Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 23, 2018

Contact:  Samantha Parsons, UnKoch My Campus, (434) 473-2549,
Ryan Beam, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929,

New Report: $25 Million Koch-funded Think Tank at Utah State University Targets Public Lands

SALT LAKE CITY— A new Koch-funded research center at Utah State University is taking over the work of a private anti-public-lands think tank, leveraging the public university’s name and credibility for projects that stand to benefit Koch Industries, according to a new report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity and UnKoch My Campus.

The Center for Growth and Opportunity is carrying on the work of the Logan-based Strata Policy, a Koch-funded advocacy group. Research and policy work at the Center, established at Utah State in 2017 with a $25 million matching donation from the Charles Koch Foundation, stands to boost profits for Koch Industries and others in the Koch philanthropic network, the report found.

“Our public universities are meant to work for the common good, not for corporate profit,” said Samantha Parsons of UnKoch My Campus. “Allowing a corporate donor to leverage the university’s resources and brand to grow its self-interested advocacy project is anathema to that mission.”

The groups are calling on Utah State to rescind its agreement with the Koch Foundation and disaffiliate itself from the Center for Growth and Opportunity.

Koch Industries is involved in oil and gas extraction, transportation and refining, cattle grazing, logging and other activities on public lands. The Koch Foundation has spent some $200 million to support faculty and centers on more than 300 U.S. higher-education campuses. The foundation’s gift to Utah State is its largest to a western university.

“The Koch Foundation’s insidious gift to Utah State is really a big present for Koch Industries,” said Ryan Beam of the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s a grave risk to both public lands and public education if a corporation like Koch Industries can buy itself a think tank at Utah State. Public lands and public universities are for the people, not for private interest.”

The Center for Growth and Opportunity’s work includes policy research and commentary supporting public lands privatization and the rollback of environmental protections. Most of its employees worked for Strata, and the Center is continuing much of the private think tank’s anti-public-lands work, the report found.

Other findings show that the Center for Growth and Opportunity:

  • Lacks university oversight;
  • Is controlled by a pre-installed board including Koch-affiliated officials;
  • Has veto power over the hiring of six new Utah State faculty members.

Strata and the Center are connected to many of the country’s most prominent anti-public-lands figures, including members of Utah’s congressional delegation and state legislature and members of the far-right militant arm of the anti-public-lands movement.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

UnKoch My Campus is a national network of student, faculty and community activists dedicated to exposing and preventing university donors like the Koch brothers from being able to buy undue academic influence to advance their political strategy and corporate bottom line.

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