Behind the American Heritage Rivers Initiative

By Christopher Summers and Christopher Yablonski
web posted February 21, 2000

On September 11, 1997 President Clinton issued Executive Order 13061 creating the American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI). Without seeking congressional approval, the President gave environmental activists and their private foundation patrons something for which they had lobbied for years.

AHRI is a program which bundles together hundreds of river-maintenance programs operated by 13 federal agencies into a single initiative for "natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation." Under AHRI, communities adjacent to 14 designated "American Heritage Rivers" will obtain the services of a so-called "river navigator." This is a federal official who will coordinate community efforts to take advantage of many federal programs.

Local governments may refuse to participate in AHRI. Similarly, members of Congress may remove areas along AHRI-designated rivers in their states or congressional districts from participation in the program. But supporters of the program are quickly building constituencies to defend and expand it. AHRI has empowered unelected foundation and nonprofit operatives, and they are shifting the political balance dramatically in favor of taxpayer land acquisition and land-use regulation.

The Clinton Administration argues that AHRI is merely an administrative device to help communities better handle all the federal programs affecting rivers. But by accident or design, the initiative enables environmental groups and liberal foundations to implement a radical policy agenda.

Policy Development

President Clinton first mentioned AHRI in his State of the Union address in February 1997. But the idea of a river-based concentration of federal land-use regulations had been brewing for years.

In the last decade, private foundations have funded nonprofit groups that are determined to expel human activity from rural lands. National organizations like the Nature Conservancy and Conservation Fund and local land trusts across the country have increasingly pressured private property owners to sell them their land, which they then resell to state or federal governments. Major donors to the Nature Conservancy in the four years preceding AHRI include the Champlin Foundations ($3.3 million), the Ford Foundation ($2.7 million), the William Penn Foundation (almost $4 million) and the Pew Charitable Trusts ($5.4 million).

The Conservation Fund’s top foundation supporters from 1994 through 1997 include the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation ($800,000), the McKnight Foundation ($425,000), the Richard King Mellon Foundation ($2.8 million), the William Penn Foundation ($539,000), and the Pinewood Foundation ($1.5 million).

The organization American Rivers (AR) also wants to protect nature from man. It crusades to deny federal reli-censing to hydroelectric dams and to remove life-saving levies from floodplains. The Bullitt Foundation financed American Rivers from 1995 through 1997 with $285,000 in grants targeted at AR’s dam lobbying efforts.

Defenders of Wildlife is a prominent advocate for re-introducing predatory grey wolves into Western lands, constricting ranch and farm activities. It has the backing of the Meyer Memorial Trust ($100,000 in 1997) and the Surdna Foundation ($200,000 in 1997, $100,000 in 1996). These organizations have become key supporters of the Administration initiative.

But the National Trust for Historic Preservation was the most important AHRI proponent. It was the catalyst which first developed the concept of fusing environmental protection to historical preservation and economic planning. During the 1990s, its Rural Heritage Program promoted "heritage areas" that it wanted government to cordon off from free market economic development. The program even catalogued potential nominees for the designation should government adopt its program. The National Trust pushed Hawaii’s Hanalei River as a candidate for federal "heritage" protection three years before AHRI.

Congressional debate over national heritage area designations led the Trust to establish the National Coalition for Heritage Areas (NCHA) in 1994. Alvin Rosenbaum, whose writings are often published in National Trust publications, became NCHA President, and National Trust official Shelley Mastran was named executive director. Rosenbaum has described NCHA’s concept of heritage areas as "most often regions with a distinctive sense of place unified by large-scale resources: rivers, lakes or streams, canal systems" that most often "comprise more than one jurisdiction, with regional management that combines public and private sector leadership."

From 1994 to 1997, the National Trust and NCHA laid the ideological groundwork for AHRI. During this period, the National Trust netted ontributions from supporters like the Fondren Foundation ($108,000), the J. Paul Getty Trust ($109,000), the George Gund Foundation ($175,000), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ($225,000), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ($350,000), the William Penn Foundation ($82,500), the Pew Charitable Trusts ($400,000) and the Surdna Foundation ($150,000). We have no information on NCHA funding, but Rosenbaum’s new American Heritage River Alliance is touted as a source of private funds for AHRI projects.

