Extreme environmental groups hurt environmental causeby Hugh Holub on Jun. 02, 2011, under Center for Biological Diversity, endangered species act, environment water and energy, litigious environmental groups, politics, Western Watershed Project, WildEarth Guardians
This very interesting article was posted on Summit Daily News written by Ted Williams.
Williams is one of the top environmental writers in the country whose articles appear in High Country News, Audubon and all sorts of places that oil company and mining executives do not read daily.
by Ted Williams
…Actually, I’m an extremist only as defined by people who perceive fish and wildlife as basically in the way. For those folks, all environmentalists are extremists. But radical green groups do exist, and they’re engaged in an industry whose waste products are fish and wildlife.
You and I are a major source of revenue for that industry. The Interior Department must respond within 90 days to petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, petitioners like the Center for Biological Diversity get to sue and collect attorney fees from the Justice Department.
For 2009, the Center reported income of $1,173,517 in “legal settlement.” The Center also shakes down taxpayers directly from Interior Department funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, and for missed deadlines when the agency can’t keep up with the broadside of Freedom-of-Information-Act requests. The Center for Biological Diversity has two imitators — WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.
Kierán Suckling, who directs and helped found the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center, boasts that he engages in psychological warfare by causing stress to already stressed public servants. “They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are,” he told High Country News. “So they become much more willing to play by our rules.”
Those rules include bending the truth like pretzel dough. For example, after the Center posted photos on its website depicting what it claimed was Arizona rancher Jim Chilton’s cow-denuded grazing allotment, Chilton sued. When Chilton produced evidence that the photos showed a campsite and a parking lot, the court awarded him $600,000 in damages. Apparently this was the first successful libel suit against an environmental group, yet the case was virtually ignored by the media.
“Ranching should end,” proclaims Suckling. “Good riddance.” But the only problem with ranching is that it’s not always done right. And even when it’s done wrong, it saves land from development.
Here is the details about Jim Chilton’s battle against the Center for Biological Diversity…
In July, 2002, the Center for Biological Diversity published on its web site a News Advisory alleging that Jim Chilton, and Chilton Ranch & Cattle, were guilty of mismanaging the Montana Allotment. Attached to the News Advisory were 2 Appendices which contained photos allegedly showing damage to the environment caused by the Chilton’s cattle. The Center subsequently issued a second separate press release describing the pictures as showing the “devastation” caused by cattle. This press release was reprinted in a local paper.
The News Advisory remained published on the Center’s web site AFTER the Center had abandoned its administrative appeal with the Forest Service. Moreover, the News Advisory contained outright falsehoods and the photos contained in the Appendices were false and misleading. At least four of the photos were not even taken on the Montana Allotment, while others showed a mining site, a deer camp, and, worse, the site of an annual May Day festival where hundreds of people, including the Center’s photographer, had recently camped. There was a long history of attacksby the Center against the Chiltons, including prior lawsuits, and a complaint to the Forest Service that had been shown to be false.
Mr. Chilton’s attorney notified the Center as to the libelous nature of the News Advisory and accompanying photos and informed the Center of the need to remove the defamatory and untrue material. The Center ignored the demand, essentially forcing Mr. Chilton to file a lawsuit to protect his name.
After a lengthy trial in January, 2005, the jury returned a verdict stating that the Center lied in its News Advisory as well as in several of the photos. The jury awarded Judgment in favor of Mr. Chilton and Chilton Ranch, $100,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The Trial Judge refused to set aside the verdict but instead upheld it. An examination of the photos published by the Center with photos of the surrounding area, which were presented at trial, show why the jury found in favor of Chilton and against the Center for Biological Diversity.
On June 30, 2005, the Center filed a Notice of Appeal asking the Arizona Court of Appeals to review the jury’s verdict. On December 6, 2006, the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 2, issued an opinion upholding the jury’s verdict and award. At oral argument on the appeal, the 3 appellate judges saw some of the same photos (including photo 18) that were presented to the jury. The opinion fully upheld not only the monetary award, but also the arguments that were presented by the Chilton Ranch and Jim Chilton.
In 2007, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected the Center for Biological Diversity’s appeal of the jury’s decision and award and their appeal of the decision of the Arizona Court of Appeals which had supported the jury’s finding.
In the appeals process, Amicus briefs were filed by environmental corporations that advocated for the Center for Biological Diversity’s right to lie, defame, misrepresent and practice a reckless disregard for the truth as long as their intentions were to advance their “environmental” agenda. Big names that chimed in with Amicus briefs to OK the Center’s defamatory actions were The Sierra Club, Forest Guardians, Arizona Wildlife Federation and the Maricopa Audubon Society.
It should be noted that Mr. Chilton has a Chiricahua Leopard Frog refuge on his ranch and he is raising the endangered frogs for being transplanted back into the wold.
COMMENT: The point that environmentalists and conservations are making (but often quietly) is that litigious environmental groups like Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians are ultimately doing more harm than good to saving and protecting the environment by playing games with the Endangered Species Act and the Equal Access to Justice Act.
More on litigious environmental groups….
The Endangered Species Act series of articles:
Background info on Endangered Species Act:
News about litigious environment group activities: