Open Letter to the Wilderness Society: How Dare You!

NOTE: This letter was sent to Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams and three of the organization’s vice presidents (how is that for a business model?) on August 17, 2013. Their email addresses and a link to the organization’s leadership page, with bios, are at the bottom of this story.

An open letter to the Wilderness Society in response to its appeal headlined “We need strong standards for fracking on our public lands”:

This is the letter circulated by the Wilderness Society to its list on August 15, 2013:

We know that there are many places on our public lands that are “too wild to drill”, and we will continue to fight for no drilling in those places.Where drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” does occur on other public lands, it is critically important to ensure the health and safety of communities and the environment.This month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be accepting final comments on an important rule regarding hydraulic fracturing on our nation’s federal public lands.

Fracking can be a dirty process. At The Wilderness Society, we want to ensure that where public lands are drilled for oil and gas, they are done so in the cleanest, safest manner.

Tell the BLM that you want to see the best standards in place for fracking on our public lands!

The Wilderness Society

Wilderness Society:

You have really gone too far this time. This is a mockery and betrayal of your trusting supporters. How dare you. 

We decidedly do NOT need “strong standards for fracking on our public lands.” We need UNFRACKED PUBLIC LANDS. You should be ashamed of yourselves for colluding with this destructive industry. You call yourselves “the Wilderness Society,” but you have no right to purport to be working for the protection of wild lands and wild creatures and species. 

“Fracking can be a dirty process”? What planet are you on? Fracking is a highly toxic, lands-devastating, water contaminating, air polluting, food-source-endangering, greenhouse gas-emitting, climate change-hastening abomination. And you know it.

Pushing your well-intentioned members to urge the “Bureau of Land Management” to put “strong standards” in place is a total sellout. According to your own marketing materials, the mission of the Wilderness Society is (my bold):

to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. The Wilderness Society has been the leading organization protecting our nation’s shared public lands since 1935. Through our conservation and public engagement efforts, we work to preserve our nation’s rich natural legacy for future generations.” Right next to this, on your “Mission and Impact” page, you declare, “Our work focuses on completing a system of protected lands in the United States, driving energy development toward appropriate places, engaging an urban nation with wilderness and being a great organization.”

What exactly do you mean by “driving energy development toward appropriate places”? What is an “appropriate place” for wanton destruction? Just as so-called public “environmental protection,” “environmental conservation,” and “natural resources” agencies around the country have competing missions of “protecting the environment” and “making as much money off natural resources as possible,” your activities are antithetical to your stated mission. 

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have “some lands that are too wild to drill” and others that are acceptable to contaminate (say, if they’re not so wild because more people live near or on them, or because more expendable people live on or near them, or whatever your criteria are). We can’t have fracking + clean air or clean water. We can’t have fracking + peace and quiet. We can’t have fracking + protected ecosystems. We can’t have fracking + a (relatively) stable climate. We can’t have fracking in our parks or in our communities + health in our bodies and psyches. We can’t have fossil fuel subsidies/exemptions + funds to create what we need immediately: a more sustainable energy system based on conservation and renewable sources

These things are inherently diametric. And you should know this. If you don’t, you need to find a new calling and get out of this business.

Ah that word, business. Maybe you are actually in business, and not in the field of advocacy for the planet and the species to which it has been home lo these millennia.

If you are not just in businessalthough with a staff and budget the size of yours, we recognize that it would be hard not to be “in business”–you should be helping to lead the fight against fracking and other dangerous fossil-fuel industries; instead you are abetting them. You are saying it’s OK to frack. It is NOT OK to frack. Millions and millions of people worldwide are now aware of this, and our numbers are only growing.

The grassroots individuals and organizations out here in the trenches fighting the destructive industries of shale-gas pillaging, frac sand pilfering, tar sands exploitation, offshore drilling, mountain blasting, pipelines, compressor stations, water withdrawal, waste spreading, and all the other peripheral industrial harms of fossil fuel corporations that we refer to collectively as FRACKING because they fracture our environment, our health, our properties, our communities, our legislatures, our media, and our future do NOT need your kind of “help.”

If this is the kind of “advocacy” you’re offering, please get out of the game and go collect your funding from ALEC. You might just as well be openly in cahoots with BP, Chesapeake, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Shell, and cronies.

Shame on you.

–Maura Stephens
Jamie Williams, President of the Wilderness Society:;  1-202-833-2300
Melyssa Watson, Vice President for Conservation:
Kitty Thomas, Vice President of Communications:
Amelia “Ame” Hellman, Vice President of Philanthopy:
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  1. I concur 100% with what Maura wrote. NGOs that pretend to exist to protect the environment, but which cave in to the oil and gas industry, or any other environment-destroying industry, are worthless, shameful, deceitful organizations that should either cease to exist, or else declare their support for the very industries that they should be opposing.

    I urge all true environmentalists to withhold financial support from the Wilderness Society unless and until it implements a policy that calls for absolute prohibitions from oil and gas exploration and production on public lands, or any other lands, everywhere.

  2. Dear Maura:

    Thank you for passing your note on to me. As a volunteer citizen in the trenches I couldn’t agree more and here is another reason why. Right now in Coos County, Oregon we have an appeal that has been filed on the Jordan Cove (LNG Export) South Dunes 420 Megawatt Power Plant and Gas Liquefaction facility. Volunteer citizens have filed this appeal as the environmental groups are no where to be found. We are nailing the industry on violations of the County’s ordinances. In an uncorrupt regulatory system this should stop the county from issuing a permit but it won’t and you want to know why? Once the industry realized their weakness and without our knowledge, they went and underhandedly had the county change certain ordinances to suit their project. That is the problem with claiming that regulation and higher standards will protect us. That happens only in a dream world.

    We have a hearing scheduled on our appeal for this next Tuesday and once we file our testimony and let them know all their weaknesses, we already know the industry will pull their application and FIX it so we will not be able to do a thing and then they will reapply under the County’s new revised ordinances.

    The regulatory system is not broken, it’s “fixed”… and essentially doesn’t protect us or the planet. The permitting system does nothing but give polluters a “license to pollute”. It is past time for these environmental groups to stop believing that higher standards to pollute, that can be easily changed in a heartbeat, will do a thing.


    Please visit our website to learn more about why the Jordan Cove LNG EXPORT Project is a bad investment -

    Jody McCaffree
    Volunteer Executive Director
    Citizens Against LNG
    North Bend, Oregon

  3. In the case of the Wilderness Society, NGO = No Good Outcome.

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