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. Sharon: Thanks for posting this here. The piece is not a press release. It’s an opinion editorial that ran in response to this opinion editorial from Ted Williams.

    That might explain some of the word choice. Thanks.

    Also, you may want to see this snip about the new EAJA bill from Disabled World (

    “Social Security Disability claimants may have to prepare themselves for another potentially crippling blow, and law firms that represent these claimants, such as Disability Group Inc., may suffer the same fate….The EAJA allows people to apply for awards of attorney fees and other expenses associated with pursuing litigation against the government. EAJA applicants who win their cases against the government and who are eligible may receive their payments after the case closes. This is a vitally important piece of legislation that helps guarantee that citizens of any socio-economic stratum can address legitimate grievances against the government….Any prohibition of EAJA fee award payments will undoubtedly make it difficult, if not impossible, for many Social Security claimants, as well as veterans, to find lawyers to represent them in federal court. This possibility weighs heavily on local and national Social Security Disability law firms across the country. “In my opinion,” writes attorney Douglas Brigandi of Bayside, New York, “it would be a travesty to allow this legislature to go forward and thereby deprive those individuals, who depend on the Social Security Act, the right to obtain these much needed entitlements.”

  2. Matthew -Thanks for the correction.. I still don’t see why op-eds have to be vitriolic. I know it’s common to do, but is it good for public discourse?

    This time I looked up the bill myself here.
    And found what Andy quoted.. “who has a direct and personal monetary interest in the adjudication, including because of personal injury, property damage, or unpaid agency disbursement” I can’t see why veterans and others you mentioned would be affected. Maybe Disabled World is talking about an earlier version?

    • The Disabled World article is out-dated. It concerned an anti-EAJA amendment that never made it onto the continuing resolution. The currently-pending anti-EAJA bill is focused against green and civil rights litigants.

      There is no question that an anti-EAJA movement is gaining steam among conservative House Republicans and Tea Partiers. These folks believe that it is better to allow government to break the law unchecked than it is to assist those who successfully compel the government to follow the law, when the government’s position is both illegal and unreasonable (which is the threshold for EAJA fee-shifting).

      Ironically, these anti-EAJA proponents are, themselves, anti-government.

  3. Hello: Good to know the DW piece is out of date. I do have to wonder, though, why Mr. Suckling’s oped is considered “vitriolic” but Mr. Williams’s oped (which came first) apparently is not. Thanks.

  4. It’s not that I may not have thought Williams to be vitriolic; since you have warned me, I won’t read Williams piece as I have an self-imposed anti-vitriol reading policy. I think someone somewhere should say “enough”! I guess you’re right that I shouldn’t necessarily expect it from anyone in particular, and I posted it here (and read it) because someone I respect (that’s you, Matthew) thought it was worth reading.

    My point about “if you don’t do your staffwork on facts that are easily checked, then don’t expect people to trust you on those which aren’t easily checked” stands.

    I think some folks are angry that groups get to trump local collaboration in decisions through the use of lawsuits. To them, it seems like lawsuits are a way to effectively make policy choices and have a more powerful seat at the table (or the only seat). They are reacting to that. It is characterized as “making the agencies obey the law” but to others it looks like “going through each decision with a fine-toothed comb looking for flaws if the policy decision is not the one we would prefer.”

  5. Sharon: I am in full agreement with your comments. I have not read Ted Williams’ piece either and, for the reasons you state, probably won’t bother. Until now I thought he was the last person to hit .400 or a homeless guy with a golden voice and a drinking problem.

    Mr. Suckling’s editorial, in addition to being unnecessarily vitriolic, is both self-serving and highly inaccurate in numerous regards and assertions.

    My question is: how much money is he paid every year to write things such as this? I’m pretty sure he and his organization are not nearly so altruistic as he states.

    I, too, have a serious problem with people and organizations who resort to lawsuits as a method of selective “law enforcement” and as a way of usurping localized management efforts. I have no idea how many species have actually been “saved” via this approach, but I am guessing that it is not very many — even by using current methods of defining “species” and “sub-species” that seem far more political and legalistic than biological — and that the cost to taxpayers has been far (far) greater than is being asserted and implied by Mr. Suckling.

    • Bob: Kieren’s salary in 2009 was $105,541. In addition, he received $15,948 in non-salary compensation, e.g., health and retirement benefits.

      • Surely, theirs lawyers make a LOT more than that!

        I remember a time when the CBD sent out form letters, with the wrong project names filled in the blanks. How much case “research” is paid for by EAJA funds? I’ve seen several examples of poorly planned and poorly carried-out “research”, designed to bring evidence into court. For example, Chad Hanson decided to sample the cambium of 1000’s of burned trees, most of them completely dead. The sampling was done, not at ground level, where it matters the most but, closer to dbh, where you could find live cambium on a tree that has dead cambium at ground level. The study never went to the courtroom, because they didn’t find much live cambium on the clearly dead trees they sampled. I also wonder if they charge for post-decision monitoring, as well.

      • Thanks, Andy:

        That is certainly a lot more than loggers, tree planters, “wildland” firefighters, and sawmill workers earn — especially when they are unemployed — and would help explain the strident and defensive posture he has taken regarding Mr. Williams’ criticisms.

        And so much for his “more important than money” argument. It didn’t sound convincing, even when repeated.

  6. Whoops. I read Mr. Williams’ piece after all. It is pointed and blunt, but certainly not as hyperbolic and vitriolic as Mr. Suckling’s “defense.” Mr. Williams makes a number of good points and Mr. Suckling counters by making a number of outrageous claims and self-serving statements: most of which appear to be nothing more than personal value statements (if he actually believes them himself) and outright fabrications.

    How much is Mr. Suckling paid by his organization each year? And how much is his expense account? He sure does seem overly defensive about his organization and its sources and amounts of income. Are they really responsible for “saving” bald eagles and gray wolves? And Arizona tree frogs?

    Shakespeare said something about this. Bob Dylan probably did, too.

  7. Former Fish and Wildlife Director Jamie Clark is “an anonymous source”? Former National Fish and Wildlife Foundation director Amos Eno is an “anonymous source”? Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is “an anonymous source?” Mr. Suckling and I could have a more interesting exchange if he would read my article before attempting to rebut it.

    The Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service all refuse to release records of what is paid to the Center in attorney fees, so Suckling cannot blame the public for raising questions about what Jamie Clark calls the ESA litigation “industry.”

    But far more hurtful than any money these agencies and the Department of Justice lose is the loss in time and effort of federal biologists who have to cease working for wildlife in order to spend weeks and months consulting with Justice about the endless, frivolous petitions filed by the Center. The Center’s petition to list the dwarf seahorse is a good example. There is absolutely no evidence that it should be listed, yet it occurs in the Gulf and provided the Center with some publicity during the oil spill. According to the IUCN: “There are no published data about population trends or total numbers of mature animals for this species. There is very little available information about its extent of occurrence or its area of occupancy. There have been no quantitative analyses examining the probability of extinction of this species. As a result, we have insufficient data to properly assess the species against any of the IUCN criteria, and propose a listing of data deficient.”

