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Mountain States Legal Foundation    


This is one of a half-dozen legal institutes set up by Coors and Scaife, with the support of large corporations engaged in anti-environmental activities. It was also one of the mainstays of the Wise-Use movement which was a post-Reaganite extension of the Sagebrush Revolution.


  • Founded by Joseph Coors, Originally run by subsequent Secretary of the Interior James Watt. The current [2000?] head is William Perry Pendleton.
  • Pendleton uses the Foundation to conduct test case litigation against federal programs, including a suit challenging the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.
  • Also links to Gale Norton (according to Bill Berkowitz)
  • Ron Arnold, anti-environmental leader and executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise , called MSLF "the litigating arm of the Wise Use Movement." Over the past two decades, MSLF has served as a training ground for a number of attorneys most active in the anti-environmental movement., including Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Clint Bolick, William "Chip" Mellor and Karen Budd-Falen, Anne Gorsuch-Burford, and Roger and Nancie Marzulla, who started Defenders of Property Rights.

Web site is http://www.mountainstateslegal.org

1973: California Chamber of Commerce created the Pacific Legal Foundation "to practice law on behalf of business interests [by the filing of] lawsuits to block environmental actions and thwart regulations." Coors used this as his model for the Mountain States Legal Foundation in 1976.
    ["Shapers of the great debate on conservation." by Rache White Scheuering] http://books.google.com.au/books?id=vngGt6mA30AC&p (etc.)

1976: Coors founded the Mountain States Legal Foundation in 1976 to bring lawsuits designed to enrich giant corporations, limit civil rights, and attack unions, homosexuals and minorities. He also founded the right-wing Heritage Foundation, to provide a philosophical underpinning for the anti-environmental movement.

    Ronald Reagan's victory [in Nov 1980] gave the Heritage Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation immeasurable clout.

1977: One of the six regional litigation firms originally established with help of the [Coors funded] National Legal Center for the Public Interest "to oppose government regulation"

1977: (mid-year) The first MSLF President was conservative lawyer and anti-environmentalist James Watt who Coors had met two years before.

1977–80: James Watt in charge of MSLF, wins the gratitude of western conservatives by initiating many lawsuits against high-profile environmental organizations — the EPA, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Department of the Interior (which he later headed).

    Most of these cases were funded by Coors with additional finance from large oil, mining, agribusiness and electric power industries in the West.

1983 May 23: National Law Journal article on the growth in right-wing law foundations. It suggests that these are primarily anti-Ralph Nader and says about the MSLF:

And so, in court rooms across the country, firms like the Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Pacific Legal Foundation represent clients that they believe are seldom spoken for: businessmen, crime victims, private property holders.

    They fight for corporate free speech, government deregulation and states rights. They publish monographs on judicial activism and sponsor seminars on alternatives to rules of strict product liability.

    Funded bv such conservative concerns as the Southern Pacific Co. and the Scaife Foundation, as well as by sympathetic individuals, these groups are acutely aware that they are emulating their ideological adversaries in such "traditional" — or liberal — public interest firms as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

    It mentions the close connection these new legal institutions have with the Reagan Administration.
James Watt, secretary of the interior, was the first president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and his successor, Roger Marzulla, was recently named as special litigation counsel to the Land and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

    We've always focused on lssues of strung interest to the Western states,
    said William H Mellor 3d, acting president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, "Natual resources issues and the use of public land have always
    been very important to us."

1988 March: The MSLF ws of the founders of the Wise-Use coalition [Organised by Alan Gottleib and Ron Arnold, together with the Moonies and Christian Voice]

1988: The Wise Use movement combines a legal strategy with political organizing. The legal front was already covered by right-wing legal foundations like California's Pacific Legal Foundation , [James] Watt's Mountain States Legal Foundation and Jeannette Burrage's Northwest Legal Foundation .

1990: Kraft [a subsidiary of Philip Morris] has provided "a moderate level of support." Other conservative policy organizations that have received considerable funding (i.e. $100,000 or more between 1995 and 2002) from the Castle Rock Foundation [Coors] include many of those that receive funding from the other large conservative foundations.

    The foundation also provides financial assistance to the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and the Landmark Legal Foundation, legal organizations that fight to safeguard individual liberties free enterprise and property rights from government regulation and control.

1992 /E: In the last years of her life (she died 1994) Dixy Lee Ray became Director of the Mountain States Legal Foundation — the litigation agency of the Wise Use movement. She was the movement's enthusiastic spokesperson in promoting extremist property rights and anti-environmental legal activism.
    [Shapers of the great debate on conservation: by Rache White Scheuering] http://books.google.com.au/books?id=vngGt6mA30AC&p (etc.)

1992 /E: Roy Marsden of Philip Morris report on Public Interest Legal Foundations, explaining the benefits the company might derive from funding these organisations.

    He says that the MSLF was founded by former Interior Sec James Watts [using Coors money] and suggest that the MSLF had an "overly close identification with its founder — a situation that has been a problem..." [Watt was dismissed by President Reagan] It has"never fully recovered from its association with [Watt]. This has managed to limit its influence"

Founded in 1977 as another of the six regional litigation firms originally established with help from National Legal Center for the Public Interest (NLCPI), the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) is "dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited government, and the free enterprise system". As such it has an agenda similar to those public interest legal foundations mentioned above, but a somewhat narrower scope, i.e., for the most part limited to environmental issues and property rights.

    Based in Denver, Mountain States has never fully recovered from its association with its founder, former Interior Secretary James Watt. This has managed to limit its influence. Nevertheless, MSLF boasts about its 21% increase in contributions in 1990 (roughly evenly divided between corporations, foundations and individuals), perhaps coinciding with "a bold beginning in the efforts of MSLF to inform the American people of the threat to freedom posed by increasing governmental regulation."

    As an independent corporation Kraft had provided a moderate level of support to Mountain States.

    This would be another situation where support "renewal" might be warranted depending upon the nature and location of the issue at hand.