Center for Biological Diversity on EAJA Bill

Thanks to Matthew Koehler for sending this in..

I know it’s a press release, but I found some of the rhetoric to be rather off-putting. If the case is being made that your organization is “good,” a thought might be to try to refute others’ ideas in a respectful way. What partisans appreciate (vitriolic attacks) tends to dispel your credibility with the broader community- and can the end justify the means? I’ve italicized the most egregious examples.

Further, the piece starts out with an assertion that the bill keeps nonprofits from protecting veterans, etc. That doesn’t seem to be the case based on what Andy says here. And since Andy has not gone on record supporting psychological warfare against my kind (as has Mr. Suckling here), I am more inclined to believe him.

And if a press release starts out with an easily checked untrue assertion, how likely is it that I will take your word on things I don’t have the time to look up? Just sayin’.

Center for Biological Diversity: Our goal is to save species, not make money
by Kiéran Suckling

Industry-funded zealots are angling to prevent nonprofits from protecting veterans, children, workers and the environment. With the absurd argument that nonprofits are getting rich by making the government follow its own laws, they want to ensure that only the truly rich are able to take the government to court.

Even those who should know better are drinking the Kool-Aid, including outdoor writer Ted Williams, whose essay in the June 23 Tucson Weekly accused the Center for Biological Diversity of “shaking down taxpayers.” Cribbing from the Internet like a Fox News intern, Williams serves up industry propaganda with a side of his own trademark use of “anonymous” sources and dubious quotations.

Laws to make working conditions safe, ensure our water is clean and protect the rights of veterans and children only work when they are enforced. Often, they are not because of industry pressure. Witness the complete dominance of the U.S. Minerals Management Service by the oil industry.

American democracy guards against corruption by allowing citizens to sue the government. Now, taking on the government isn’t cheap. You have to go up against the entire Department of Justice. That’s easy for the oil industry, Walmart and developers who have money to burn. It’s not so easy for the rest of us.

To level the playing field, the federal government pays the legal fees of individuals, small businesses and nonprofit groups—if they win. If they lose, they pay their own way.

In its campaign to revoke this essential equalizer, industry has launched a public-relations war hinged on the big lie that nonprofits—especially environmental groups—are getting rich by ensuring that environmental laws are followed.

The current darling of the propaganda machine is Williams, who accuses the Center for Biological Diversity of filing petitions to protect hundreds of endangered species and then suing the government when it inevitably fails to rule on the petitions within 90 days. In Williams’ tightly scripted anti-environmental message, it’s a racket producing “a major source of revenue” for the center.

Nonsense. Between 2008 and 2011, the center received legal-fee reimbursements for an average of one case per year while challenging the government’s failure to process endangered-species protection petitions within 90 days. The average yearly total was $3,867—much less than the center spent bringing the cases. Not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme.

Rush to court? Every one of these suits was filed after the government missed its 90-day protection deadline by months, and in some cases by more than a year. I would submit that spending $3,867 of the federal government’s money to save the Mexican gray wolf, walrus and right whale from extinction is a bargain and a half.

Williams dives completely into the propaganda sewer when he quotes an “anonymous” government official complaining about a center petition to protect 404 rare Southeastern plants and animals. The “anonymous” source is allegedly outraged that the center will file a slam-dunk nuisance lawsuit because the government can’t possibly study all 404 species in 90 days.

In fact, the center didn’t sue, even after the government missed its deadline by 420 days. Instead, we developed a plan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure all these rare species get reviewed for protection in a reasonable amount of time.

Without providing any supporting data, Williams goes on to charge that the center is raking in the cash by suing “for missed deadlines when the agency can’t keep up with the broadside of Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Hmm. In the past four years, the center received legal reimbursements for exactly one Freedom of Information Act deadline suit, and the amount we received ($3,031) was far less than we spent forcing the Department of the Interior to come clean with the public over its offshore oil leasing program in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The Center for Biological Diversity will keep expending vastly more resources ensuring the government follows its own wildlife protection laws than we’ll ever recoup. That’s fine with us, because making sure bald eagles, wolves, and even Tucson shovel-nose snakes and Arizona tree frogs have a place to live and grow is more important than money.

It’s why we do what we do.