    The Center revels in criticism from wise-use guru Karen Budd-Falen but waxes apoplectic when environmentalists like me join in. Budd-Falen is one of my least favorite people on the planet, but occasionally she’s not wrong. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    Re. Suckling’s claim that the center doesn’t collect much money for Freedom of Information suits, consider this on-record comment from John Hunt, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Freedom of Information Act officer at Region 9 (headquarters): “Once we’ve provided a response or haven’t the Center for Biological Diversity can appeal for inappropriate applications of exemptions, not meeting the statutory time frame (20-30 days, 30 days of extenuating circumstances like multiple locations), no-records-found response, a variety of scenarios. The Center is one of our more frequent requesters…. They appeal first, then litigate. If they have not received a response on appeal from the department; and the department FOIA field office is frequently backed up, they can jump directly into litigation.”

  8. Ted misunderstands the ESA listing process and the Act’s petition standards. The ESA allows any person to petition FWS or NMFS to review the biological status of a species to determine whether listing as threatened or endangered is warranted. The Act’s standard for granting a status review petition is whether listing “may” be warranted — not whether it is, in fact, justified. That determination — that listing is justified — is made by FWS or NMFS after completing the status review.

    The dwarf seahorse is a good example of the petition process. Far from there being “absolutely no evidence that it should be listed,” there is, in fact, substantial evidence that a status review should be undertaken. In 2002, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora issued a report on the biological status of seahorses, which noted that “Seahorse species are susceptible to over exploitation because of their low population densities, low mobility, small home ranges, inferred low rates of natural adult mortality, obligatory and lengthy paternalcare, fidelity to one mate, and a small brood size.”

    The dwarf seahorse lives in seagrass habitat, which itself has and continues to decline significantly.

    Ted may not like CBD’s tactics or politics. But to claim, as he does, that there is “absolutely no evidence” that could justify listing the seahorse likely means that he didn’t read CBD’s 50-page petition seeking a status review.

  9. Not sure why you imagine that I “misunderstand the ESA listing process.” I understand it perfectly. The trouble with the CBD’s meritless petitions is that they keep the biologists who must respond to them from doing important work for wildlife. I don’t question that there’s evidence that seahorses face major challenges. But we can’t list every species that faces challenges. We must prioritize and list only species for which we have solid evidence that they face extinction. As the IUCN reports there is no such evidence for the dwarf sea horse. Re. CBD’s 50-page petition, it is full of hearsay and gobbledygook, as are most of its petitions. See its petitions to list 80 species of corals, not that corals don’t face grave challenges, too. But, as any federal biologist will tell you, this kind of petitioning has utterly usurped the ability of USFWS and NMFS to prioritize. It is why the ESA has become so dysfunctional.

  10. For those interested in a non-vitriolic examination of the mass listing petitions, I recommend this April 2011 New York Times article: Wildlife at Risk Face Long Line at U.S. Agency.

    It includes commentary from Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau. Pat’s illustrious resume includes a stint as special counsel to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which he represented during the God Squad hearings on the northern spotted owl. This political circus, ineptly and illegally orchestrated by the Bush White House, pitted sister Interior agencies BLM and FWS against each other. FWS, recognizing that Interior’s lawyers had an inherent conflict, hired Pat as outside counsel to represent it. He did a masterful job on FWS’s behalf during the month-long administrative hearing.

  11. Pat’s a great guy. I wish he was running a God Squad to save every species that is struggling. But all we have is the ESA. It’s a beacon for the world. CITES is modeled after it. But even the best laws have limited potential. The ESA requires that we have solid proof that a species is threatened with extinction. When that proof is in hand the species must be listed. But proof, like ESA funds, is in short supply. The CBD fails or refuses to understand this. It spews forth hearsay and conjecture, possibilities, probabilities, full truths, half truths, and untruths. Its constant barrage of slovenly, slap-dash petitions and lawsuits makes it impossible for the NMFS and USFWS to take care of the species that we are about to lose. With friends like the CBS wildlife doesn’t need enemies.

  12. Ted — I can’t agree that the ESA “requires that we have solid proof that a species is threatened with extinction” before it is listed. No such burden-of-proof appears in the Act itself. The Secretary is to use “the best scientific and commercial data available to him” in making the listing determination. The data need not be perfect; they simply need to be the best that are available. Biological data always include uncertainties and are incomplete. For example, few listed species have sufficient demographic data to calculate precise or accurate population rates of change. Such data shortcomings have not prevented species listing under the Act.

    In sum, the ESA is an affirmative protection statute that vests with the Secretary the responsibility for examining the scientific information that is available, with all of its shortcomings and imperfections, and making a considered judgment as to imperilment. Solid proof of endangerment is simply not the legal standard.

  13. Agreed. “Solid” a bad word, Go with “good” or “compelling.” But in many, in fact, most cases “the best scientific and commercial data available” to the secretary doesn’t and can’t justify listing. That said, the public needs to fund and insist on more scientific documentation.

    • And the public should also insist on a more realistic definition of “species.” Geographic isolation or varietal markings and adaptive behaviors should be indicators, not deciders, of such definitions. Gray wolves, hoot owls, and crayfish should use the same basic definitional standards as people, dogs, and grapes.

  14. No, in “most cases,” the Secretary finds that listing is justified biologically, but precluded because other pending species are even more imperiled. As of the Secretary’s last Candidate Notice of Review, November 2010, there are 251 species that FWS says meet the Act’s biological criteria for listing, but are awaiting their turn in the administrative queue.

  15. But Andy consider the thousands of petitions from the CBD, Wild Earth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project and other such radical groups. Interior can’t respond even to say they’re “justified but precluded.”

    • Ted — You’ll find that most of the species petitioned for receive a biologically warranted but precluded decision from FWS. These groups aren’t trying to list the Douglas-fir, Roosevelt elk, sparrow, or starling. Unfortunately, there is simply no shortage of imperiled species on our planet. I’ll bet CBD, et al., have their own in-house list of “biologically warranted for petition but precluded because of lack of funds.”

  16. Okay, here’s a good example. In April the CBD fired off a ridiculous, ill-researched petition to list 404 species! Interior couldn’t possibly respond even to say they were warranted but precluded. Instead, it cut a deal with the CBD, promising that it would figure something out by 2018 (instead of 90 days) if the CBD didn’t sue.

  17. Ted — “Ill-researched?” The petition to which you refer is over 1,000 pages long. CBD’s petition is based upon FWS’s 1994 policy to make “Group listing decisions on a geographic, taxonomic, or ecosystem basis where possible.” CBD notes that during the 20th century, “at least 123 species of freshwater fishes, mollusks, crayfishes, and amphibians went extinct in North America.” It is such species that CBD’s petition focuses upon.

