Wise Use leaders, in their campaigns against environmental regulation, highlight anecdotes of individuals treated unfairly by the government such as small landowners unable to develop their land because of regulations designed to protect wetlands or endangered species. Such individuals testify at Wise Use conferences and become legend in the movement. Their stories are told and retold for the media and congressional committees, are spread from group to group, published in their newsletters and told again at conferences to promote outrage.
There seems to be no shortage of such stories in an inequitable system which allows large corporations to evade the laws and comes down hard on the small business or property owner, “creating a vocal constituency for deregulatory measures that ultimately benefit those already in power.” Anyone that has had problems with government bureaucracy becomes a potential recruit to the anti-governmental rhetoric of the Wise Use Movement: “widespread distrust of government bureaucracy shared by people across the political spectrum can be manipulated to benefit elite interests, especially in the absence of visible anti-corporate movements.”
However not all the stories disseminated by the Wise Use Movement can be taken at face value. Often they are cut and tailored to suit the anti-regulatory agenda. For example, the story of the man who was fined $4000 for shooting a grizzly bear that was trying to kill him gained widespread currency. Yet Helvarg relates a different version of the story:
That man, Montana sheep rancher John Schuler, shot the bear after it repeatedly raided his sheep corral. The Montana Department of Fish and Game had offered to finance the installation of an electric fence... In court Schuler claimed he shot the bear in self defence, an argument the judge didn’t buy. Two environmental groups have since paid to have an electric fence installed around Schuler’s corral.