The Walton Family Foundation has poured $71.8 million into oceans and river systems “conservation.” A major group of sport fishermen are not amused and have called for an angler boycott of Walmart.
The large grantmaking for diminished free access to public waters is a relatively new phenomenon for the Walton heirs, who not so long ago “tiptoed” into environmentalism, making “some small, experimental grants…an approach it takes when considering a new program area,” according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Before taking the leap in that issue area, Walton Family Foundation had (and still does) gave largely to the causes that founder Sam Walton was passionate about: the company’s home state of Arkansas, and education reform. The foundation’s has donated millions, if not billions, of dollars to causes and research that support the introduction of competition into public education, including charter schools and vouchers. “I’d like to see an all-out revolution in education” Sam wrote in his autobiography.
But now, as so many heirs have done with the charitable institutions created by their entrepreneurial founders, the Walton children now fund beyond the original intentions of the philanthropy’s creation. Apparently Walmart eco-adviser Jib Ellison, former Al Gore aide and company vice president Leslie Dach, and a host of other “sustainability”-minded gurus at the retail corporation have influenced the Walton Family Foundation, which itself has hired on its “environmental staff” alumni from World Wildlife Fund, American Rivers, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
According to San Francisco Independent Media, EDF’s Tom Lalley tried to distance the huge contributions by the family foundation from Walmart Corporation, the target of RFA’s boycott. “It was the family, and specifically the family’s foundation, that made a contribution for sustainable fishing and ocean conservation, and not the store."