Attempting To Put A Legitimate Face On Radical Environmentalism

The Sonoran Institute was introduced into the Growth Policy development of Jefferson County, Montana, in 2000, as “a Montana-based, nonprofit organization committed to working with communities on land-use planning”.  Buying their way in with a $10,000 grant, Sonoran virtually took over Jefferson County’s Growth Policy planning process.  In fact, rather than being “Montana-based”, Sonoran is actually based in Tucson, Arizona; and rather than a benign land use planning group committed to helping communities, Sonoran is an environmental organization championing a very radical agenda known as The Wildlands Project.

The Wildlands Project was co-founded by Earth First!’s Dave Foreman, the author of Ecodefence: A Field guide to Monkeywrenching.  TWP, explained in the United Nations’ Global Biodiversity Assessment as a network of core areas, corridors and buffer zones for wild animals, promotes the “theory” that a “great mass die-off of species” is now underway, and blames this “crisis” on “human-driven” activities.  The theory also claims that ecosystems often “crash” when “the pre-Columbian set of carnivores” are absent.  TWP is composed of at least 31 coalitions of environmentalists throughout North America, each working on a specific area with an over-all plan of putting approximately 50% of the land into restricted habitat.  The Sonoran Institute is primarily involved in three of those TWP areas: the Sonoran Desert Ecoregion in southwestern Arizona, the Sky Islands Wildlands Network in southeastern Arizona, and from their Montana office, the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative.

Founded in 1991 with technical and financial assistance from World Wildlife Fund, the Sonoran Institute is headed by Luther Propst, formerly a Senior Associate of WWF and of The Conservation Foundation which then merged with WWF.  WWF is the “sister organization” of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and is literally at the power center of global environmentalism, operating primarily with the influence and foundation money of the Rockefellers.  The IUCN co-authored with the United Nations Environmental Program several foundational documents of the U.N. treaties on Biological Diversity and Climate Change, and for the U.N. Agenda 21.  (For extensive information about the U.N.’s environmental agenda call 731 986-0099 or see to ecologic.)  Virtually unknown to many American citizens, these socialist U.N. policies are being disseminated throughout the U.S. by the President’s Council on Sustainable Development down to the local level through the National Association of Counties.  NACo, in direct collaboration with Sonoran, and with money from the environmentalist Doris Duke foundation, has helped enable Sonoran’s involvement in Montana’s western counties.

In fact, it is logical to surmise that foundations virtually control the environmental agenda.  The Sonoran staff which gained control of Jefferson County’s planning process were paid specifically with a grant from the V. Kann Rassmusson Foundation under the Yellowstone to Yukon program.  Many environmental grants are prescriptive, given with strings attached; essentially hiring environmentalist organizations and individuals to do their bidding.  In 1999 Sonoran received $1,082,900. in grants from large foundations.  Of that grant money, 93.3% came with “restrictions”.

Sonoran’s Montana office was opened in Bozeman in 1997 by Ray Rasker and Ben Alexander for the specific purpose of furthering, and legitimizing, the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative.  Rasker and Alexander had been commissioned by the Y2Y leadership to write a study showing that “resource industries such as mining, timber, agriculture, and oil and gas are no longer the only game in town”, and that now it’s “tourism, new technology and information-based industries.”  Although Sonoran claims to want to save “working ranches”,  the TWP and Y2Y policy is that: “Commercial livestock grazing on federal and state lands cannot be justified ecologically or economically.”

The Y2Y project comprises a network of over 270 environmental groups, organizations and individuals, and targets an area 1,990 miles long by 125 to 500 miles wide.  Their literature urges their followers to “contact federal, state, and provincial politicians, encouraging them to support large-scale habitat protection initiatives like Y2Y.  You might also ask them to enact strong, comprehensive Endangered Species legislation.”  It requests that its adherents who live in the Y2Y area “Work at the local level to ensure that principles of conservation biology are recognized in current management, planning, and land use decisions.”  While this all sounds noble, the entire program is anti-growth, and threatens not only private property rights, but access to public lands as well; however, that does not seem to bother Sonoran.

Although Sonoran is intricately involved in promoting the radical TWP along with Earth First!, they have gained the confidence of county planners by not being up-front with their environmental agenda. Y2Y and Sonoran have formed a partnership in which Sonoran will provide planning “tools and guidance to communities interested in identifying common values and developing locally-based, inclusive conservation strategies to protect what’s important to them.”    It has certainly become obvious what is important to Sonoran.

Sonoran often works with American Farmland Trust which has, with the help of Mark Haggerty of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, created the ‘Cost of Community Services Study’* which is designed to show that residential development costs taxpayers much more money then does open land.  Sonoran uses this fraudulent study, which AFT’s own handbook admits can be easily biased, to encourage local governments to zone and regulate private property.  In conjunction with that they also use the unethical technique of ‘facilitation’* to manipulate small group meetings and large public audiences to a predetermined outcome while giving the illusion of taking public input.  In the end, Sonoran’s underlying goal of stopping rural development is furthered.

A new venture of The Sonoran Institute is the Resources for Community Collaboration project.  RCC will provide grants of up to $10,000 to provide seed money for organizations involved in “community based collaboration” if those groups are developing solutions for long-term protection, sustainable use or for restoration of natural landscapes in the rural West.  A close reading of RCC’s requirements reveals this part of Sonoran to also be anti-growth, and threatening to private property rights.  (‘Restoration’, according to TWP virtually means returning to the pre-development era.)

As mentioned above, Luther Propst, Sonorans’s founder, was previously a Senior Associate of the Conservation Foundation.  According to Ron Arnold and Alan Gottlieb in their book “Trashing the Economy” (425-454-7009),  TCF is “the most exclusive and prestigious environmental think tank of all - and Laurance Rockefeller was a board member of TCF for many years...many environmentalists called TCF an industry front...preserving nature to act as a magnet for upscale adjacent development - and to support expensive environmental restrictions that would harm their less-well-capitalized competitors instead of themselves.”

It is likely that Sonoran, through their sister organization the Rincon Institute, of which Propst is Executive Director, is also engaged in these kinds of activities around Tucson, Arizona.  Their association with a powerful Arizona developer, penetration into certain levels of government approval and decision making, and seemingly benign facade, raise questions as to Sonoran’s true intents and purposes, and has caused some Arizona developers and property rights advocates to caution that, in their estimation, Sonoran should not be trusted.


Compiled by The Alternative View, 406-285-3119,