    CBD describes its methodology in compiling the petition list as follows: “We considered species imperiled if they were classified as G1 or G2 by NatureServe, near threatened or worse by IUCN, or a species of concern, threatened or endangered by AFS. Once we had an initial list, we searched for information on threats to species and only included those species where there was some information demonstrating threats to the species. We avoided species that have yet to be fully described.”

    Ted, which of CBD’s enumerated species do you consider biologically secure?

    • Andy:

      I (and many others) are far more interested in how many of the “species” in the CBD list can interbreed and produce viable offspring with other “species” both on and off the list.

      Such a concern would also include the list of “123 species” of fish, mollusks, crawdads, and amphibians that supposedly “went extinct in North America” during the last century.

      And — exactly — how many “species” have been “saved” as a direct result of CBD lawsuits and similar legal actions by their cronies?

      I’m guessing: a) quite a few, and b) not too many. Evolution is a powerful force. So are self-serving lawsuits. My vote is with nature.

      • Bob — You have the CBD list. You can figure out “how many of the species can interbreed and produce viable offspring.” Let me know the results of your analysis.

        “Self-serving lawsuits” are common — they typically pit corporations against each other regarding such issues as trademark infringement, contract disputes, and the like. However, I don’t think those are the ones for which you express disdain.

        Many years ago, during the spotted owl trial, one of the timber industry’s expert sociologists testified about the God-fearing, righteous rural folk who would be devastated if some old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest was protected on public land. He was asked if these people believed in following the law. He said, “absolutely.” He was then asked if these good people believed their government should also follow the law. Pause . . . “Yes,” he answered.

        • Andy:

          I am not the one who “scientifically” constructed the “1,000 page report” and have no interest in answering my own rhetorical question. I just figured that the compilers of these lists might have some idea about the biological capabilities of the plants and animals they consider imperiled and are willing to go to court over.

          Likewise, I have never known of an “expert sociologist” who works for the timber industry or who differentiated between regular rural citizens and those who are “God fearing and righteous,” but if you are accurately quoting such an individual, assuming they actually exist — so what? He’s anonymous whoever he might be, and certainly his supposed answer to his equally nameless questioner cannot be representative of much. I’m pretty sure that “expert sociologists” are not representative of rural people in general, and likely less so if they are employed by the timber industry. (Question: Do God fearing and righteous urban folk see things differently than their rural counterparts?)

          Finally, your choice of spotted hoot owls is good, though. Despite millions of dollars of lawsuits and billions of dollars of damages, their numbers continue to decline. Maybe they need to be better versed in their legal obligations and stop having viable offspring with barred hoot owls.

          • Robert G. (“Bob”) Lee was testifying for the timber industry intervenors. Vic Sher was doing the questioning. I suppose you had to be there to appreciate the moment.

  18. Hello Sharon: Since you “won’t read Williams piece as [you] have an self-imposed anti-vitriol reading policy,” I thought I’d copy below what may be vitriolic statements from Mr. Williams oped.

    It’s also good to know that your “self-imposed anti-vitriol reading policy” doesn’t apparently apply to the supposed vitriol in the CBD piece, as I just noticed you went through Kiéran’s whole piece and painstakingly italicized certain parts for full effect. I’m sorry that I view this as a double standard. Thanks.


    From Mr. Williams oped:

    But radical green groups do exist, and they’re engaged in an industry whose waste products are fish and wildlife….

    The CBD also shakes down taxpayers directly….

    Those rules include bending the truth like pretzel dough….

    Acquiring the public’s attention seems to motivate real environmental extremists almost as much as acquiring the public’s money.

    The Center for Biological Diversity gives every environmentalist a bad name.

    • Matthew- I thought I was clear in my comment above #5.. when you sent me the piece I read it because you thought it worth reading and your views are important to me because of your contributions to our blog community. Even though I don’t always agree with you, your voice is important to hear.

      I thought the rhetoric on Sucklings’s op-ed was over the top, though, so pointed that out. I think on a snark scale, the Williams quotes are about a 6 for me and the Suckling a 9. I’m also willing to say that this is subjective. In terms of content, Williams accuses some environmental groups of being extremists (which they are proud to be, at least as quoted in the Bevington (another sociologist’s) book).

      On the other hand, Suckling accuses Williams of being “an industry-funded zealot”, which I don’t think he is. He can answer this for himself, though.

      Also, I have to speak up for Bob Lee. In my forestry undergraduate program, he taught forest sociology. He was a good teacher in a subject that was not all that popular and I believe him to be a person of integrity. His and the timber industry perspectives happened to align. He was worried about, and speaking up for, the impacts of the policy on the rural working class. Considerations of social justice should always be included in policy decisions, in my view.

      At one time, he and Jerry Franklin and Chad Oliver were all at the University of Washington. I respect them all, and they all might have different views on any given subject. I think we’re all richer from a diversity of perspectives and the students certainly benefitted. Check out Bob Lee’s book Broken Trust, Broken Land here. But because it was published pre-internet there aren’t many reviews out there on the internet, at least I couldn’t find one. If I taught a class in the sociology of environmentalism, I might have students read Bevington’s and Lee’s books together.

      IMHO, the money probably doesn’t matter to anyone as a rationale for why any of us do what we do, including environmental groups or Ted Williams or Bob Lee. We all care deeply about how people relate to each other and to the environment. We care enough to spend our spare time blogging about it. We just disagree about the particulars of what we think is desirable as well as tactics.

      If the problem is that litigation gives some groups an unfair seat at the table, then I think that should be addressed directly. I don’t think getting the changes to EAJA will help that much, although it might be a symbolic victory.

  19. “Ted, which of CBD’s enumerated species do you consider biologically secure?” That’s hardly the point, is it? To be listed we need good evidence that they’re insecure. And we don’t have it. Also, length is no measure of good research.

    • At the risk of beating a dead, although not yet extinct, horse . . . Ted, what is the “good evidence” that you consider sufficient to justify listing a species as threatened or endangered?

  20. “Ted, what is the “good evidence” that you consider sufficient to justify listing a species as threatened or endangered?” Dunno. That’s for the biologists to decide. I’m much better at IDing inadequate evidence of the sort I’ve already cited.

  21. If Andy or anyone thinks the Center is committed to truth, science and good research, please consider its recent lawsuit against EPA about the agency’s alleged failure to properly study pesticides including rotenone, probably the safest and most studied of all pesticides and the only practical way of saving imperiled fish from being hybridized off the planet. This is a perfect illustration of how the CBD squanders biological diversity. In earlier litigation the CBD derailed full recovery of the rarest trout in North America, the Paiute cutthroat, by obtaining a settlement requiring the Forest Service to abandon long-planned rotenone use. Then, of course, its counsel collected attorney fees.

  22. How can the government “follow its own laws”, when those laws often conflict? Which interpretations of which laws are they supposed to follow. Which “best available science” do they follow? When does the ESA step in and protect ESA habitat from these big, damaging wildfires?

