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The Tax-Exempt Destruction of our Forests - by Alan Caruba - Sierra Times.com

The Tax-Exempt Destruction of our Forests 
By Alan Caruba 2003

A friend of mine from Montana said to me recently, "the State's on fire again", referring to the catastrophic loss of vast areas of its forests this year. The same can be said of New Mexico, Colorado, and other States for whom these forest fires have become an annual event. Everyone knows that our national parks and forests are not being managed correctly. Because of "environmental" policies and restrictions, they are tinderboxes waiting to explode from a lightning strike or a careless camper.

Why then do we give a tax exemption to one of the most active pressure groups opposing forest management, the timber industry, and the use of the many products that flow from this most renewable natural resource? Why has it been allowed to abuse its tax-exempt status by openly lobbying when the IRS forbids this?

In 2002, 67,000 wildfires in America's western States destroyed more than seven million acres of forestland.

The organization in question is yet another of those wretched Green groups masquerading as a savior of the environment while their policies destroy it. Organized in 1996, it's the Dogwood Alliance, a 501 [c] [3] nonprofit network of environmental groups that claim to be engaged in "research and educational services related to forest protection." This status permits donors to claim their contributions as tax deductions.

In August, Public Interest Watch petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the activities of the Dogwood Alliance, including their collusion with EarthFirst! extremists. PIW wants their tax status revoked based on the Dogwood Alliance's substantial lobbying (not disclosed on their annual tax return) and their proclivity to use "disparaging and inflammatory" language to promote their causes. The tax-exempt status the IRS grants does not permit this. Despite this, the Alliance has paid for radio ads and openly lobbies for more restrictions on the timber industry.

For the record, contributions to Public Interest Watch are not tax-deductible. This taxpayer watchdog organization monitors the activities of tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations to ensure they operate according to IRS law. You can learn more about PIW at www.publicinterestwatch.org.

The Dogwood Alliance, like virtually every other environmental group, specializes in outright lies. It has claimed, for example, that southern forestry companies were responsible for "unprecedented forest destruction" and were "degrading" water quality and wildlife habitat. A two-year federal study found no basis for these claims. Indeed, there are more acres of southern forests now than there were in 1992. IRS rules do not permit the use of "disparaging and inflammatory" language to advance an organization's agenda.

Another activity of the Alliance has been its attack on Staples. In a fund-raising letter, it called this company "the largest forest destroyer in the South" and said the office supply chain was responsible for filling up the nation's landfills with forest products. It demanded that Staples stop "financing the destruction of forests" through its buying, marketing and selling of paper products. Mike Hardiman, Public Interest Watch's president, accurately notes that "This is not education. It's extortion." Indeed, PIW doesn't challenge the Alliance's right to advocate its agenda, but rather its violation of the rules they agreed to when they received their tax-exempt status.

The Dogwood Alliance has partnered with groups like the Ruckus Society, perhaps best known for the mayhem they organized on the streets of Seattle during the last World Trade Organization. Using the Ruckus Society, the Alliance has funded protests, intimidation and "direct action" against Staples stores and customers. Staples caved in, agreeing to the Alliance's demands. In December 2000, the Alliance turned its attention to Staples' competitor, OfficeMax, threatening to unleash its storm troopers on them.

Claiming to be a "grassroots" organization, the Alliance gets a paltry two percent of its revenue from members. The rest come from huge tax-exempt foundations like the Turner Foundation and W. Alton Jones Foundation.

Using and abusing tax laws designed to encourage taxpayers' support for legitimate organizations, operated in the public interest, environmental groups continue to flout the IRS. The practice is widespread. For example, the Alaska Wilderness League has used its funding to lobby against drilling for oil in ANWR. Its tax-exempt status has been challenged by the Alaska Native Village of Kaktovik.

The tax-exempt status of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been challenged by the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. PETA has provided funding to eco-terrorist groups such as the Earth Liberation Front, famous for firebombing private property, government offices, and research labs. Other groups such as the Natural Resource Defense Council and the Rainforest Action Network have also had their tax-exempt status challenged.

What does the Dogwood Alliance really represent? It represents the large-scale burning of American forests. It represents the demise of a large portion of the nation's once-thriving timber industry, the loss of jobs and tax revenue. It represents increased costs of all wood-related products. And it represents cheating the US government of revenues that should be paid, but are not by virtue of their tax-exempt status.

The dogwood is a lovely tree that grows in abundance throughout the South. Its name has been defiled by the liars and cheaters who hide behind a tax-exempt status whose purpose they pervert.

Alan Caruba is the author of a new book, "Warning Signs", and a commentator whose weekly column is posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.
Copyright, Alan Caruba, 2003

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