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Wal-Mart becomes Green

In January, the company launched a media campaign.
Michael Funke, one of the founders of Our Community First, said he suspects the Acres for America program is part of that campaign.
Wal-Mart grant will help fund Squaw Creek conservation plan

Published: April 12, 2005

By Lily Raff

The Bulletin

A conservation easement along part of Squaw Creek could soon be brought to you, in part, by Wal-Mart.

The Deschutes Basin Land Trust, a conservation nonprofit in Bend, last week landed a $400,000 grant to help permanently protect 1,120 acres of privately owned land on Squaw Creek.

The grant is part of a new initiative Wal-Mart officials will announce today in Washington, D.C., called Acres for America.

The program is a partnership between Wal-Mart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to conserving wildlife habitat.

Wal-Mart has pledged, through the program, to permanently conserve at least 1 acre of wildlife habitat for every acre the company has currently developed — and every acre it plans to develop in the next 10 years.

That's an estimated 138,000 acres, for which the company has pledged $35 million.

The retail giant is planning to build a Supercenter on the north side of Bend, at the intersection of Cooley Road and Highway 97. A Supercenter is like a typical Wal-Mart with a full grocery store attached.

The Squaw Creek project, called the Back to Home Waters Initiative, is the only project from Oregon to receive Acres for America funding.

Last week, Deschutes County Commissioners endorsed the easement — a contract intended to permanently restrict development on a ranch owned by Bob and Gayle Baker.

Brad Nye, conservation project manager for the land trust, told the commissioners their endorsement would help the organization secure grants to purchase the easement for a non-specified price.

Wal-Mart officials would not comment Monday for this article.

But other officials involved in the Squaw Creek project deny that the grant was awarded to appease Wal-Mart foes in Central Oregon.

Krystyna Wolniakowski, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation director for the northwest region, said the foundation — not Wal-Mart — solicited grant applications and decided which projects to fund.

"Wal-Mart has no say in any of our projects," she said.

Wolniakowski said she helped select the Squaw Creek easement as one of five projects in the country to receive Wal-Mart's funding, Wolniakowski said.

"And I had no idea, actually, that (Central Oregon) had anything to do with a Supercenter," she said.

Nye, of the land trust, said he and other staff had no idea they were applying for Wal-Mart dollars when they submitted a grant application to the foundation.

He said the project is still in the early stages.

"I'm confident this (easement) will happen, but we've got a ways to go before we know for sure," he said.

The land trust plans to purchase the development rights to the Baker's ranch on Squaw Creek for an amount that is not-yet determined. The Bakers have indicated that they will donate some of the amount.

Nye said the land trust is pleased to have the $400,000 grant, although the organization is preparing to spend more time on public relations work than it usually does for this amount of money.

A group of residents opposed to the new Supercenter in Bend have organized a nonprofit called "Our Community First." The group has held protests and is circulating a petition to prevent development of the new store.

Wal-Mart has grown accustomed to opposition in recent years. The corporation has fought legal battles over discrimination and overtime pay. Community opposition squashed Wal-Mart's plans to build stores in Chicago and New York City.

In January, the company launched a media campaign.

Michael Funke, one of the founders of Our Community First, said he suspects the Acres for America program is part of that campaign.

Funke said he expects the program will impress the occasional Wal-Mart opponent, but he doubts it will have any real impact on general opinion of the company.

"I think it's nice of (Wal-Mart)," he said of the conservation program. "And I would encourage them to maybe invest some more money in their workers."

For the Acres for America project, Wal-Mart has pledged $35 million to protect 138,000 acres in the next decade. Five projects were selected to receive a total of $8.8 million this year.

Other projects are in Louisiana, Arizona, Arkansas and Maine. Grant amounts vary from $400,000 — for the easement by the land trust and a project by The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas — to $6 million, for a project by The Conservation Fund in Maine.

