Ask Brock Evans, Washington lobbyist for the Audubon Society, what he thinks of the liedown- in-front-of-the-bulldozer approach to ‘environmentalism practiced by Earth First!, and he scoffs, "I want to know how many acres they’ve saved in the last few years." Earth First! founder Dave Foreman’s response is, many acres have they given away?" In the sixteen years since the-first Earth Day, the most prominent environmental groups have become more savy and more pragmatic politically as they have blended into the Washington landscape. But another brand of environmentalism steers clear of Washington, maintains the passion that launched the movement, and is pursuing the most exciting innovations in the field today. This motley collection includes Foreman and his band of monkey-wrenchers; grass-roots activists on issues such as hazardous waste and garbage incineration; bioregionalists; and elements of some of the big national groups.
As the movement has matured, many national groups have adopted sophisticated tactics, a development whose merits are hotly debated by environmentalists. Some benefits are hard to deny: for instance, the Sierra Club’s computerized index of its 377,000 members by Congressional district makes it easier for the group to organize -letterwriting campaigns to key senators and representatives. The Audubon Society, with a half-million members, has put together a similar index. The Sierra Club’s Washington office, which had only one full-time staff member in 1970, has seventeen today. Prominent environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation, appeared this summer on the list of outfits with the best access to the capital’s decision-makers. Most leaders of these groups celebrate the movement’s growing influence on government policy. "The environmental movement used to be about stopping things: increasingly, it’s about doing things," says Ralph Cavanagh, senior staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (N.R.D.G.).
But the changes on Street don’t sit well with all the activists on Main Street. Foreman criticizes the Washington contingent for trying to gain respectability through compromise. should never support a piece of legislation; a based writer is of Energy Unbound: A Fable for America’s Future you should always be asking for more," he says. Lisa Finaldi, chair of the New York City-based Radioactive Waste Campaign, says many activists are so concerned about their credibility that when they fight a threat, "their attitude is, Can we hold this back and still appear reasonable?" Foreman and Finaldi regret that the environmental lobby has become less distinguishable from its adversaries in industry and government. "It’s becoming just another business- everyone has to wear a suit and have a lap computer in their briefcase," says Finaldi.
Not only are the sides wearing the same uniforms, they’re even trading players. Cecil Andrus, Secretary of the Interior under Jimmy Carter, was on the Audubon Society’s board of directors from 1981 to 1984 and has been a paid consultant to the Wilderness Society. Rupert Cutler, who was Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in charge of the Forest Service, became executive director of the Audubon Society in late 1980 and now heads Population-Environment Balance. Two high-level staff members of the Wilderness Society both worked for the Carter Administration: the society’s chief lobbyist at the Bureau of Land Management, Terry Sopher, headed the government’s wilderness program, and its director of wildlife-refuge programs, Viiam Reffalt, planned new refuges in Alaska. When business executives move between industry and government, progressives scream bloody murder. When environmentalists do it, the practice triggers a different fear: not that the activists will corrupt the government but ‘that the government will corrupt the activists. "When I was chief lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, was becoming tempted by the idea that could become Assistant Secretary of the Interior," Foreman admits. Operating in the Washington milieu "tends to make you friendly with the agencies YOU should be watching over and criticizing." But Ken Ketwig of the Audubon Society says, "It hasn’t lessened our stridency; it’s improved our effectiveness."