The massive 1993 floods of the Mississippi River basin prompted the Clinton Administration’s interest in what would become AHRI. The following year, a little-noticed report by the Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee recommended increased federal micro-management of local land-use decisions as a "pre-disaster response." New Directions in Floodplain Management recommended that "the division of decision and cost-sharing responsibilities among federal, state and local governments be more clearly defined" and suggested that "the President should immediately establish environmental quality and national economic development as co-equal objectives of planning." Pre-disaster response became the pretext for a federal mandate over local land-use and federal acquisition of property adjacent to rivers. This effort was aided by long-time Clinton aide James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Clinton Administration incorporated several New Directions proposals directly into AHRI. The report’s proposed Interagency Task Force to coordinate strategy became the 13-agency American Heritage Rivers Interagency Committee. Not surprisingly, the report’s chief author, Gerald E. Galloway, Jr., was named to the 12-member AHRI Advisory Committee which recommends which rivers will participate in the initiative.

Through December 1997, the White House Council on Environmental Quality accepted 126 detailed applications nominating rivers for the Initiative. Then the AHRI Advisory Committee sifted through the nominations and in June 1998 recommended ten rivers to the President. Clinton consulted with his advisers and added four more rivers: the Cuyahoga, Blackstone/Woonasqua-tucket, lower Mississippi and upper Susquehanna/Lackawanna. Clinton and Vice President Gore announced the 14 designations on July 30, 1998 at a ceremony overlooking the New River in North Carolina.

Who’s Running AHRI?

A 13-member Interagency Committee oversees the Initiative. That Committee is comprised of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and eight cabinet-level departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, HUD, Interior, Justice and Transportation. Heritage Foundation analyst Alexander Annett estimates that these 13 agencies operate approximately 100 regulatory and assistance programs whose goals are within the scope of AHRI.

CEQ Acting Chair George T. Frampton, Jr. is permanent co-chair of the Committee. (A second co-chair rotates among the other member agencies.) Frampton, who was Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks from 1993 to 1997, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate as head of CEQ.

Perhaps that’s because before joining the Administration, Frampton headed the Wilderness Society, where he was an aggressive promoter of federal land acquisition and expansion of federal wilderness areas and a fierce opponent of private commercial use of public lands by loggers and ranchers. (Since 1995, the Ford Foundation has given $450,000 in grants to theWilderness Society to help it shift its focus to a more media-friendly mix of conservation and economic development, the theme of AHRI.) Later, as Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Frampton incurred the Senate’s ire by encouraging the United Nations to pursue its ultimately successful effort to stop mining on private property near Yellowstone National Park on the grounds that the Park was a designated UN "World Historic Site." (For more on this episode see chapter 7 of the1998 CRC monograph Global Greens: Inside the International Environmental Establishment by James Sheehan.)

Frampton succeeded former CEQ Chair Kathleen A. McGinty, who shepherded AHRI from its inception to its implementation in 1998. Earlier, McGinty directed the White House Office on Environmental Policy. And before that she was a legislative assistant on environmental policy to then-Senator Al Gore. Currently, McGinty is a visiting fellow at the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, India. Tata has ties to the Ford Foundation, which gave it a $215,200 grant in 1997, and the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which gave Tata a $130,000 grant the same year.

As this report goes to print, AHRI has hired so-called "river navigators" for 12 of the 14 American Heritage Rivers. All but one are detailed from agencies on the Interagency Committee, mainly EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. The navigators’ annual salaries are in the $80,000 range. However, local officials who promoted the selection of the Hanalei River decided that they would coordinate community efforts on their own. The Adminstration has not yet named a navigator for the Rio Grande.

Officially, the Navigators are supposed to set up meetings of community "stakeholders" (i.e. interest groups) and work closely with "Community Partners" to assess the need for local projects. In fact, they are essentially fund-raisers for new land-acquisitions proposed by environmental groups and political strategists for local activists who want to prevent private economic development. Navigators help organize political and lobbying campaigns for land conservation, trail construction and promotion of historical or cultural facilities. Of course, their fundraising concentrates on securing federal aid. But Navigators and Community Partners also seek funding from private foundations and corporations. The allure of philanthropy can often influence decisions by local planning authorities.