    The strategy, which has worked well for the NGO’s in the past, is to fling as many issues as they can at an Agency, knowing that official required responses are impossible. When it goes to court, the Judge has to think about his own eco-interpretation of the law. However, it is very easy to find where laws conflict, and that is their bread and butter in eco-litigious profits. What if old foresters were to arm themselves with lawyers to completely revamp Forest Service firefighting policies? Their policies clearly conflict with many other rules, laws and policies, including the ESA, Clean Water and Clean Air Acts..

      • Add to that, Rules, directives and policies, all of which can be attacked in court, to the list of conflicts. Since all of these are brought up in court and contested in project plans, they have to be lumped in with the laws, as well. Let Burn policy definitely conflicts with NEPA, and other cornerstone environmental laws. Eco-lawyers know all too well how to use to conflicts to toss out projects. This situation does not release the Forest Service from following bad laws, though. The days of hoping the litigious public won’t notice questionable issues should have ended in the 90’s but, the tactic still appears to be used by some Forests. I’m still holding out hope that the ESA could be used to REQUIRE increased beneficial management to restore and enhance endangered species habitats, instead of letting it burn.

  23. Andy- as you know, agencies have to follow regulations interpreting laws.. does your beer challenge hold for conflicting regulations?

    • Sure, if the regulation is both binding on the Forest Service and not written by the Forest Service. For example, if CEQ’s NEPA regulations conflict with some federal law. But, if the FS could cure the “conflict” by changing its own regulation, i.e., conforming its regulation to the law, that doesn’t count.

  24. I am thinking of the earlier example.. 1) Clean Air Act- due to restrictions, can’t prescribed burn at levels needed to 2) reduce high fuel loadings that lead to problems with water quality- CWA (or wipe out endangered fish- ESA) when wildfires occur.

    • Submit to Martin, as he is judge and jury. As I recall, submissions have to cite chapter-and-verse the specific two statutes alleged to conflict.

      In your example, as in many, I think you’ll find too much discretion to create a conflict. First, no law requires the FS to light prescribed burns. So, to avoid CWA violations, just don’t burn.

      The ESA itself clearly does not compel prescribed burning. ESA recovery plans recommend, they do not mandate and their provisions are not action-forcing. The ESA generally constrains substantive agency actions, it does not force action to occur.

      But I’ll let Martin make the call. Am keeping beer cold in the meantime.

  25. Ted, you’ve repeatedly called the Center’s listing petitions frivolous, meritless, and ludicrious. but when pressed, you present no evidence that the petitioned species are not imperiled. Nor do you address the facts that 1) the vast majority of the Center’s petitions have resulted in the USFWS or NMFS concluding that the listing for the species is warranted, or 2) that the Center filed petitions for the vast majority of species on the current candidate list. That in itself is pretty irrefutable proof that the petitions are solid scientific works focused on truly imperiled species.

    Let’s consider the two petitions you mentioned.

    The Center’s 1,100 page petition to list 404 imperiled southeastern aquatic species was peer-reviewed by a dozen scientists and endorsed by one scientific society. All of the species in it have separately been identified as imperiled by NatureServe. The Center devoted $75,000, three scientists, and over a year of work to researching these species. It is clearly a work of great scientific rigor.

    In your editorial, you quote an anonymous source to charge that the petition was filed just so the Center could file suit in 90 days when the USFWS does not rule on all 404 species. Turns out the “anonymous” source was wrong since the Center never sued over the petition despite the findings being about 450 days late. Worse yet, Ted, you knew the “source” was wrong since at the time you printed your oped, because the finding was already a year late then and we hadn’t sued. In fact, the 404 species petition proves the exact opposite of your accusations. The Center almost never quickly sues over a late 90-day finding.

    Your charge is absolutely, completely false. You either knew this and lied about it, or you were too lazy too check on whether your assertions were true. Either way, you completely failed to have any journalistic integrity.

    So now you shift gears and here attack it as “a ridiculous, ill-researched petition.” When asked to back up the factual claim by Andy Stahl, you can’t name a single one of the supposedly frivolous species. All you can say is: “To be listed we need good evidence that they’re insecure. And we don’t have it.” There is no evidence in that statement, Ted, it’s just another accusation. The Center did its scientific homework and publicly presented its scientific arguments. It is high time you did some serious research as well as instead of blabbing your baseless opinions.

    Your charge against our dwarf pygmy seahorse petition– “There is absolutely no evidence that it should be listed” — at least has a shred of evidence behind it. But only a shred. Yes, the IUCN said that it lacks sufficient data to designate the seahorse as endangered…but that was in 2003. A little detail you forgot to mention. The Center petitioned to list in 2011.

    You also forgot to to mention that the IUCN simultaneously declared that “this species may be particularly susceptible to decline”, that it may be threatened in the United States, and that it is listed as threatened by the American Fisheries Society.

    Ted, how do you explain not revealing this information, when you claim there “is absolutely no evidence” the species is endangered? And how, when you are arguing against the Center’s petition, did you fail to cite any of the petition’s evidence? The petition cites lots of scientific research documenting seahorse declines in the Gulf of Mexico in response to seagrass declines. It is ludicrous to say there is “absolutely no evidence” and it’s unprofessional to make that accusation without addressing the evidence we in fact presented.

    There is nothing frivolous in the work to save imperiled species. I wish I could say the same for your vicious, error-laden, and frankly, dishonest editorials.

  26. Kieran:

    Since your organization has done so much “scientific research” regarding the “404 imperiled species” that you have listed, perhaps you can answer the question I posed earlier:

    How many of these “species” can breed and produce viable off-spring with other “species” on (or off) this list?

    This is an important biological and political question and I would certainly appreciated a reasoned and knowledgeable answer.


    Bob Z.

  27. Of the four sources I quoted only one asked for anonymity because, as he said, the CBD would “go after him.” He’s a high-ranking official in the Obama administration whom I’ve known for years. He doesn’t “lie,” and I have never known him to be in error regarding wildlife issues. Nor did I quote him as saying, as Suckling wrong claims, “that the Center would file a lawsuit in 90 days when the USFWS failed to issue a decision on its petition to protect 404 imperiled southeastern aquatic species.” Again, Mr. Suckling and I could have a more productive and interesting exchange if he would read my piece. I do not “hate” the Center. I have known and worked with many fine, young, idealistic people there who are ill-served by their leadership. And I recognize that, even with that leadership, the Center has done many good things for wildlife. As for the money the Center takes from the public and wildlife no one can say how much because the agencies refuse to report what the figures are. But the real cost to wildlife of the Center’s endless and often meritless petitions and lawsuits is the weeks and months federal biologists must spend conferring with the Justice Department instead of working for wildlife as we pay them to do.

  28. Bob Z, none of the 404 species species produce viable offspring with other species. All are distinct species or subspecies as recognized by NatureServe.