78 thoughts on “Center for Biological Diversity on EAJA Bill”

  1. I see nothing wrong with interim mediation efforts either. They are completely reasonable and more often than not, routinely exercised. I appreciate your penchant for invoking MLK here and hope that his sense of moral rectitude would be equally applied in the unseemly defense of corrupted agencies, corrupted economic policies, and their real world consequences. To me, the rationalization, “We are not a rich country anymore, and EIS’s are not cheap”, fails to indicate any sign of MLK’s moral compass in use.

    What you are advocating for Sharon, “mediation should be pursued prior to litigation, perhaps required”, is already widely practiced on National Forests and it’s called the appeal process. Formal appeals to Records of Decisions are routinely filed prior to resorting to litigation. Far more often than not, the agencies are disposed to defending the Deciding Officer’s decision on the Preferred Alternative of the EIS. This utter failure for mediation to function as you are suggesting it would, should not be surprising: There are no penalties or sanctions within federal agencies for a line officer (defended by superiors) even when found guilty as defendant, and recidivist offender, repeatedly violating environmental laws.

    A recent Ninth Circuit Court decision which overturned a Lower Court ruling on the Tongass provides an excellent example of this process which highlights the prevailing entrenched CYA mentality of agency line officers as defendants, who have nothing to lose by forcing the appellants to litigate, and if anything, have everything to gain, advancing through the ranks with a record demonstrating their willingness to abide by political pressure rather than the letter of the law.

    In this recent ruling on the Tongass National Forest, the issue at the center of 4 timber sales was brought up several times in several former appeals processes. All of the appeals were denied by the agency.

    Corrupted Agency, Using Corrupted Science
    The issue was straightforward: the deciding officer was signing off on multiple timber sales with full knowledge that the method for calculating deer carrying capacity and population densities was scientifically indefensible.

    Why would any line officer, or IDT biologist in order to justify further timber harvest in already hammered watersheds, go to such lengths and what does this say about moral rectitude in the face of political pressure to get the cut out?

    Keep in mind, this issue of “an error” in the deer multiplier was raised in several appeals and denied, then litigated in lower courts and denied, then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court under the purview of three judges who ruled unanimously overturning all the agonizing demonstrations of obvious agency corruption, scientific corruption, and corruption of jurisprudence.

    Tongass NF wildlife biologist, Glen Ith, attempted to take a moral stand on this agency corruption and was escorted out of his office by armed guards and treated like a criminal. Glen literally died trying to defend MLK’s moral principles — rejecting the rationalization that “EIS’ aren’t cheap”.

    Predatory capitalism spawns agency corruption. Defenders of agency corruption using corrupted science get promoted in this agency while wildlife biologists risking careers and financial security of their entire families are treated like criminals.

    Political pragmatism and amorality is at the center of arguments underlain with the rationale that “We are not a rich country anymore, and EIS’s are not cheap” — which is but a symptom of a larger problem. That larger problem is clear in the pervasive examples of rank, agency corruption much of which never sees the light of day because line officers and rank and file alike, choose to “Go along to get along”, or suffer Glen Ith’s fate. Invoking MLK in the same argument of rationalization of corrupted agencies calls into question whether King’s moral legacy is actually being applied, or simply being used as a prop.

    The recent Ninth Circuit Court Decision and its demonstrations of agency corruption deserves thorough discussion on the NCFP site, if this is truly to be a “New Century”.

    • I see that you have graduated to a “power painter” instead of using that “broad brush”, David.

      I have worked on 22 National Forests in 10 different States, and have not seen the kind of corruption you are talking about. I have worked very closely with all the different kinds of Ologists, and found them to be quite protective of their turf, mostly open-minded, and proud of their integrity. It has been sometimes difficult to earn their trust but, to me, it is always worth the effort to respect their expertise and educate them about my own. It is important that the Ologists see that their decisions were good ones.

      There ARE times when I see the Forest Service continuing to push a project which, to me, cannot possibly make it through the courts. The Ninth Circuit court is notorious for siding against the Forest Service, and it shouldn’t be too hard to predict which kinds of issues the court won’t stand for.

  2. Well Larry, it seems the voluminous record of NEPA violations extending far beyond the Ninth rulings demonstrating the agency disregard for the laws, the scandal of Abigail Kimbell personally destroying jobs and many careers of whistleblowers which include several tens of biologists across many national forests and then being promoted to Chief of the USFS. Then there’s the Obama record on whistleblowers, etc. etc., etc.

    I could go on, but it seems your position isn’t bothered by moral issues or facts in the historical record, so I’ll leave you to your favorite tactics of resorting to using slurs as needed, and persisting in denialism.


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