Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Conservation Politics

Every American citizen is involved in politics. Some people do politics, the rest have it done to them.

Jim Britell

See also Conservation Policy


"The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of  2000 (Oregon)" is an article I penned in in Collaborative Conservation Strategies: Legislative Case Studies from Across the West, produced by Western Governors’ Association, tells the story of negotiating a deal with land barons, livestock interests, and elected and appointed officials. The WGA report also examines “omnibus” public lands conservation and development bills in Nevada and Idaho.

My 90-10 Rules address interorganizational relations between conservation organizations.

Big Wild was a proposal for major steps in continental conservation by asking Congress for more, not less. It was published in Wild Earth. See quotation by Molly Ivins below.

Successfully Using Ballot Measures (co-authored with Sally J. Cross) examines successes and failures in Oregon environmental ballot measures and makes suggestions on what's necessary to win, including Wayne's Rules that were formulated by Wayne Pacelli of the Humane Society of the United States who has masterminded several successful initiatives through the nation, including the banning of the hunting of bears and cougars with dogs in Oregon.

It's Not Either/Or; It's All Or Nothing suggests the conservationists should favor political diversity within their ranks as much as they honor biodiversity. There are three kinds of conservationists: radicals, idealists and realists (I'm a fourth: pragmatist). Knowing what you are and others are can allow you to reduce stress and be more effective as a conservation activist.

Seven Kinds of Forest Reformers suggests there are seven kinds of forest conservation activists. It's a different taxonomy than the three (actually four) kinds noted directly above.

The Browning of Bob Packwood traces the Senate career of a man who started about as green as they came in 1968 and ended as brown as feces at the end of his career 1993. This shorter version appeared in Cascadia Times which edited out all the sexual stuff in the longer version.

Lets Get Political (co-authored with Sally J. Cross) argues that a well-rounded conservation organization utilizes all political and legal entities available to them:

* non-profit tax-exempt charitable/educational organization, aka 501(c)(3);
* non-profit tax-exempt social welfare organization, aka 501(c)(4);
* federal Political Action Committee (aka federal PAC); and,
* state (of Oregon) Political Committee (aka state PAC)

I don't like PACs either, but we must use them until they are reformed or abolished. Unilateral disarmament hasn't worked well as a strategy or tactic.

The Environment Can't Wait for Liberals to Find Themselves suggests that conservationists need to recognize and exploit the fact that the importance of the environment transcends any political party or ideology.

Civil Disobedience For The Forest: The Time for Direct Action has Come Again is about being arrested at Senator Mark Hatfield's office and was published in Wild Forest Review.

Wallowa County Chieftain Columns

"Environmentalists Reaching Out to Green Republicans" argues that conservationists need to play all political parties, and that the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt still rides in the Republican Party, even though many of those anti-environment western Congressman are desperately trying to exorcise him.

"Consensus Groups Can Deplete Democracy" argues that consensus is a fine process when the parties have enough overlapping interest. When a group wants to climb a mountain and need each other's help to do it, but differ on the route, consensus can work well. When part of the group wants to protect the mountain and the rest want to clearcut and/or mine it; there is not enough common interest to reach a satisfactory result.

"Clean Streams Initiative Deserves Your Vote" argues that regulatory action is necessary to restore streams on private lands.

"Lion and Hunters and Bears, Oh My!" argues for passage of a ballot measure because it not sporting to shoot a mama bear in the butt while she has her head in a barrel eating doughnuts.


Oregon League of Conservation Voters is the premier organization in Oregon for electing good people to office and throwing out the bad ones.

The national League of Conservation Voters is the premier organization in the United States for electing good people to office and throwing out the bad ones.


Politics is not about power. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives.

Paul Wellstone

You play the hand you're dealt. And the cards you have stuck up your sleeve.

