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The Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), based in Bozeman, Montana, is a think-tank that promotes free-market environmentalism. FREE emphasizes reliance on market mechanisms and private property rights, rather than on environmental regulation, for protection of the environment. Its chairperson, John Baden, a past member of the National Petroleum Council, stresses decentralization: a shift of control from what he calls "Green platonic despots" in the federal government to "local interests".[1] Citing conservation efforts such as those involving the Rocky Mountain Elk, Pheasants Forever, and Trout Unlimited, Baden asserts that the ideas FREE promotes have become "the norm among progressive, intellectually honest and successful environmentalists".[2]

One of FREE's current projects is the "Charter Forest" project[3], in which control of national forests would be devolved to local trusts. The plan was endorsed by the Bush administration, but has yet to be put into effect.

Since 1992, FREE has offered expense-paid seminars in its philosophy to federal judges.[4] These seminars, held primarily at resorts and private ranches in Montana, with good access to recreational activities such as trout streams and golf courses, have included such topics as "Environmental Protection: The Role of Community-Based Solutions to Environmental Problems", "The Environment: A CEO's Perspective"[5], and "Liberty and the Environment: A Case for Judicial Activism". In the late 1990s, FREE says that nearly a third of the federal judiciary had either attended or were seeking to attend its seminars. The group also offers expense-paid courses for university faculty and students, these reportedly taught on the campus of Montana State University.

Between August 14 and 19, 2004, FREE hosted the 2004 general meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Among the members of FREE's Board of Directors is George M. Gray, the executive director of the Harvard Centre for Risk Analysis.


According to FREE's website, in 2005 funding of $10,000 or more came from the following foundations:

  • The Ajax Foundation
  • The Carthage Foundation
  • Castle Rock Foundation
  • The Chase Foundation
  • The Earhart Foundation
  • The Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation
  • The Harold and Reta Haynes Family Foundation
  • The Kanzanjian Foundation
  • The Claude R. Lambe Foundation
  • The Lilly Endowment
  • The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust
  • The John William Pope Foundation
  • The Walker Foundation

as well as from the following corporations:

  • ExxonMobil
  • GE Fund
  • John Deere & Co.
  • Port Blakely Tree Farms
  • Tindley Corp.


  1. ^ More environmental Gore, John Baden, April 26, 1999
  2. ^ What was once radical now becoming mainstream, John Baden, May 9, 2001, originally published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
  3. ^ Charter Forest
  4. ^ A Conference Series for Federal Judges, State Supreme Court Justices, & Law Professors, FREE's website.
  5. ^ The Environment: A CEO's perspective, FREE website, 1996




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