Maughan and Nilson sum up the strategy used by the Wise Use Movement:
The last tactic is necessary because the question arises, why do environmentalists bother if there is not really a problem. It also counters the observation that most environmentalists have nothing personal to gain from environmental regulations and can therefore legitimately argue that they are concerned with the common good. Few Wise Use Movement members or supporters can make the same claim.
The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise provides ready access to the media for the Wise Use Movement through various media outlets owned by the center including a radio station in Oregon, a further network of 85 affiliated radio stations, a talk show, and interests in half a dozen television stations. Both Arnold and Gottlieb appear as columnists and guests in the media and distribute opinion columns, media releases and “public service announcements” widely to print and electronic media outlets.
The Center has an Investigative Task Force which “probes the personnel, programs and funding sources of those who systematically oppose free enterprise and are aligned with big government.” This information is then published. It also helps free enterprise oriented groups to network with each other and trains activists from these groups to “stage non-violent protest demonstrations” and other activities to achieve their aims.
The Center’s Free Enterprise Legal Defense Fund files ‘Friend of the Court’ briefs on behalf of small businesses, home owners and individuals who are harassed by big government as well as analysing “government rules and regulations for possible legal challenges.” The Center also owns a publishing house, Free Enterprise Press, which publishes Wise Use Movement books.
As environmental groups felt the pinch of shrinking budgets in the 1990s, Wise Use groups expanded. The Wise Use Movement uses the strategies and tools of environmental groups; petition drives, fax and letter campaigns, protest meetings, rallies and demonstrations, lobbying etc. Ron Arnold is well versed in the tactics and strategies of the environment movement. He once worked for the Sierra Club before (as he describes it) the Club “evolved out of being a conservation group into being an environmental group.”
Arnold has equipped his Wise Use Movement to use those very tactics against environmentalists on industry’s behalf. Journalist Richard Stapleton says that Arnold “has torn whole chapters from the text-book of grass-roots activism and used them to rewrite industry’s rules of engagement.”
However the Movement has been able to go further than environmental groups by using pubic relations techniques and industry resources, mainly supplied by the timber, mining, agriculture, real estate, chemical, oil and gas and vehicle manufacturing industries. It claims it is able to “inundate legislators with thousands of letters against pending environmental legislation in just hours via a nationwide fax network.”
The Wise Use Movement has organised seminars where public relations experts teach loggers how to speak effectively to the media.
Another of the Wise Use leaders, Chuck Cushman (pictured), like Arnold, was once a Sierra Club member who now uses environmentalist grassroots strategies against environmentalists. He founded the National Inholders Association in 1978 to fight regulation of private property which falls within the boundaries of national parks and federal preserves. Since becoming part of the Wise Use Movement he has successfully defeated or slowed down many preservation initiatives. Cushman tells his audiences “I’ve always said wilderness is like aspirin. Two are good for you; one hundred will put you in the hospital.”
Cushman's political strategy is one of coalition building:
What are the three most important words in political action?.... Lists, lists, lists. If you don’t have a list you’re not in the game. We have a list on computer of every miner in the country, every rancher who has a grazing permit, every timber purchaser on federal land. Every special use permittee in a national forest. This is not rocket science to realize we have to stay competitive with the other side. The next most important words are network, network, network.”
Cushman runs “sophisticated, high-tech fundraising and lobbying operation that would make many an environmental activist feel like a Luddite” including nine fax machines that can send out 4000 faxes overnight. He charges up to $20,000 for his services. According to T.H. Watkins from the Wilderness Society:
these organizations now have money and power and they know how to use both—to buy television, radio and print ads; pack hearings halls and meeting rooms; hire the best legal firms in Washington, D.C., to represent them; manipulate the press with ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ and broadcast outrageous charges so repeatedly that they begin to be accepted as unvarnished fact.