"Community Partners" are designated individuals and organizations. They are either public officials or representatives of nonprofit organizations. Local public officials nominated seven of the 14 designated American Heritage Rivers, and all of them except the officials who nominated the Detroit River were subsequently designated Community Partners. The other seven rivers selected by the Initiative were nominated by nonprofit organizations. In every case, these groups became the official Community Partner for the river they promoted. (See box below for names of Community Partners.) It seems likely that when a Community Partner decides to work with the federal gov-ernment’s River Navigator on a local land-use decision it will have an enormous political advantage that can’t be matched by the competing interests of local businesses and property owners. Besides formulating new regulations and growth-killing habitat agreements, Community Partners will also be able to create powerful new intergovernmental and nonprofit structures to threaten local self-government and private property.

Community Partners have already convened meetings of their political allies to begin implementing AHRI. Various councils of local government officials, environmentalists, historical preservationists and, in some cases, favored business leaders have drawn up "action plans" for their rivers. Often the meetings short-circuit the normal deliberative process of local government, making decisions by "consensus" instead of recorded votes.

Hawaii’s Hanalei River

Consider, for instance, AHRI plans for the Hanalei River on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. University of Hawaii professor Michael Kido, who spearheaded the Hanalei’s AHRI nomination, was the initial AHRI "community contact." According to news reports, he nominated the Hanalei without seeking input from such important local interests as the tour boat industry and sugar farmers. Shortly after the Hanelei’s designation was made public, Kido convened a meeting of his political allies in state government and in the preservationist community and they drew up a "partnership agreement" with the federal government. The agreement organized the "Hanalei River Hui" ("Hui" means club in Hawaiian) to act as the Community Partner under AHRI. After it had established a memorandum-of-understanding (MOU) with eleven federal agencies, the Hui hit the ground running. It secured a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service donated office furniture. The Hui is now pursuing 501(c)(3) tax status in order to get private foundation grants.

Once it had the partnership agreement and MOU, Kido’s supporters dropped out of what had been an open, deliberative proceeding known as the "Limits of Acceptable Change" committee. This was an on-going dialogue between Hawaiian preservationists and local business interests. The agreement also let Kido’s group use the AHRI designation to promote "native Hawaiian concepts" — an allusion to Kido’s unrelenting efforts to halt private exploitation of Kauai’s natural resources and to promote traditional farming of Hawaiian taro instead of the more profitable sugar cane.

The Hanalei flows seaward toward Kauai’s scenic north shore, known as the Na Pali Coast. The beauty of this largely undeveloped island makes it well suited for the kind of tourism promoted by AHRI supporters. But ironically the Hanalei’s AHRI designation has led to a ban on river tour boats and on motorized tour boats along the Na Pali Coast. Kido’s nomination application called for some development of local tourism and recreation, but the only kind of activities he favors are of the "uncrowded" variety such as "hiking, photography, kayaking, camping, fishing, surfing, snorkeling" and "environmental education." AHRI designation for the Hanalei laid the groundwork for Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano’s August 1998 ban on tour boat operations along the river.

Local officials like Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, an original supporter of the Hanalei’s AHRI nomination, were caught off-guard. Last year, the ban put several small tour boat companies out of business and helped larger, higher-priced tour boat outfits that operated outside Hanalei Bay, where the river meets the Pacific. By September 1999, the ban also phased out motorized boating altogether along the Na Pali Coast, forcing the last seven tour boat companies to relocate or go out of business.

Cayetano’s ban also leaves the Sierra Club Kauai chapter as one of the few groups providing access to tour groups interested in touring Na Pali, albeit only for hiking the jagged coast. For a minimum $50 per group "donation," the Sierra Club provides one-way shuttle service to or from trails. For years Hawaii’s Sierra Club sought to limit commercial use of the Hanalei River and Na Pali. Its role in the AHRI nomination and implementation helped secure that goal.

Regulating the New River

Federal agencies and private foundations are working with local activists to create a permanent nonprofit structure to funnel aid to the parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina through which the New River flows. State boundaries have frustrated environmentalists in the past. But Mikki Sager with the Conservation Fund of North Carolina successfully nominated the New and she now serves as a community contact helping to implement AHRI.