    • Kieran:

      According to its website, NatureServe’s three principal goals are:

      1) Help make biodiversity a mainstream consideration in all significant conservation and natural resource management decisions by making it simple for conservationists, government agencies, corporations, and landowners to access and use high-quality biodiversity information.

      2) Advance our scientific resources and information technology systems in order to meet the needs of our clients and partners.

      3) Strengthen our organizational effectiveness and capacity and better leverage the power of the NatureServe network to inform conservation action at local, regional, national, and international scales.

      Sounds like an advocacy group to me, complete with clients and an action plan.

      OK, to quit playing around with such politicized and value-laden terms as “biodiversity” and “conservation,” Kieran, how many “species” and “sub-species” on this list can breed and produce viable off-spring with other “species and sub-species” on this list and others?

      And when did this ever become the Endangered Species (and Sub-Species) Act in the first place?

      Two questions now.

        • Two questions, one answer. I’ll go for the biology one, because that makes the most sense:

          So you are claiming that spotted hoot owls and barred hoot owls cannot interbreed and produce viable off-spring? That your list of local crawdad varieties are incapable of interbreeding amongst themselves, given the opportunity? Same with listed butterflies and mayflies?

          I think your answer is wrong. I also think the USFS and US taxpayers are being dealt an enormous and unjustified expense via misuse of the original intentions of the Endangered SPECIES Act by these types of legal filings and actions.

          Personal opinion (except the biology part).

  29. Ted, you can dance around this changing the subject as long as you want, but here is the bottom line:

    1) you claimed the Center makes huge amounts of money by filing “broadsides” of Freedom of Information Act requests then suing when the agency can’t possibly respond in 30 days. IN FACT, over the past four years, the Center received legal fees over just one FOIA timeline suit, and the amount we got was just $3,031.

    2) You claimed we filed a huge number of lawsuits over late 90-day findings on ESA listing petitions in order to make huge sums of money. IN FACT, we filed an average of one such suit per year over the last four years, being reimbursed an average of $3,867 per year.

    3) Following up, you cite an “anonymous” source insinuating that we’ll frivolously file suit because the USFWS can’t respond to our 404 endangered southeastern species petition in 90-days. IN FACT, even at the time you printed your piece, the agency was over a year late and Center hadn’t sued. To the contrary, we reached an agreement the agency on processing the petition without a suit.

    You either knew these accusations were false, or you were too lazy too check them. Either way, you completely failed to have any journalistic integrity. Shame on you.

  30. As I keep pointing out, Mr. Suckling and I could have a more interesting and productive exchange if he would read my piece. I did not claim that the Center “makes huge amounts of money by filing broadsides of Freedom of Information Act requests then suing when the agency can’t possibly respond in 30 days.” No one knows how much money the Center makes this way because the agencies won’t release the figures.

    As I’ve said, the real cost in money and wildlife of the center’s lawsuits and petitions to list species its attorneys–who lack scientific training, imagine should be managed with limited ESA funds–is the weeks and months federal biologists have to take from their important work to confer with Justice and vet these endless petitions.

    Still, the Center’s many critics would like to believe Mr. Suckling when he says his outfit collects few attorney fees. But I’ll ask this question: Why should we believe anything the Center tells us when a court of law ruled that it published gross fabrications about a good rancher working to save biodiversity and, as a result, assessed it $600,000 in damages and penalties in what was apparently the fist successful libel suit against an environmental organization in U.S. history?

    Finally, can I or my readers be blamed for believing Jamie Clark instead of Mr. Suckling? Clark, who served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now directs Defenders of Wildlife, says this: “The suits came mostly from CBD…. The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service isn’t making progress. Citizens need to be able to petition for species in trouble, but this has become an industry.” Is Ms. Clark also “lying,” Mr. Suckling?

  31. Ted: the more you keep writing, the less and less I think of it. Too bad Sharon’s vitriolic italicizer wasn’t fired up for your comments. Good luck on your quest against the Center for Biological Diversity. That’s important work your doing there, Ted.

  32. Matthew: Why would you imply that Mr. Williams comment was “vitriolic”? He presented facts which cannot, by definition, be “vitriolic.” And he made an excellent point about CBD’s credibility in a civil way. I have supported the CBD, but until I hear from Mr. Suckling that Mr. Williams’ report about the $600,000 finding against the CBD was false I will support the CBD no more.

  33. Westy: If you look at the original post and read the comments from top to bottom maybe you’ll see a little more what I’m talking about. But then again, maybe not, which is fine too.

  34. You are backpeddling Ted. How can you possibly say you did not claim the Center is making huge amounts of money from timeline lawsuits? Here is exactly what you asserted:

    “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.”

    “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.”

    You accused us of being motivated by “acquiring the public’s money” and capped it with a nasty quote saying we are “ecocriminals” making “obscene” amounts of money by suing the USFWS.

    Your statements are as clear as they are vicious and false. You can’t run from them.

    You provided absolutely no data backing up your hateful spew. Nothing.

    The Center provided exact, complete data showing you lied. Turns out the Center files very few 90-day ESA or Freedom of Information Act timeline suits. We receive a tiny amount of legal reimbursements for winning these cases (less than $2,000 a year from both combined); much less than we spent bringing them.

    Other than lying again and saying you didn’t make these charges, your most direct defense has been that you don’t have any data because the agencies wouldn’t give them to you.

    That’s pathetic.

    Anyone with a shred of ethics or professionalism would 1) not make hateful, vicious claims if they don’t have data to back it up, or 2) put in a little old fashioned work to track the data down. Instead of fabricating charges about our misuse of the Freedom of Information Act, you should have used it yourself. It’s called research, Ted. It’s something real reporters do all the time.

  35. Whoops, special characters didn’t come through.

    Ok, Ted, “major source of revenue” not equal “huge”; “obscene amount of money” not equal “huge”. Gotcha. The readers can decide on whether you’re backpeddling.

    They can also decide how they feel about you publicly accusing us of receiving these huge amounts of money, then admitting later that you don’t actually know how much money because you didn’t bother to do the research before making the accusation. The Center, on the other hand, has responded with actual data, revealing exactly how much money from how many suits it was reimbursed.

  36. I have Googled Ted Williams’ writings in all the wildlife magazines he writes for. He goes off on all these harangues and crusades, most of which I find highly obnoxious and wrong. For example one of his major missions is getting wild horses out of the West; and calls them “alien,” despite the fact that they evolved on this continent. He wants to kill feral cats instead of neutering them. And he whoops it up for the ridiculous project of Arizona and the feds of killing TROUT in the Colorado River to save a bunch of CHUBS. CHUBS! And this guy call himself a trout fly fisherman.

