Vivian Krause and Gill Cracknell don’t agree on much when it comes to funding the Protect the Peel campaign, but they do concur on one point.
“It’s true that the larger percentage of the funding for our campaign does come from American foundations,” said Cracknell, the executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon.
What that means, and whether it’s a problem or not, is where the two start to cross swords.
Krause is a crusading right-wing journalist who writes about American funding of Canadian conservation efforts. She was in Whitehorse last week bringing her message of alarm to a talk for the Yukon Chamber of Mines.
The way Krause sees it, American interests are ignoring huge environmental destruction in the oil fields of Texas and North Dakota and instead focusing on blocking development of Canadian resources.
“They’ve spent huge sums, $75 million, trying to thwart fossil fuel development in Canada. My concern is what appears to be the unfairness,” Krause said.
“Those foundations have an agenda, which is land-locking Canadian oil within North America with these parks so we can’t sell it to the Asian markets,” Krause said.
Because of trade agreements, “we are forced to sell our oil into the U.S. market below market value. It’s a $25 billion-a-year cost to Canada. Keeping Canada over a barrel, literally,” she said.
Whether you buy this argument or not, what’s incontrovertible is that American foundations do fund conservation in Canada, and specifically in the Yukon.
According to its financial statements, CPAWS Yukon got nearly $260,000 in grants from American foundations in 2013 and $220,000 in 2012.
“That’s the thing I want to give people a heads-up about,” Krause said. “I was trying to say to the Yukon chamber guys, ‘You’re taking a knife to a gun fight.’”
But there is nothing wrong with getting money from American sources, argues Cracknell.
“I’m proud of our funders. The foundations that we work with are very genuine people. They care about nature and they want to support something that is of benefit to the world as a whole,” she said.
The Wilberforce Foundation, one of CPAWS’s largest contributors, is a Seattle-based funder that helps support conservation efforts in the western U.S. and western Canada. Another one that Cracknell highlighted is the Conservation Alliance, an organization with 180 or so voting members who choose which conservation efforts to support.
“They are all the outdoor equipment suppliers, people who run wilderness tours and businesses … I really don’t see what’s wrong with any of that,” she said.
And not all of the money comes from across the border, Cracknell said. The Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Program provided more than $250,000 over the years for the Peel campaign.
“We also got $54,000 that the public has raised for us to help pay the costs of the Peel legal case,” she said. The rest of the funding for the lawsuit against the Yukon government over the Peel watershed land use plan is coming from the First Nations involved and from those American foundations, though Cracknell couldn’t say how much is coming from over the border.
“It’s no secret that we get funding from Canadian foundations, from U.S. foundations, from Canadian and U.S. donors and from people from all over the world,” Cracknell said.
In her presentation to the chamber of mines, Krause told the audience that CPAWS got $1.8 million in funding over four years, 92 per cent of which came from U.S. sources. She also took aim at the Yukon Conservation Society, claiming it also took nearly $1.8 million in American money.
But according to Cracknell, Krause isn’t being fair with her figures.
Krause is basing her numbers on proposals, not on the final amounts given, Cracknell said. Some of those foundations didn’t give anything, she said, and when they do, CPAWS Canada takes a seven per cent administration fee off the top. By the time the money reaches CPAWS Yukon, it’s significantly less than what Krause is reporting, Cracknell said.
“She has an agenda. In my mind there’s no question she’s out to discredit environmental organizations,” Cracknell said.
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