In 1994, Sager described 50,000 acres of "protected" wetlands in North Carolina as a "sustainable economic development area." This is consistent with AHRI’s attempt to reconcile government-mandated limits on growth with government-planned economic development. The designation was supported by Alleghany County (NC) Chamber of Commerce executive director Patrick Woodie, who started New River Community Partners (NRCP) to implement AHRI. He collected $6 million in federal aid for AHRI projects in the last year. He also collected support from government agencies and private foundations for NRCP. The Kathleen Price Bryan Family Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation gave NRCP $40,000 and $100,000 for start-up costs in 1998. Both foundations were also supporters of the Conservation Fund of North Carolina and other AHRI supporters who want to link government economic development to environmental protection.

Sager and Woodie have created a powerful political force for future regulation and public land acquisition along the New River. As Woodie puts it, "The designation really provided us with the excuse, the necessity, the impetus to organize the three states on a watershed-wide basis, which we really have never done before." In the past year, local North Carolina authorities have moved to erase statutory limits on public land-ownership adjacent to the New. Though it expressly discourages direct sale to the federal government, the New River’s Action Plan envisions that private landowners will voluntarily sell easements and land to nonprofit organizations. The plan suggests that public money be used to make the purchases. It does not exclude the possibility that nonprofit groups will "flip" land and conservation easements to state or federal control.

The Conservation Fund’s Sager has doubled as a FEMA official. She is helping to buy-out residential areas devastated by flooding in North Carolina. Along the New River, FEMA has provided $250,000 in grants to develop an all-hazards mitigation plan in the event of natural disaster. Moving people away from rivers is FEMA’s hazard mitigation strategy and it plays into the Conservation Fund’s AHRI strategy. Many in North Carolina fear that AHRI’s close ties to environmentalist activists has compromised the mission of government agencies like FEMA.

Organized by White House operatives and implemented by favored Community Partner organizations, AHRI is thoroughly political. The Initiative is blurring the statutory authority of agencies and it is harnessing federal power in a way that threatens local autonomy and private property. In a little over a year, the Initiative has a created a self-perpetuating political money machine to service liberal environmental groups.

Foundation Funding

Private foundations are financing pro-AHRI advocacy groups and the projects they are creating to implement AHRI.

AHRI Advisory Committee member Daniel Kemmis argues, "It’s possible for people to come to see that attractive surroundings and well-preserved ecosystems are the strongest base possible for the enterprises they want to carry out." Kemmis is director of the University of Montana’s Center for the Rocky Mountain West, which received $69,200 from the Ford Foundation in 1997 and $100,000 in 1998. Ford gave Kemmis these grants to develop his theory of "community-base regional planning," a concept that ignores local self-government and ultimately erodes private property rights. Kemmis would put statutory and contractual limits on growth while creating artificial government incentives for economic development. Judging from his writings, Kemmis appears to be genuinely committed to a Third Way between free-market development and draconian land-use regulation.

Two AHRI Advisory Committee members lead nonprofit organizations that have benefitted most from the Administration’s policy. Anthony P. Grassi chairs the nonprofit group American Rivers. Charles R. Jordan holds a seat on the board of the Conservation Fund. Both groups have often opposed rural economic development and they have taken steps to restore wild habitats by litigating and lobbying federal, state, and local land-use authorities. Both have bought cheap land and sold it to state and federal governments at a profit. But the two groups also realize that it’s often easier to settle land-use disputes in their favor through cozy intergovernmental "cooperation" between local jurisdictions rather than through an open, deliberative process, litigation or purchase.

American Rivers’ major supporters from 1995 through 1997 include the Bullitt Foundation ($90,000), the Ford Foundation ($150,000), the McKnight Foundation ($557,000), Richard King Mellon Foundation ($300,000), the Pew Charitable Trusts ($600,000) and the Surdna Foundation ($100,000). Leading foundations bankrolling the Conservation Fund in 1996 and 1997 include the Ford Foundation ($178,000), the W. K. Kellogg Foundation ($200,000), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($100,000), the McKnight Foundation ($75,000) and the William Penn Foundation ($539,000).

Defenders of Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy, the Wilderness Society and the World Wildlife Fund are other major environmental groups promoting AHRI. They have submitted river nominations to AHRI and defend the program. They too receive funding from the Ford Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Joyce Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Surdna Foundation.

Minnesota’s McKnight Foundation has a long-term interest in the ecology of the upper Mississippi River. It has translated its concern into significant support for AHRI. McKnight made a $40,000 contribution to American Rivers in 1997 specifically for "planning and implementation the President’s American Heritage Rivers Initiative." In 1997, McKnight contributed another $375,000 to American Rivers to promote sustainable land and water use along the upper Mississippi.