Lily Raff can be reached at 541-617-7836 or  lraff@bendbulletin.com.
Clarify that 12.Apr.2005 12:05

Bloke against Bend Walmart

For some reason the cut n paste read the dashes - as &82blahblah. Probably because of a bug in my browser system-Opera.

sickly provence 12.Apr.2005 12:34

baldy

Spin. This is a smart strategy. Walmart probably can use such contributions to offset their profits. It would be nice if conservation groups could use that kind of money and not develop a dependency on it, but it has a certain poisonous character to it. It's throwing a few crumbs to the slaves. Those kind of contributions are part of walmarts effort towards self-deification over those whom they apparently consider to be their subjects.

Take that money, infiltrate the walmart heirarchy and slowly, methodically undermine its structure towards a gradual phase-out of the big box that will cause the least amount of damage to working citizens who are developing an increasing dependency on the lowest price at all cost retailers.

Like other big corporations that preceeded walmart, they take the people's money in the great american tradition, in many cases completely eviscerating local economy, community, culture and society in the process, and then spit back some pathetic regurgitated mess that the public by then has been conditioned to believe is some kind of marvelous restorative balm.

As they give it, availability of monies through such grants and initiatives dispensed through outfits like walmart, can be as easily taken away on a whim. In the meantime, the public will be obliged to be subject to constant reminders of the corresponding donors contribution through pervasive advertising promotional campaigns.

greenwashing 12.Apr.2005 12:45

eye on this bad corp

When Wal*Mart located in Talent, Oregon they paved over some wetlands adjacent to Bear Creek. Also, and I don't have the site in front of me, but I have heard of a Wal*Mart that built on Native American tribal sacred lands......

Don't trust 'em.

Always lowest wages. Always.

Walmart celebrates "acres of concrete!" 13.Apr.2005 00:57

despinner

Walmart celebrates paving over the best agricultural land in the USA for 20 years!

But...but... 14.Apr.2005 11:09

Colby

...what if they paint the concrete green, then they'll be green, right?

'Scuse me, I have to go throw up now. Wal-Mart will be green the same day I am the Catholic Pope.

Got math? 15.Apr.2005 01:16

Math Teacher

Let's see 138,000 acres divided by $35,000,000 comes out to $253.62 per acre. If you want to give a someone in the real estate business a good laugh, tell them you have $254.00 bucks and you want to buy an acre of undeveloped property in the city.

The reality is Walmart develops and destroys these areas since the low land is where cities are built and the land is flat and easy to develop. In order for Walmart or anyone to destroy a wetland, they have to provide an equal amount of land somewhere else. Something that they would normally have to do anyway.

The real questions are:
1. Did Walmart get a sweetheart deal by bribing our corrupt congress for a 35 million?
2. Is Walmart in compliance with the wetlands protection laws or is this just a defense to give them and the scum bag politicians some political cover in case anyone ever asks the hard questions and does the real math?

I don't trust anyone in politics and I don't buy anything from Walmart. We the people have the ability to have our vote counted every time we spend a dollar. Don't buy from Walmart and don't work for Walmart and shun anyone that does.


We Will See 15.Apr.2005 02:48

Mal Wart

smells like a corporate PR move that the company was in the mix of sprucing up the image to win favor in the public as a way to show they care!!(!)...surprising thing is I don't think they do care so this needs to be considered if it really carries any weight or will even be a fruitful sincere thing. Certainly any move in the right direction for the environment or the workers rights should be considered a good move. But this looks like a wolf sneaking up with a green smile.
Follow closely and keep the fire on the ass of the corporate pirates that claim they are doing something good ...well goodie goodie now let's go down the list of what they really need to be addressing!!
BESIDES~I STILL WON'T SHOP AT WALL MART UNTIL THEY CHANGE THEIR GREEDY WAYS DON'T CARE HOW MANY TREES THEY PLANT!
 http://home.comcast.net/~sittingbythepool/walmart.html
yes they do build on wet land and sacred Native American land and farm land they dont care!
the only thing that changes them is lawsuits
but I like to boycott and protest them all the same since Im not in a lawsuit with them
yaaaahnnn wake me up IF and When ....they can really impress me!!!!!!!