Deb Callahan, League of Conservation Voters, Executive Director, e-mail to AK, 2/25/00

Rules for Radicals

RULE 1: "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
RULE 2: "Never go outside the expertise of your people."
RULE 3: "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy."
RULE 4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules."
RULE 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon."
RULE 6: "A good tactic is one your people enjoy."
RULE 7: "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag."
RULE 8: "Keep the pressure on. Never let up."
RULE 9: "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself."
RULE 10: "If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive."
RULE 11: "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative."
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

Saul Alinsky

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do!"

Edward Everett Hale

While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.

Abraham Lincoln

Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. In the third, it is regarded as self-evident.


Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, (quoted in Will, George. 2000 "Moynihan's grand run as public intellectual." Portland: The Oregonian, September 16.)

Every American citizen is involved in politics. Some people do politics, the rest have it done to them.

Jim Britell, Port Orford environmentalist (now in upstate New York)

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.... An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation From Round River (1953)

If you want to kill and idea, assign it to a committee for study.


If we were left solely to the wordy wit of the legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among nations.

H.D. Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

If your home were burning, for instance, would you grab a bucket of water to pour on it, or would you step back and write a poem about it?"

Rick Bass, Book of Yaak, (1996, pg. 10)

I believe that art, though immeasurable, lies somewhere between the world of science, facts and math, and the world of the spirit: that it can be a transition—as when a bear comes out of hibernation in April, or enters it, in October or November....

You can measure the diameter-breast-height of a tree; but you cannot measure the magic of a forest, or the effect a healthy, growing wild place has on your spirit.

Rick Bass, Book of Yaak (1996, pg. 38)

I dare not mourn so much that I forget why and how to live.

Rick Bass, Book of Yaak (1996, pg. 173)

Polite conservationists leave no mark save the scars on the Earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground.

David Brower

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.


There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

H.D. Thoreau

Better to be pissed off than pissed on.

Andy Kerr

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Winston Churchill

I used to say to our audiences: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon not understanding it!".

Sinclair, Upon. 1934. I, Candidate for Governor: An How I Got Licked. U.C. Press, Los Angeles. (1994 version) (page 109)

It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their wages, profits, lifestyle, religion, election or sex life depends on them not understanding that something.

Andy Kerr

To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.

Abraham H. Maslow

Behold, the turtle, he makes progress only when his neck is out.

Dr. James B. Conant, Pres. Harvard University

We should forgive our enemies, but only after they are taken out and shot.


Never kick a man unless he's down.


The meek shall inherit the shit.


You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.

"Al Capone" (played by Robert Deniro) in an television episode of The Untouchables" according to Josef Joffe, ("Flex Your Muscles, Softly" in Washington Post, January 6, 2002 B2)

The persistent and the redundant shall inherit the Earth.

Brent Thompson, Ashland, Oregon

What a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

Francis Bacon

Problems worthy of attack show their worth by fighting back.

Diet Hein Groof

Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish great tasks by a series of small acts.

Tao Te Ching, 63 (Mitchell Translation)

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things aren't going to get better, they're not!

Dr. Seuss

Yesterday's heresy becomes today's possibility, and tomorrow's common sense.

Brock Evans (6/4/00 e-mail)

In North America there is a lot that is in public domain, which has its problems, but at least they are problems we are all enfranchised to work on.

Gary Snyder

Every great movement must experience three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.

John Stuart Mill

You don't argue with engineers—you have to derail them.

Edward Abbey, "The Second Rape of the West," in Playboy (Dec. 1975)

Virtue is a lot easier if duty and self-interest coincide.

Jonathan Bailey Drager, Sometimes A Great Notion (by Ken Kesey)

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan: "Press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

The maximum that is politically feasible, even the maximum that is politically imaginable right now, still falls short of the minimum that is scientifically and ecologically necessary.

Al Gore, early in his vice presidency as quoted by Bill McKibben in New York Times Magazine July 23, 1995

There is nothing so sacred as an abuse.

Congressman John F. Lacey (IA), as quoted by Gifford Pinchot in Breaking New Ground

History is a better guide than good intentions.