McKnight also reviewed the preceding five years of its project funding of upper Mississippi projects and announced plans to contribute new grants for the region totaling $5 million annually over its next five-year period. McKnight’s review praised American Rivers: "As a result of advocacy by American Rivers…10,000 people were moved off the floodplain, 100,000 acres of wetlands were restored."

McKnight now has a funding drive to "support riverfront parks, trails, and open areas that encourage recreation along the river, protect riverside lands, help rehabilitate inner-city neighborhoods... and increase appreciation of the river as a community asset." These are exactly the kinds of projects for which AHRI bundles federal financial and technical support. McKnight’s expansion of its targeted grants to the upper Mississippi is synchronized to the expansion of federal aid brought about by the river’s AHRI designation.

Chicago’s Joyce Foundation is also financing AHRI goals through grants to environmental organizations. In 1997, it gave a three-year $419,000 grant to the Sierra Club Foundation to inform the public about the environmental cost of proposals to expand the shipping capacity of the upper Mississippi River. Another AHRI supporter, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance netted two Joyce grants totaling $48,000 for a similar project. Even though it is a tax-exempt foundation, Joyce has not been coy about involving itself in local political decisionmaking.

A well-organized coalition of small and large environmental organizations is promoting expansion of AHRI and the designation of more American Heritage Rivers. One information packet promoting the initiative includes information from Americans for Heritage and Recreation (AHR), a coalition of 150 environmental groups claiming a shared mission, "to renew and preserve our cultural heritage and provide recreational opportunities for all Americans." The largest nonprofit members of AHR are the Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy. In 1998 alone the McKnight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Packard Foundation each gave over $1 million to the Trust. Two other leading members of the AHR coalition are the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Northern Forest Alliance. Both advocate more federal land acquisition and restrictions on private property. The Ford Foundation, Pew, Surdna, and the Peabody Charitable Fund supported the Mountain Club with grants in the $100,000 to $500,000 range from 1995 through 1998. Surdna also has supported the Northern Forest Alliance with annual grants of around $100,000.

It’s important to note that AHRI administrators are touting 22 organizations as official "Private Sector Supporters." This list includes high-profile AHRI supporters as well as groups not generally associated with political advocacy. See the list on page 7.

The American Heritage Rivers Alliance is the Private Sector Supporter that has the potential to be a major clearinghouse of funds for on-going AHRI projects. The on-line update which tracks the New River’s AHRI implementation describes group discussions which "included defining and prioritizing recommendations to sustain the AHRI, supporting the fund-raising work of the AHR Alliance and planning an AHRI Congressional Caucus." Grants data that will become available next year may shed light on the role of the American Heritage Rivers Alliance in AHRI fundraising.

Former National Trust for Historic Preservation President Jack Walter is a consultant with the Alliance and "heritage development" guru Alvin Rosenbaum is its president. But Rosenbaum has not publicized its existence. His online resume at lists his executive roles in four preservation organizations, but it omits his leadership of the Alliance. Yet his manifesto on the National Coalition for Heritage Areas homepage ( explains that new "public and private support" is a benefit of government designation of heritage areas.

Benefit Program

Many AHRI supporters will reap political and financial rewards from the Initiative. Activists and foundation officials will wield power over land-use decision in designated river regions. AHRI designation also gives local property owners an increased incentive to sell or hand over land and/or easements on land to environmental groups. Because they often operate trails or education facilities that AHRI encourages, these groups will also benefit from "eco-tourism" or "heritage tourism" that is generated by the American Heritage Rivers designation. Finally, AHRI brings big federal grants and private foundation gifts to Community Partners and other nonprofit groups. These benefits raise the specter of self-dealing among groups and foundations promoting AHRI.

Because of AHRI, McKnight Foundation grantees have attracted much federal support. Since President Clinton announced the initiative in 1997, McKnight grant recipients participating in upper Mississippi restoration have received at least $5.2 million in federal grants. These grants include $159,000 from EPA for Grace Hill Neighborhood Services in St. Louis for a "sustainable communities project." Another EPA grant covered $50,000 in expenses at the Land Stewardship Project in Montevideo, Minnesota. Ostensibly, it was for the "sustainable development of ecologically sound livestock production."

