on average working on their behalf during this period.

    • The political action committees (PACs) of companies funding the Blue Ribbon Coalition are also actively funding candidates, having contributed $ 1,833,241 to candidates -- $1,767,416 to current members of Congress and $65,825 to presidential candidates Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in the last three and half years (1997 ó May, 2000). Top recipients in the House include: (1) Helen Chenoweth-Hage ($42,242); (2) Michael Simpson ($33,500); and (3) Don Young ($33,227). In the Senate the top three recipients are: (1) Michael Crapo ($48,950); (2) George Voinovich ($34,675); and (3) Ben Nighthorse Campbell ($28,500).

    • The Blue Ribbon Coalition repeats and disseminates the anti-environmental rhetoric of their extractive industry supporters, including calling for increased logging in national forests, even if the statements are incompatible with the stated recreational values of the Coalition. The Coalition has mischaracterized federal land management policies, calling the roadless initiative a "totalitarian lock-up of our public lands." The roadless initiative instead seeks to create a publicly supported policy that would preserve clean water sources, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities in our last wild national forests.

    "The timber, mining, and oil and gas industries are using the Blue Ribbon Coalition as a front group to advance their agenda to keep as much of our public lands open to logging, mining, and oil and gas exploration ó uses hardly compatible with recreational interests, " said Viles.

    The current draft roadless area proposal prohibits new roads from being built in roadless areas in national forests, including 109,000 acres in Virginiaís forests, but, contrary to the rhetoric of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, does not exclude off-road vehicle use from roadless areas.

    U.S. PIRG was critical of the current proposalís failure to ban logging, mining or other destructive uses from roadless areas and the exemption of the nationís largest national forest, Alaskaís Tongass National Forest, from the proposed policy. "The timber, mining, and oil and gas industries have been successful so far in keeping roadless areas open for more development," said Viles. "In order to truly protect the last of our wild forests, the Forest Service must issue a final policy that bans not just road building, but also logging, mining and other destructive uses in all national forests, including the Tongass."

    "The Administration must base its final decisions on science and what the public wants and not on the smokescreens and influence generated by Blue Ribbon Coalition and its corporate backers," concluded Viles.

    The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy group with citizen members across the country.

    For more information, send e-mail to uspirg@pirg.org or visit the PIRG web site http://www.wildforest.com/.

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