Jeff DeBonis: PEER Origin Story

As a timber sale planner on Oregon’s Willamette National Forest in the late 1980s, Jeff came to the conclusion that the Forest Service was over-logging which would lead to the type of eco-degradation he had seen in Central America in the Peace Corps.

He was ordered to change his “biological opinion” on an upcoming sale because, his district ranger said, he had written what sounded like the comments from the environmental community. He changed his comments but took his original to the local conservation group and urged them to use it.

Convinced that he was going to get fired, he came out openly against Forest Service clearcuts and urged his colleagues to join him. Thousands did, and the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (AFSEEE) was born.

After a couple of years, AFSEEE was urged to broaden its reach to other federal and state agencies. By this time, AFSEEE had recruited the Government Accountability Project (GAP) to act as its legal arm and the two organizations jointly staged a conference – called Protecting Integrity and Ethics or the PIE Conference – to plot the next move in public employee activism and self-defense.

From that conference, PEER was born.