    As a supporter of the Center for BD I would like to believe Keiran Suckling that William’s crusade against the Center for BD is another of his stupid projects. But Mr. Suckling isn’t winning me over. His vitriol in these last two posts (right Matthew?) is really over the top. And he needs to be more honest. I don’t know what kind of fund collecting would be “major” or “obscene.” But when Williams used the word “major” he was not, as Suckling claims, talking about the Center for BD. He was talking about the entire environmental litigation industry, as it’s being called, of which the Center for BD is just a part. And it wasn’t Williams who used the word “obscene.” It was Amos Eno in a quote he gave Williams. Maybe Eno was lying, but what on earth could have been his motive? Maybe he was just wrong, but Eno ran the fund-raising arm of the Fish and Wildlife Service. If anyone knows about funds obscene and otherwise, it’s Eno. Could it be that that’s why Williams sought him out? Finally, when I was Googling Williams I saw a statement on another site from Suckling saying that losing the $600,000 his org. paid for telling libelous untruths about a rancher didn’t really matter or affect the total funds. So I assume that my little contributions have been meaningless, and they will cease.

  37. So Westy thinks Kieran’s vitriol too testy and unconvincing?

    Methinks Westy doesn’t understand his money goes to CBD and its urgent causes — not Kieran — yet Westy has chosen to reduce CBD’s work into this single episode of Kieran’s exchange with Ted?

    Well, Westy, if that is how you feel about CBD’s work, why feign the label of “supporter” just to create an impression of chagrined former supporter?

    Kieran responded aptly, (and rightly in-kind), to Ted’s false assertions and likely won more converts and cheers from supporters than lost– (that is if a faux-supporter even counts.)

    Whether Sharon can manage her bias in an objective enough manner to attribute either “6” or “9” as meaningful to the reader is not as important as the fact that Ted (as a journalist by profession) clearly initiated an over the top and poorly researched attack which was easily exposed as such.

    WHO happened to fire the first shot matters, regardless of whether the moderator can set aside her biases or not. That Kieran’s response was rated a “9” (even by Sharon’s biases@ three units more egregious than Ted), belies the importance of who started this.

  38. I think the CBD now understands what it is like to have your own self-important life’s work threatened by people who don’t care about or understand your chosen profession. Let’s make sure we know where EVERY penny goes, and why, under EAJA. Some people seem to fear the “transparency” that will come with a reformed EAJA. Serial litigators also fear those C-words…… Collaboration, Consensus and Compromise. We need MORE hoops for litigators to jump through BEFORE projects go to court. If you really are sincere in making projects better, you should be required to bring site-specific issues to light, early in the process.

  39. Pattern Recognition:

    The full power of the corrupting influence of corporate “partnerships” with national “environmental” groups is now as well understood as the same corrupting influence upon members of Congress and democracy itself. The corporate money stemming from the billionaire Koch brothers has been widely reported to have literally created the Tea Party Movement out of very thin corporate media airtime.

    It was the House Tea Party feeding frenzy back in February which used all its resources to attack EAJA (which the nonprofit, Veterans for Common Sense described, as “Tea Party Slashes Legal Rights of Elderly and Veterans”.) That Ted Williams was moved to adopt the same rhetorical strategies as those of the Tea Party is then realized as anything but coincidence.

    So it is through the lens of the corporatized Trout Unlimited (TU) and the corporatized National Audubon Society (NAS), (which Ted Williams’ affiliations are well known), that we can then understand his diatribes labeling CBD as “radical”, and adopting the same rhetorical hammer used by Teabaggers.

    On the other end of Ted Williams’ hammer was the familiar pry bar employing the “corporate divide and conquer strategy” first articulated by Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin, a public relations company, based in Washington D.C., which specializes in providing intelligence on activist organisations to their corporate clients.

    Armed with this trove of intelligence, MBD unleashed its strategists who then broke down all environmentalists into four categories:
    “Radical” (which of course would be a label used at their discretion)
    “Idealist” (which was regarded as a sticky wicket due to their selfless motivation)
    “Realist” (which once shown political inevitability, was the easiest category to convince)
    “Opportunist” (which was more motivated by personal gain and hence, the easiest to co-opt)

    So the first step was to “isolate the radicals”, excoriate their methods and pry them from the ranks of environmentalism’s power structure. Then “educate the idealists” in a careful, patient manner so that they join the ranks of the LAVISHLY funded Realists, and of course, the opportunists would then follow willingly.

    Ted Williams’ diatribe against CBD in this case exemplifies Teabagger tactics while employing corporate divide and conquer strategy using his corporate media soapbox, and this all comes together as no surprise at all.

    • Try a paint roller next time, instead of a “broad brush”, David. You’ll get better coverage!

      The cry of eco-lawyers today is, “Preserve the Controversy!” How many species were “saved” before the Wallow Firestorm? How much ESA habitat is now lost for a century, or more? Let’s see Mr. Suckling deny the CBD had any involvement in the largest and most destructive fire in Arizona history. If one knew there were fuels problems, then why the insistence on “preserving” those fuels? Whacking out 2 inch diameter trees has little effect on fire safety and forest resilience. Many forests are overstocked at most size classes, necessitating thinning at most diameters. Prescribed burns cannot possibly do more than half the fuels reductions needed. Let-burn policies are rapidly losing their scientific appeal. Just letting whatever happens to our forests, including climate change, arson, lightning, car wrecks, terrorists, bark beetles, invasive species and drought, cannot result in a “restored” condition. Those are just some of the impacts affecting our forests. We cannot “preserve” away these problems of modern day society and our semi-natural landscapes.

  40. Larry, (normally, quotations reference actual quotes, which you then provide source info. Unless you have evidence a litigant defending environmental law said, “preserve the controversy”, this is just Larry making false claims again)
    In any case,
    Either you can’t grasp the enormity of corporatization of America as the cause of much of our dystopian nightmare, OR you take delight in preferring to remain high centered on your anti-preservationist rants as the real causes of well documented, egregious, public lands mismanagement which even the USFS widely admits.

    We get it: you’re deeply offended by those who would defend environmental laws designed to maintain ecosystem integrity. Fortunately, there are some remaining vestiges of democracy, (the judiciary) that still function to the extent it keeps these options available to the concerned citizenry.

  41. Quotations also often indicate sarcasm at work, and I often feel that some people’s defense of preservationism pretends ignore the unintended consequences of doing nothing. Hence, I use sarcasm when they talk about “protecting” forests by walling them off to management. It becomes even more ludicrous when people contend that catastrophic wildfires and bark beetle infestations are “natural and beneficial”. People like Chad Hanson, who prefers snags over green healthy forests.

    I also think we can add “corporate preservationism” to your list, as well, David. It’s all too easy to blame corporations for making tons of money and not paying much in taxes. Always blaming corporations for anything bad that happened is quite in vogue today. However, can you find any corporations impacting current National Forests in California? Yep, I’ll bet Sierra Pacific Industries is really pushing hard to harvest all those 14″ dbh trees they have been thinning since 1993. Yep, there’s some ugly profits associated with “corporate eco-forestry”, eh?

