Shortly after becoming embroiled in the recreation fee issue a decade ago, I
spoke on stage at the University of Colorado Law School opposite a Senior
Researcher from the think-tank known as PERC. A decade later I'm still speaking
oppose PERC — as I do in the appended article published by
NEVER in my wildest dreams would I have predicted then, that PERC's new
brand of anti-environmental, anti-democratic, ideology would spread as far as it
NEVER would I have imagined that inside-the-beltway environmental
organizations such as Environmental Defense, the Nature Conservancy and
others, would embrace and actively promulgate PERC's reactionary way of thinking
or support the interests of PERC's hateful funders.
Today I ask — Does the conservation community intend to sit this fight
out? Does it intend to confront and aggressively oppose PERC? Or does it intend
to join with PERC and give this black-hat organization the green-cover it must
have if it is going to fulfill the mission of it's funders.
Pasted below is commentator Bill Berkowitz's latest report on PERC's
progress in spreading Free Market Environmentalism (FME) into the Oval Office
--- begin quoted ---
Bill Berkowitz - March 17, 2007
PERC receives Templeton Freedom Award for promoting 'enviropreneurs'
Right Wing foundation-funded anti-environmental think tank grabbing a wider audience for 'free market environmentalism'
On the 15th anniversary of Terry
Anderson and Donald Leal's book "Free Market Environmentalism" -- the
seminal book on the subject -- Anderson, the Executive Director of the Bozeman,
and Environment Research Center (PERC - website - formerly known as the Political
Economy Research Center) spoke in late-January at an event sponsored by Squaw
Valley Institute at the Resort at Squaw Creek in California. While it may have
been just another opportunity to speak on "free market environmentalism" and not
the kickoff of a "victory tour," nevertheless it comes at a time when PERC's
ideas are taking root.
In a story written just before Anderson's northern California appearance, Truckee Today's Karen Sloan described PERC as an organization that
"contends that private property rights encourage good stewardship of natural
resources." The story, headlined "'Enviroprenuer' scholar to speak at Resort at
Squaw Creek," pointed out that "PERC scholars argue that government subsidies
often degrade the environment, that market incentives can spur individuals to
conserve and protect the environment and that polluters should be liable for the
harm they cause others."
On its website, PERC -- a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization
founded in 1980 -- calls itself "the nation's oldest and largest institute
dedicated to original research that brings market principles to resolving
environmental problems." PERC maintains that it "pioneered the approach known as
free market environmentalism," based on the following principles:
- "Private property rights encourage stewardship of resources";
- "Government subsidies often degrade the environment";
- "Market incentives spur individuals to conserve resources and protect
- "Polluters should be liable for the harm they cause others."
PERC's basic construct, that the free market can do a better job protecting
the environment than the government, is an idea that was once considered
ridiculous by environmentalists when it first surfaced several decades ago. Now,
according to Truckee Today's Sloan, it is being "embraced by many
On March 12, PERC announced that it had been named a winner of a 2007 Templeton Freedom
Awards, a competition managed by the Atlas
Economic Research Foundation (website). The awards program
"recognizes innovative civil society programs sponsored by independent research
institutes around the world," PERC's website pointed out. The program is named
for investor and philanthropist Sir John
"Economic and political freedom are advancing globally, and men and women
focused on ideas, rather than violence, are leading the way," said Atlas
Chafuen. "The winners of this year's Templeton Awards demonstrate the
breadth of this movement." According to the Atlas website, "Templeton Freedom
Prizes for Excellence in Promoting Liberty are awarded in four categories: Free
Market Solutions to Poverty, Social Entrepreneurship, Ethics & Values, and
Student Outreach. Winning institutes in each category receive $10,000, while the
runners up receive $5,000 each."
PERC's award came in the Social Entrepreneurship category where it won the
top prize for "its two-week Enviropreneur Camp for environmental entrepreneurs,
or 'enviropreneurs.' The Camp encourages participants to discover how individual
initiative, property rights, and the free market can be used to solve
The only other U.S.-based think tank to win one of the awards was Father Robert Sirico's
Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty (website) which won first place in the Free
Market Solutions to Poverty category. Acton's Connecting Good Intentions to
Sound Economics Advertising Campaign, "used the power of the popular media to
challenge common beliefs about how to alleviate poverty. Using the tagline,
'Don't Just Care, Think!,' the project used documentaries, short films, public
service announcements, print ads, and other educational materials to make the
case that good intentions alone will not help the world's poor."
According to materials published by PERC, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is "an
excellent example of how free market environmentalism works."
"Free-Market Environmentalism, as originally espoused by Anderson, and former
Secretary of Interior Gale
Norton (a former Senior PERC Fellow), has been embraced by a growing number
of environmental groups -- and not just by traditionally market-oriented ones
such as The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense (ED)," Scott Silver,
the Executive Director of Wild Wilderness, the Bend, Oregon-based grassroots
environmental group, told Media Transparency.