Jean Kirkpatrick

(Scientists), generally speaking, have too great a faith in the power of common sense and reason. That's not what drives most political figures, who are concerned about emotions and the way a certain event will affect their constituency. If you're going to work in a political environment, you have to know the reasoning of the people you are dealing with. You have to talk to them realistically. It does very little good to appeal to high principle, though I would not say that's insignificant. The vast majority of politicians think they are functioning on high principle.

Rep. George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA), quoted by Claudia Dreifus in "The Congressman Who Loved Science" in New York Times, March 8, 1999)

Course, there is nothin' like being prematurely right gettin' yourself seriously disliked.

Molly Ivins, The Progressive (January 1999)

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning.... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.

Frederick Douglass

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best, if he wins, knows the thrills of high achievement, and if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

President John F. Kennedy on President Theodore Roosevelt, speech in New York City, 5 December 1961

Dysfunctional wings of opposing movements who find commiseration in their common dysfunction, should not fool themselves into believing they have common cause.

Andy Kerr

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

John F. Kennedy

I am not interested in being a noble loser, holding on to some pure position and getting beat.

Dave Foreman, (founder of Earth First! and then a member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors)

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast.... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men with their hearts in a safe-deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.

Edward Abbey

Everyone is for change in general, but they're scared of it in particular.

Bill Clinton, quoted in Mary McGrory, Washington Post National Weekly Edition, October 13, 1994

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents. Rarely does Saul become Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.

Max Planck, Philosophy of Physics (1936)

A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.

Nelson A. Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994, page 166)

The campaign should be judged on two levels: whether the immediate objective was achieved, and whether it politicized more people and drew them into the struggle.

Nelson A. Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994, page 169)

Working With Partners: We have one thing our opponents can not control—-how we work together. For issues we commonly work on—

* Report to our partners any response from an agency or elected official.
* Confer with partners before communicating with an elected official, the press, or an agency decision maker.
* Give credit to partners' work in newsletters, grant proposals, and press releases and events.
* Plan the campaign with our partners.
* Jointly raise funds.
* Problems with a partner's issue or work? Talk first to that partner before discussing it with others.

Utah Wilderness Coalition

The Earth is not dying—it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.

Utah Phillips

Under the Constitution of the United States there are but two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and most people residing within the jurisdiction of its laws suppose this to be the extent of the legislative body; but to those acquainted with the internal working of that important branch of the government, there is still a third house of Congress, better known as the lobby. True, its existence is neither provided for nor recognized by law; yet it exists nevertheless, and so powerful, although somewhat hidden, is its influence upon the other branches of Congress, that almost any measure it is interested in becomes a law. It is somewhat remarkable that those measures which are plainly intended to promote the public interests are seldom agitated or advanced by the third house, while those measures of doubtful propriety or honesty usually secure the almost undivided support of the lobby.

General George Armstrong Custer, My Life on the Plains (1874), (Originally published in the Galaxy in 1872)

Rather than having one's allies outside the tent pissing in, politically, one prefers they be inside the tent pissing out. However, having allies inside the tent pissing in is not politically advantageous.


Strategies for conservation nearly always require that people change something they are doing, are planning to do, or someday might want to do. Good strategy incorporates or at least acknowledges the things people hold dear as we ask them to change.

W. Williams Weeks, Beyond the Ark (1997; page 81)

Consensus is the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

The real philanthropists in our society are the people who work for less than they can actually live on ... So that people like you can be dressed well and fed cheaply.

Barbara Ehrenreich quoted in The American Ruling Class (film, 2006)

Conservation is a cause that has no end. There is no point at which we will say our work is finished.

Rachel Carson, On accepting the Audubon Medal (National Audubon Society) in 1964.

There is a huge difference between having a philosophy and having an ideology. The people who made America had a philosophy. If you have an ideology you have the answer to the question before you look at the facts.

Bill Clinton
Associated Press. April 16, 2011. "Crowd of about 400 greets former President Clinton at childhood home in Hope for dedication."