- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2017

Go to the website of any leading environmental group, and you’ll find ominous warnings that President Trump may soon destroy the planet — often accompanied by scary photos of the chief executive.

He may not be good for their policy priorities, but Mr. Trump is proving to be a bonanza for their bottom line, as groups across the liberal spectrum — especially those dedicated to environmental activism — say they are raking in cash from supporters eager to open their wallets to stop the administration.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, said its donations have increased 700 percent since the November election compared with the same period last year.

Like most other organizations, the Sierra Club wouldn’t provide specific figures, but virtually all prominent environmental groups say donations are pouring in at unprecedented rates.

They have taken advantage of fears about Mr. Trump by plastering his name and image all over their websites, urging Americans to “donate now” to stop the Trump agenda — and the approach is working.

“We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 donors reaching out to us just in November after the election. That’s exponentially larger than we would expect to see,” said Josh Mogerman, deputy director of the national media program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It’s more than just giving and gifts,” he said. “It’s also responses to our emails, to our online recruitment. There is a lot of energy out there and a lot of folks who are really concerned about the direction things have taken.”

Sam Parry, membership director at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the organization has had a “surge of support” in the form of donations from members over the past months. Earthjustice told Bloomberg News this week that its donations had increased 160 percent since the election through the end of January.

A host of other groups have reported similar upticks, and all of them attribute the increases to fears that Mr. Trump and his Cabinet will soon begin rolling back key climate change and environmental programs put into place during the Obama administration.

Indeed, Mr. Trump has said he will withdraw the U.S. from the global Paris climate deal, will reduce federal agencies’ focus on global warming, will promote oil and gas drilling and expedite the construction of pipelines, and will undo the Clean Power Plan, the first set of national limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

Opposition to those planned policy moves has led to record-level activism from environmentalists, both in the form of financial donations and planned protests, including a massive climate change march in April in Washington.

“People are taking to the streets, calling their representatives, and they are giving money to the organizations and institutions they trust to protect their interests,” said Jason Schwartz, a spokesman for Greenpeace, which last month was responsible for hanging a large banner reading “Resist” from a crane near the White House.

“People are disturbed, and they know that countering Trump and his billionaire Cabinet will require a strong, unified resistance committed to defending communities, the land, water and climate, and all of our future,” Mr. Schwartz said.

The financial support that has come flooding into environmental groups is one part of a larger backlash against Mr. Trumps’s policies. Democratic Party organizations say they, too, have seen been raising significant increases in funds over the past several months.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been leading the legal charge against Mr. Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, also has received massive donations.

The organization reportedly received roughly $24 million in online donations during the weekend the travel ban was enacted. By comparison, the group got about $3.5 million in online donations during all of 2015, according to The New York Times.

Although opposition to much of Mr. Trump’s agenda is widespread, analysts say, environmentalists are right to be especially concerned. This White House, they say, represents the greatest threat to their policy priorities — such as harsh federal regulations on fossil fuels and favoritism toward renewable energy — as any in recent history.

“I think we are obviously at a sea change in American politics. The way I think about this is we really are coming to the end of 45 years of relative policy stability in Washington, D.C.,” said Eban Goodstein, director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy at New York’s Bard College. “We’ve had conservative administrations and liberal administrations but there’s always been sufficient bipartisan support for the EPA to provide people with comfort and a sense of leadership out of Washington on environmental issues. And I think that’s clearly not true anymore.”

Indeed, environmental groups say there also was increased activism and financial support during President George W. Bush’s administration, but nothing compared with what is happening now. Another likely factor is that progressives who had been relatively disengaged over the past eight years now see reason to jump back into the political fray.

“People got kind of complacent during the Obama years,” Mr. Goodstein said. “Partially because people felt like he was looking out for their environmental concerns.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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