    Sadly, the serial litigators utilize activist judges in the 9th Circuit Court to get what they want. Even those very same judges are quite worried that they are being blamed for environmental damages stemming from their court decisions. They fear that the details of the conflicting documents force them to follow bad laws, regulations, policies, plans, etc.

    Since many listed species are dependent on specialized habitats, the loss of these lands, like those within the Wallow Fire, represent a tangible and terrible loss to those species. It is very sad to see people standing behind flawed restrictions, while forests and habitats are destroyed. Again, blaming the past to block the future cannot result in anything good happening.

  42. Fotoware,

    1. No lawsuit can be filed unless the plaintiff first identifies site specific problems. In the case of the ESA, the plaintiff must additionally give the defendant 60-day notice. In the case of NEPA, the plaintiff must first participate in the public comment/appeal proces.

    2. When first created, EAJA required the Department of Justice to track all payments. This was stopped by REPUBLICANS in Congress in the 1990s. All enviro groups I know of support a return to complete account. You may want to ask the Republicans why they overrule the provision.

    A report was recently published showing that non-enviros recieved almost 50% of the EAJA returns in suits against the U.S. Forest Service. Why are we not hearing a great outcry from the right about the corporate/resource attorneys getting EAJA fees?

    The GAO will soon be coming out with a report that I believe will show that the Center specifically, and environmental groups generally, receive very little money under EAJA. The issue is all smoke and mirrors. Most of it is driven by industry funded studies by Karen Budd-Falen. Those studies are wildly false. Even more blatantly so than Williams. Interestingly, Budd-Falen failed to mention that she has been a major recipient of EAJA return.

    3. “Let’s see Mr. Suckling deny the CBD had any involvement in the largest and most destructive fire in Arizona history. If one knew there were fuels problems, then why the insistence on “preserving” those fuels?”

    There were no appeals or litigation filed in the Wallow Fire area in the past decade. Indeed, we and other enviros supported restoration thinning and urban/wildland thinning in the northern portion of the fire. The latter has been credited with saving hundreds of houses from being burned.

    • I’m pretty sure that the current state of the interior of the Wallow Fire is MUCH worse off than if we had managed the fuels using modern commercial fuels reduction projects. Of course, the adjective “commercial” raises red flags in certain circles, evoking visions of three log loads and clearcutting. Here in California, “commercial” means thinning trees with an average diameter of 14″ dbh, while protecting old growth. I have to assume that once lumber mills are boarded up, litigation in their former locales drops “radically”.

      That being said, I’ve always liked actions which support water quality. The CBD seems to have placed a lot of emphasis on protecting riparian areas from bad grazing practices. Indeed, livestock and ranchers prefer the quality feed that comes with the scarce water in the states of Arizona and New Mexico. Devoting those sensitive water sources to poorly-controlled grazing is not a good thing. I do know that water quality is going to be affected in the Wallow Fire area, maybe for decades. Nearly every large fire that I have worked in has had serious erosion issues, with BAER teams underestimating the erosive power of concentrated water flows.

      Of course, Mr. Suckling’s idea of “thinning” is rather different than the Forest Service’s version. Restoration must include a return to former tree densities in ALL sizes that are overstocked, as well as a return to historic species compositions. This idea is one that preservationists refuse to address. They desire a pre-man forest, without even knowing what that includes. The Wallow Fire is a good example of the unintended consequences of preservationism. We need maps and acreages of unmanaged forests and high intensity burn areas to see what we could have done different.

      Of course, the economy has had an impact, as well, reducing demand for lumber. The challenge facing us is finding where we can replace imported plastic products with ones made from American wood. It’s “greener”, leaving forests healthier and reducing our carbon footprint, putting people to work in this country.

  43. Hello: The following opinion piece was written by Felice Pace of California. For years, Felice was a regular contributor and blogger with High Country News. After Felice published this piece defending the Center for Biological Diversity, HCN told him they would not allow him to publish any more stories on their web site.


    Green Justice for Green Groups?
    Journalistic angst over green group lawsuits is out of line

    As I’ve pointed out before, HCN editors and some contributors have a problem with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and that group’s plain speaking leader, Kieran Suckling. In the May 30th issue, for example, editor Ray Ring and contributor Hal Herring blast the group – suggesting that their lawsuits were responsible for Congress’ wolf delisting legislation. Ray said that Suckling “wants to steamroll opponents” and Herring lumps CBD with other organizations which he derisively dubs “lawsuit filing groups.”

    I wonder how many lawsuits the Farm Bureau Federation filed last year. And how many did Monsanto file? As compared to CBD, I’m betting both tallied way more lawsuits. Yet I doubt Ray would suggest that the Farm Bureau wants to “steamroll opponents” or that Herring would label Monsanto a “lawsuit filing group.”

    My point is that many western journalists – including several of those who consider themselves “environmentalists” – harbor a deep-seated hostility toward successful environmental organizations, that is, toward those which actually win. So long as an e-group is the underdog battling rich corporations and powerful government agencies and loosing, they are heroic. But once the enviros are perceived as winning – whenever they gain even a modicum of power – the attitude changes 180 degrees and articles like those by Ring and Herring’s pop up like wildflowers after snowmelt.

    In his editorial blast Ray contrasts the “warlike strategy” of CBD and others as pervasive enough to “shape the general public misperception that all environmentalists are determined to get their way regardless of the costs to other people’s livelihoods and lifestyles.” I think that statement is dead wrong. The “misperception” predates the rise to prominence of CBD and like groups and is rather the direct result of planned PR campaigns backed by corporations and right wing ideologs. Fox News, MSNBC and the rest of the sensationalizing press – and Ring himself – are much more responsible for how environmental organizations are viewed that anything those groups do or say for themselves.

    Ring does have good words for one environmental organization – WildEarth Guardians – because that group “reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service” which will “limit further ESA legal actions for six years, to allow the agency time to decide the fate of 251 wait-listed species.” Then comes this blast: “Predictably, Suckling’s group has challenged the compromise.”

    I guess Ray would not have predicted what happened on July 12th. That’s when the Center for Biological Diversity finalized an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agreement requires the agency to make decisions on backlogged ESA candidate species by 2018. In return, “the Center will withdraw its legal opposition to a May 2011 agreement between the agency and another conservation group, which the Center argued was too weak, unenforceable and missing key species in need of protection.”

    It seems to me that Ray Ring has some crow to eat on this one. It turns out that CBD’s “warlike strategy” has nothing at all to do with aggression but rather is what the group’s leaders believed was needed to achieve their objective: that federal agencies conduct ESA programs in accordance with law, ESA regulations and court precedents. CBD and organizations like it believes that environmental laws should be treated like other laws – they should either be enforced or repealed.

    As it turns out, in the American West the idea that environmental law should be enforced like other laws is a radical idea. For far too long and for far too many westerners, environmental laws have been occasions for visceral complaint after which they are ignored. The agencies responsible for enforcing those laws have too often looked the other way. And environmental journalists have been too eager to maintain that status quo.

