Thinking of sending an end-of-year contribution to a public interest outfit, perhaps one of the big green groups? Why not pass up the outfits with big staffs and excessive overhead in favor of less well known, but nonetheless lean and hardy battlers for the public good. I offer you five. These are tax exempts, but check with them to make sure.

The conquest of the American West started with the extermination of the buffalo. That slaughter continues, as the Department of Interior and Montana Department of Livestock pursue its policy of capturing and killing all buffalo that leave the boundary of Yellowstone National Park, supposedly to keep the animals from spreading brucellosis to cattle. During winter the buffalo often migrate down out of the deep snows of Yellowstone onto national forest lands in search of forage. When they do, they enter a free-fire zone. The science is fuzzy, but that hasn't slowed the slaughter. The Buffalo Field Campaign has.

This courageous group sets up camp in a cabin in West Yellowstone. Each morning during the winter months, they strap on cross country skis and enter Yellowstone Park in search of the buffalo. Their objective, often at risk of arrest or injury, is to guide the herds away from the capture pens and killing zones, But over the past three years, the hardy souls at the Buffalo Field Campaign have saved the lives of hundreds of buffalo. This winter appears to be an exceptionally harsh one, with deep snows and frigid temperatures, and the potential for more than a quarter of Yellowstone's shrinking buffalo herd to be captured and killed.

Buffalo Field Campaign, P.O. Box 957, WEST YELLOWSTONE, MT 59758, PHONE: (406) 646-0070,

Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP), headquartered in the state of Florida, is run by Abe Bonowitz, who has been working to educate the public about human rights problems, in particular, the death penalty, for over 12 years. Bonowitz gained firsthand knowledge of the issue by working in the death penalty section of the Ohio Public Defender Commission, with murder victims' family members, and with death row inmates in Alabama, California, Florida, Ohio, Texas and other states as well. He appears briefly in the film "Dead Man Walking," and has worked closely on several projects with Helen Prejean, CSJ.

Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, PMB 297, 177 U.S. Hwy #1, Tequesta, FL 33469, (800) 973-6548,

One of the best and most deserving grass-root organizations in the country, The Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU), is a multi-racial organization of, by and for poor and homeless people. KWRU, and its lead organizer, Cheri Honkala, is dedicated to organizing welfare recipients, the homeless, the working poor and all people concerned with economic justice.

KWRU is mainly based in Kensington, a neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Once a center for manufacturing, Kensington is now the poorest district in the state of Pennsylvania. Throughout its history, KWRU has constantly been in motion, meeting the basic needs of its members, and pressing for political and social change on all fronts. Tent cities, housing takeovers, and free food distribution are just a few of the facets of this fight.

Kensington Welfare Rights Union, P.O. Box 50678, Philadelphia, PA 19132,,, Tel. (215) 203-1945, Fax. (215) 203-1950

Save Our Forests and Ranchlands (SOFAR) is an indomitable little outfit run by Duncan McFetridge , a carpenter in the Cuyamaca mountain town of Descanso, in eastern San Diego county. It has single-handedly beaten back the real estate industry and the Farm Bureau's plans to destroy the back country that is one of the natural glories of Southern California. Across nearly a decade, SOFAR has achieved victories wealthier groups would never have dare reach for. But the vultures never rest, and SOFAR needs every dime it can get to keep fighting.

Save Our Forests and Ranchlands, P.O. Box 475, Descanso, Ca 91916, Tel. (619) 445-9638, e-mail:, http//

Every third day since the so-called ceasefire, U.S. and British planes have bombed Iraq, targeting water treatment facilities, power plants and dams. And the crippling sanctions on the nation have begun to resemble a kind of genocide, with thousands of Iraqi children, the infirm and elderly dying every month. One of the few groups in the U.S. that has spoken out against this barbaric policy is the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness.

In 1996, Voices sent a letter to Janet Reno, expressing its intention to travel to Iraq in violation of U.S. laws. They announce every delegation by having a press conference or through press releases. Upon return, delegation members have also notified the customs officers that they have traveled to Iraq illegally. In December 1998, the Department of the Treasury sent a pre-penalty notice to the campaign, and to four individual members of the campaign, in which they proposed a fine of $163,000 for delivering "medicine and toys." One member had her passport seized, and others their videotapes and films confiscated.

Voices In The Wilderness, 1460 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640, Tel. (773) 784-8065, Fax. (773) 784-8837, e-mail:,

For five further groups worth supporting, see, or call 1-800-840-3683.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.