To some extent, McKnight builds taxpayer funding into its grants strategy. For instance, the Foundation’s initial investment of $100,000 in Trailnet, a St. Louis-area land trust, has helped bring in $3 million in federal and state aid for the group’s development of trails and "greenways." It’s ironic that agenda-driven private foundations like McKnight can claim success when their clients garner taxpayer funds.

The Private Sector Supporters listed on page 7 appear to have a financial relationship with AHRI agencies that goes both ways. At least half of the 22 organizations received federal grants totaling $10.4 million from 1996 through 1999, key years for the initiative’s development and implementation. Several grant descriptions for these awards match the stated goals of AHRI or they track closely with the rhetoric surrounding the initiative. For example, a 1998 Bureau of Land Management award to American Forests made $10,000 available for a workshop called "Exploring and Understanding Community-Based Approaches to Ecosystem Management in the U.S."

Sadly, it is not uncommon for taxpayer dollars to fund the training of left-wing activists. In 1997 and 1998 three EPA grants totalling $385,000 went to the River Network for "watershed outreach." The financing helped the River Network establish an impressive list of supporters for AHRI. The Initiative perpetuates the cycle by which liberal environmental groups feed from the pork-barrel and then grow larger and demand more.

Perhaps more than any other organization, American Rivers is positioned at the vortex of foundation and taxpayer funding for AHRI. Recognized as the nation’s leading river conservation organization, AR even lists the Initiative as one of its own programs! AR manages flood mitigation (i.e., relocating homes and businesses), and it promotes eco-tourism and species-reintroduction projects that result from the Initiative. Ironically, none of the ten rivers recommended by the Advisory Committee for AHRI designation appear on AR’s list of "America’s Most Endangered Rivers." An American Rivers employee told Capital Research Center that "American Rivers did not intend to be that involved, but realized that they were needed to assist the river towns in obtaining the funding for all of the projects."

AR even uses the AHRI designation as a hook for new congressional appropriations. It requested $52.6 million in fiscal year 2001 for the upper Mississippi River, in order to "help communities reconnect to the upper Mississippi River." Helping communities connect to American Rivers is more like it. The request includes $10 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire land, which helps facilitate AR projects along the upper Mississippi. In 1997, the latest year for which data is available, EPA awarded $185,000 in grants to AR for conservation programs, notably a floodplain demonstration project for the upper Mississippi. New projects bankrolled at private and public expense cannot be far behind.

The organizations designated Community Partners under AHRI are also showing up in federal awards records. Prior to filing the nomination for the Hanalei, the University of Hawaii received $3,650 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1996 for predator control. But two weeks after the Hanalei’s designation, the Service awarded the university over $90,000 for pollution controls and for study of "rare and endangered species."

In late 1996, the Providence Plan received two EPA grants totaling $20,000 for "school based environmental awareness and action" and just $5,000 for "environmental education" regarding the soon-to-be-nominated Woonasquatucket River. But over the next two years, as the Woonasquatucket proceeded through the nominating process and onto American Heritage Rivers list, EPA made grants totaling $64,000 to the Providence Plan specifically devoted to "watershed outreach" for the Woonasquatucket. EPA functions as the Interagency Committee contact for the Woonasquatucket.

Similarly, the Conservation Fund of North Carolina received a first-time federal grant of $40,000 in 1998 for more "watershed outreach." As in the case of the North Carolina Conservation Fund, the EPA award may in essence be a matching grant for the initial investment of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation whose grant was devoted to "heritage tourism" and "sustainable growth" along the New. It is difficult to see how these grants to foundation-backed organizations coordinating AHRI on the local level can be anything other than a political pay-off for supporting the Initiative.

The American Heritage Rivers Initiative is the culmination of years of calculation and coordination by liberal foundations, radical environmentalists, and government officials. Its stated goal of linking environmental protection and historical preservation to economic development masks the reality of who benefits. The foundations and activists gain influence and tap the U.S. Treasury. Taxpayer money defrays foundation costs and helps ratify foundation investments in the environmental movement. State and federal politicians use the initiative to assault private property. And the leaders of the nonprofit Left undermine democratic institutions that average citizens depend on. Cui bono?

Christopher Summers is a research associate with Capital Research Center’s "Green Watch" project, monitoring the environmental movement. Christopher Yablonski is a CRC research associate specializing in nonprofit public affairs organizations, their leadership and funding. For information on Green Watch, see

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