    What CBD and the other “lawsuit filing groups” are doing is what is needed to change that situation. Recognizing that, HCN editors and other western environmental journalists should stop attacking them for doing the law enforcement job those responsible fail to do. Instead I’d suggest spotlighting public officials who refuse to do their sworn duty to enforce our bedrock environmental laws.

  44. Williams complained above that the Center “fired off a ridiculous, ill-researched petition to list 404 species!” He did not provide any evidence or explanation for this claim. Nor did he mention that the 1,400 petition was not “fired off”; it took a team of scientists a year to complete.

    Well today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled on 347 of the species. All were scientifically judged to warrant review for Endangered Species Act protection. Thus the federal agency in charge of endangered species certainly didn’t find the petition ridiculous or ill-research.

  45. Congratulations to the Center and thanks, Kieran, for keeping up with this discussion and making sure the truth and the facts see the light of day.

  46. Ditto, Matthew’s congrats to CBD and their dedicated pursuit of seeing that the government simply abides by the laws of the land.

    There is no doubt with such successful outcomes we will be hearing from those whose livelihoods are linked to the status quo management paradigms which attempt to subvert public process and judicial review. Democracy’s balance of powers proves highly problematic for some of us.

    This sequence of entries beginning with Williams’ handsomely funded attacks on “radicals” depend upon Pavlovian responses of certain readers trained to salivate on command the robo-anti-“preservationist” rants against the citizen defense of environmental law.

    • NEWSFLASH!! Meanwhile, back to the Wallow Fire, where endangered species habitat STILL hasn’t grown back, and is not expected to for 100 years. Tourist dollars are not expected to be returning any time soon, as well. What was the total acreage of high intensity fire damage, again? Warping forward in relative time, how well is the Rodeo-Chedeski burn area “recovering”? The Biscuit Fire is almost 10 years old, and how many spotted owls and goshawks have returned to nest? We need to look at these situations for the longterm, as proof that today’s firestorms are (still) not “natural and beneficial”.

      • Fairly recent article about the Rodeo-Chedeski fire and recovery.

        “Would the forest recover?

        The rains came, eating away at unprotected soil, cutting into slopes, carrying trees and boulders in a flooding erosion. Bark beetles, which contributed to the blaze by killing trees, moved in on those weakened by heat.

        Experts like to emphasize that wildfires burn in mosaic patterns, sometimes leaving unscathed greenbelts or burning along the ground so that larger trees survive. Rodeo-Chediski, however, incinerated so much land so completely that survival patches appear lost and lonely.

        Miles of forest will remain a wasteland for generations.”

        I’m sure that the Wallow Fire will suffer the same eco-agony.

        • “Experts like to emphasize that wildfires burn in mosaic patterns.”

          Personally, I’m tired of those “experts.” PEOPLE burn the landscape in mosaic patterns, NOT “wildfires.” Wildfires follow fuel and topography and seem to have little or no regard for expert opinions or patterned mosaics.

          More agenda-based “best available science” wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, costing homes and lives.

  47. I just don’t get it. When I read Bevington’s book, it sounded like CBD was proud to be “radical” . P. 6 “In contrast to the national organizations, many of the founders of the new groups described themselves as “radical.”.. For these activists, the label could best be described as “unconstrained” in the sense that they were willing to pursue the full environmental protections needed to preserve species from extinction even when those goals were considered controversial or politically unrealistic.”

    “The Center’s extensive use of litigation as a tactic is the group’s defining characteristic.” There are many ways of moving environmental interests forward; if you hire lawyers, chances are that they will see legal paths as most preferable.

    I’m not saying that’s bad, if you hired engineers you would find that the solution to climate change is cheap non-carbon energy. I’m just saying that “what you do is a function of who you hire.”

    I think that lawyers bring a different perspective to negotiation. For example, I was involved in trade discussions over biotech regulations with the EU. That is definitely a different atmosphere than discussing a project at a public meeting. ” Getting the best deal or winning” for my client and “resolving a conflict in a fair manner to all concerned” are two different approaches that can yield different outcomes, and make people feel OK, or not so much, about the outcomes.

    Finally either Kieran said this in his interview or not:

    “New species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners … feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules. … Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.”

    If he did, warfare is his model and we’re in a war on different sides. That is a different model from we’re all in this together trying to work out our differences. I get a pretty hateful vibe from this (my peers and colleagues are the ones intended to be “mocked and destroyed.”) A lot of good things have been done on this planet, e.g. civil rights movement with keeping to the higher ground. Don’t know why we couldn’t aspire to that for the environmental movement.. am I missing something?.

    As my hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

  48. Only when a federal judge makes California do the right thing and reintroduce the wolf, will there be any chance to reform the ESA(there is certainly no home grown enviro activist appetite for such a thing). So good luck CBD!

  49. There’s irony to the Civil Rights Movement being invoked here, especially as a model for effective change through respectful dialogue “to work out our differences”.

    First, this dynamic of respectful dialogue “to work out our differences” is precisely what is occurring in the courts. To suggest meaningful change will somehow occur by abandoning both the law and the judicial process, is itself a radically false notion. Hiring a mediator “to work out our differences” is not commensurate with the threats we face from the warfare being waged by predatory capitalism. Ascribing this warfare to Suckling, (“If he did, warfare is his model…”) is both a radically false attribution of the origins of this economic warfare, and a well demonstrated false solution to “moving environmental interests forward.”

    Second, the efficacy of the Civil Rights Movement through MLK’s non-violent means might have incrementally “moved (Civil Rights) forward”, but institutionalized warfare of racism is still being waged, domestically and abroad. After all, how efficacious can the Civil Rights Movement have been, with the present emasculation of our Constitutional Bill of Rights based upon our global War on Terrorism which is widely waged through acts of racism?

    That predatory economic policies are not represented here as central to our predicament and not also a “hateful vibe” here underscores the chasm which separates the two sides represented in this discussion. The consequences go far beyond the dangers of hurt feelings.

  50. I was not suggesting that the law and the judicial process be abandoned. I just think that mediation should be pursued prior to litigation, perhaps required. Suppose we had experienced mediators and an open dialogue, on the internet, say about claims and counterclaims (in this case about wildlife impacts). There would be a great deal of mutual learning and understanding and at the end of the day, litigation could go forward, with the history of the mediation efforts documented.

    As I have mentioned before, I lived in one state where (at least I remember) if you wanted to get divorced, you were required to go through mediation simply because of the burden to the courts of all the cases. We are not a rich country anymore, and EIS’s are not cheap; if the real solution is to do something different on a specific unit.

    The same funds we use for EIS’s and copying administrative records could be spent on watershed rehabilitation. What is best for the land?

    You seem to be arguing that the enemy is so bad (predatory capitalism) that a warfare model (seeing the other as “the enemy”) is necessary. MLK saw it as

    Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.


    “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”


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