To the Editor:
John George’s recent criticism (April 5) of the Blue Mountains Forest Partners reflects a deep misunderstanding of 501(c)(3) organizations and BMFP.
BMFP is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization – a private nonprofit. As such, according to the IRS, the only information BMFP is required to disclose publicly is its application for tax-exempt status (with associated correspondence), and its completed tax returns for the three most recent years. Nothing more.
A private nonprofit is also legally required to address conflicts of interest for board members and protect against the inappropriate use of its finances and assets by members. Article VII of BMFP’s bylaws addresses conflicts of interest for board members. Article IX of our Articles of Incorporation addresses the inappropriate use of BMFP finances and assets.
Legally speaking, these articles allow members to receive reasonable compensation for services they provide the organization and to benefit from contract work with (say) the Forest Service, provided conflicts of interest are handled in an appropriate manner.
Private nonprofits are legally permitted to lobby to a limited degree, where this is understood as the attempt to influence legislation or lawmaking.
Per the IRS, then, the financial information Mr. George wanted BMFP to give him is not subject to public disclosure; BMFP members have acted consistently with the organization’s Articles of Incorporation and bylaws, correctly understood; and BMFP can lobby (even though it hasn’t done so locally).
Finally, BMFP’s mission is to increase the resilience and well-being of forests and communities in the Blue Mountains. This requires a road system that facilitates responsible, active management of multiple-use public lands. Our work, then, requires us to support a road system that enables the Malheur to implement projects that increase forest health, support ongoing timber harvest and provide other socioeconomic benefits for area communities such as public access to public lands.
Blue Mountains Forest Partners