(TNC is the world's largest land trust with a million members and supporters
which has protected 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers
worldwide. Its primary mission is to protect the highest value expressions of
"Some would rationalize this by saying that with politics in the country
having moved so far to the right during the past two decades, there simply was
no alternative other than to embrace the shifting paradigm and go with the
flow," said Silver.
"A great many conservation organizations moved right during this period and
championed, to one degree or another, the ideology of Anderson, Norton, TNC and
ED. However," Silver pointed out, "some moved right selectively, doing so only
when it appeared to be advantageous. Few organizations stood their ground or
remanded true to their principles. A lot of ground was lost and the world
suffered for it."
PERC's website contains a number of examples of successful free-market
environmental efforts. Robert Keith and Carl Palmer, who formed a company called
Beartooth Capital Partners, which invests in ecologically valuable ranches in
the West and earns returns for investors by buying up degraded land and then
enhancing it, protecting it or, in some cases, adding limited development for a
net gain for the environment and for the economy. Keith and Palmer -- influenced
by the teachings of Anderson the Leal -- are called "enviroprenuers" in PERC
Another example cited by Anderson is the partnership between Pamela Baker of
Environmental Defense and Donald Leal, who are dealing with the problem of
over-fishing. Baker and Leal advocate using a property rights approach (in this
case individual fishing quotas) to ocean fisheries.
"The essence of enviropreneurship is disrupting the status quo with new
ideas," Anderson wrote in an article posted on the PERC website. "Joseph
Schumpeter, one of the 20th century's most influential economists, argued that
entrepreneurs bring the winds of 'creative destruction' -- replacing old ways of
doing things with new, more effective ways. By bringing these winds to the
environmental sector, enviropreneurs will replace the political activist ways of
old with market solutions of the future."
Anderson and his PERC cohorts have been hacking away at the "enviropreneur"
terrain for better than two decades. Back in 1987, according to the Christian Science Monitor's Timothy Aeppel, "advocates" were then
calling it ''new resource economics," which Aeppel described as "an unusual
blend of environmentalism and free-market philosophy." Aeppel pointed out that
"although clearly outside the mainstream, the ideas are winning at least partial
approval from some policymakers and analysts."
PERC reports that "it rel[ies] entirely on contributions from foundations,
corporations and private individuals. Currently, 92 percent of our funding comes
from foundations, 7 percent from individuals and miscellaneous sources and 1
percent from corporations." An Exxon Secrets Factsheet pointed out that between 1998 and 2006 the ExxonMobil Foundation gave PERC
Between 1985 and 2005, according to Media Transparency's research,
PERC received more than $5
million in grants from conservative foundations. Amongst the most consistent
donors are the Roe
Foundation, the Earhart
Foundation, the Castle
Rock Foundation (Coors), and the Armstrong
PERC is given a two-star rating by Charity Navigator -- "Your Guide to
Intelligent Giving" -- and the website reports that FYE 12/2005 showed that
Terry Anderson received $184,000,
or nearly 10% of the organization's expenses.
Now that the Democrats control Congress, will there be a reversal of some of
the draconian environmental proposals espoused by the Bush Administration? Will
the influence of groups like PERC decline?
Not according to Scott Silver. In a Wild Wilderness email alert he maintained
that despite the fact that Democrats control Congress, he expected that "the
shift toward free-marketism" will continue to move forward.
"I expect conservation organizations and the new Democratic leadership to
work together to promote a growing assortment of market-based environmental
initiatives," Silver maintained. "Whatever 'watch-dog' or 'sea-anchor' function
the conservation community served will further erode. Market solutions will
dominate and most especially in connection with the biggest issues of our day,
issues such as 'climate change' and 'peak oil.'"
"Furthermore," said Silver, "I believe that the ideology which a few years
ago was considered 'blasphemous' by environmentalists, will come to dominate the
environmental movement -- a movement that will, through its actions, help speed
the transformation of America into a fully corporate-dominated neo-feudal
Nearly nine years ago, Silver and Don Leal, Anderson's mate at PERC, squared
off at the University of Colorado School of Law Natural Resources Law Center's
annual summer conference titled "Outdoor Recreation: Promise and Peril in the
"On June 9th, Leal and I shared the stage and went toe to toe," Silver said.
"Leal's presentation was titled 'Market Solutions to Public Recreation Finance:
Creating User Supported Parks,' while mine was titled 'The Limitations of a
Market-Based Outdoor Recreation Policy: Reasons for Caution.'
"For the past decade, with respect to the issue of National Park and Outdoor
Recreation funding, the contrasting positions of PERC and Wild Wilderness have
largely defined the national debate. PERC speaks for the market. Wild Wilderness
speaks for the Public Trust, the American Commons and the American People."