I will now proceed to become enraged over the Wise Use movement


In class we talked about various environmental ideologies that were both ecocentric and antropocentric. One of the names that struck me the most was the Wise Use movement. I mean it just sounds so pro-environment until you realize that that is just an ironic way of saying wise; as a matter of fact they are very anti-environment.

First some history. The group at the center of Wise Use is the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE). CDFE was founded by Alan Gottlieb on July 4th, 1976 and was originally a group that was established to combat possible gun control measures but later shifted to the environmental movement. Wise Use was created by Ron Arnold who is the Vice President for CDFE in the late 1980’s. The Wise Use movement as a whole is not as organized and is mostly a mix of different groups with similar agendas within Wise Use.

Ron Arnold created a 25 point agenda for Wise Use in how to combat environmentalists. You can take a look at all 25 points, but here are a few that really stuck out to me. I’ll take a closer look at them after the list:

  • Develop the petroleum resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
  • Change the Endangered Species Act to pick and choose which species are protected and the cost of protecting them
  • Fight all naturally caused wildfires

Petroleum in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. This would open up the entire area to drilling which would directly threaten the species that live there as well as Native Americans in the area. There have been pushes to open certain sections up to drilling, but most agree to keep some of it as protected wilderness. Except Ron Arnold and Wise Use. An actual quote from Ron Arnold in a January 1992 article in the Boston Globe:

“We are sick to death of environmentalism and so we will destroy it. We will not allow our right to own property and use nature’s resources for the benefit of mankind to be stripped from us by a bunch of eco-facists.”

Protection of wilderness is critical for species that are only found in that area. Considering that there isn’t that much wilderness left, the more that can be preserved is even more crucial. Or you could just tear everything up and drill for the oil so you can line your pockets.

Change the Endangered Species Act

This change would allow a further classification of the species. For example, a species that was in decline before humans could have caused it would not be protected and allowed to die out. If their decline was due to humans,  then the economic costs would be weighed out to see if there would be any benefit or use in helping them survive.

So allowing species to die out just because it would cost money to protect them and they aren’t worth the cost…once again a problem the encompasses the world boiled down to money. Maybe we can’t save all of them, but we need to do something since we are directly or indirectly the cause of most of these extinctions. Or you can just keep watching your bank account rise as the natural world falls.

Fight all the wildfires

Now this one on a superficial level might seem somewhat rational. I mean think of all the habitat that is destroyed by wildfires. People and animals alike are driven from their homes as the wall of fire moves in. Don’t we already do this though?

Well it is true that we do fight wildfires whether natural or unnatural. The ecosystems that the wildfires occur in are actually accustomed to burning. What happens is that these ecosystems gain a layer of organic leaves and other materials that accumulate on the ground. This, in combination with dead brush and other small plants as well as high winds and low precipitation, make for a high fire hazard. Fires occur naturally in this area, but the severity of these fires have gone up considerably. This is a combination of global warming and not allowing the fires to burn.

Let me preface this by saying I am not a pyromaniac and in no way do I believe that we should deliberately burn these areas. The problem is that the ecosystem would burn off the ground clutter and the surviving vegetation would become more resistant to future fires which is not happening with human intervention. These areas are allowed to build the ground clutter more and more so when a fire does come through it is massive.

Now I am not saying that we should let it all burn, but artificial intervention in all wildfires is not the best route. I believe that we should control it if it is near a human population, but if it is in the middle of the wooded area then it should be monitored for spread and allowed to continue under close watch so that catastrophic wildfire chances in the future are reduced.

The overall problem that I find with Wise Use is that it is at its center mostly anti-science as their interests are in private control and monetary gain and try to combat experts in the field with money funneling in from interest groups like fossil fuel companies. It seeks to directly counter environmental regulations for profit at the expense of nature.

Josh Obermeyer


Overview of Wise Use

Small profile on Ron Arnold

More in-depth look at Wise Use

25 Wise Use goals/agenda

Another look at their goals and agenda



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