By Jessica Goad
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. just announced this morning that it is dropping out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing corporate front group that drafts and shares conservative legislation with state legislators. It has been behind various state “stand your ground” gun laws, voter suppression laws and efforts to teach climate change denial in schools.
ALEC has also endorsed various state attempts to “reclaim” federal public lands that belong to all Americans, which could eventually subject them to privatization and development. As the Associated Press reported:
Lawmakers in Utah and Arizona have said the legislation is endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that advocates conservative ideals, and they expect it to eventually be introduced in other Western states.
In March, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed an ALEC-backed bill into law that demands Congress turn over 30 million acres of public lands to the state or it will sue. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed similar legislation last month citing costs and dubious constitutionality.
Wal-Mart’s decision to drop ALEC makes sense in the context of their successful “Acres for America” program. Since 2005, Wal-Mart has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Federation in an effort to conserve an acre of land for every one occupied by a Wal-Mart facility. As of January 2012, the project has protected 687,000 acres.
As Wal-Mart’s corporate website states:
That promise reflected a company-wide dedication to sustainability and stewardship of our natural resources. With an initial $35 million commitment, Walmart expected to enroll an estimated 138,000 acres in the program by 2015. But by the end of 2010, it had far surpassed that benchmark, conserving more than 625,000 acres and connecting more than 6.7 million protected acres—an area larger than Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Despite continued corporate defections from ALEC, its efforts to undermine public lands protection may not be over. In Colorado, a bill has been introduced that would sell 22 million acres of national forests to the highest bidder, although one state representative is considering amending it to merely cede the acreage to the state. And, similar bills are rumored to be in development in Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico.
As Think Progress reports:
Groups that have dropped ALEC include: Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft, Wendy’s,Mars, Inc., Arizona Public Service, the National Board for Professional Teaching StandardsScantron, The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Kaplan, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, five Pennsylvania legislators, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Reed Elsevier,American Traffic Solutions, Intuit, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.