Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In defense of CBD

Posted on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:13 PM

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 on this one, including outdoor writer Ted Williams, whose recent essay in the Independent (see Range, "Extreme green," June 9 2011), 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. But often they are not because of industry pressure. Witness the complete dominance of the U.S. Minerals Management Service by the oil industry in the run-up to BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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, Wal-Mart and developers who have money to burn. 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—but only 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 Ted Williams, who accuses CBD of filing petitions to protect hundreds of endangered species then suing the government when it inevitably fails to rule on the petitions within 90 days. In Williams's tightly scripted anti-environmental message, it's a racket producing "a major source of revenue" for the center.

Nonsense. Between 2008 and 2011, CBD received legal fee reimbursements for an average of one case per year challenging the government's failure to process endangered species protection petitions within 90 days. The average yearly total was $3,867; much less than CBD 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 over a year. I would submit that spending $3,867 of the federal government's money to save the Mexican gray wolf, the walrus and the 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 of a CBD petition to protect 404 rare southeastern plants and animals. The alleged "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, CBD 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.

The 1,145-page petition, by the way, was written by three CBD ecologists with contributions by a dozen academic scientists and scientific societies specializing in aquatic ecology. The $75,000 research project took a year of hard work and set the standard for state-of-the-art regional biodiversity assessments. Far from a nuisance, it is a massive contribution of critical scientific information to be used by state and federal wildlife agencies.

Without providing any supporting data—not even an "anonymous" source this time—Williams goes on to charge that CBD 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, CBD 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.

CBD 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, cutthroat trout and wolverines in Montana and beyond have a place to live and grow is more important than money.

It's why we do what we do.

Kieran Suckling

Executive director

Center for Biological Diversity

Sportsmen? Please.

Posted on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Thanks for your excellent story about the efforts of many dedicated folks to protect the Great Burn (see "Guarding the Burn," July 14, 2011). It is indeed a remarkable place, and I consider myself lucky to have visited a few spots high within this proposed wilderness.

Unfortunately, parts of the Great Burn and 36 million acres of similarly protected areas in Montana and the nation are coming under assault in the U.S. House of Representatives. The latest attack on wild places and wildlife comes in the form of H.R. 1581, a bill cosponsored by Rep. Denny Rehberg and supported by a wealthy, trophy-hunting, wannabe sportsmen group known as the Safari Club.

This bill would remove protection for the millions of acres of roadless areas and Wilderness Study Areas on public land, exposing them to road development that would harm some of our best fish and wildlife habitat, clean water strongholds, and supreme recreational areas where thousands of Montanans and visitors hunt, fish and recreate. More than five million acres in Montana alone that are currently protected under the Roadless Area Conservation Rule would lose protection if H.R. 1581 should pass.

As indicated in the Independent article, these backcountry areas like the Great Burn provide some of the most secure habitat for big game, the cleanest, coldest water for native trout, and other great habitat for rare and iconic Montana wildlife species such as fisher, wolverine, lynx, bull trout and grizzly bear.

As a Montana resident, backcountry traveler, hunter and angler, I am offended that Rehberg and a group that purports to represent sportsmen would support efforts to open such important wildlife habitat to road building and development.

Derek Goldman


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bees and weeds

Posted on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 4:00 AM

As a Missoula beekeeper, many people ask me if I have been losing my beehives to colony collapse disorder. Most people don’t understand that CCD is not a disease, it is a condition caused by environmental poisons and diseases.

I don’t lose any sleep over CCD, but I am constantly infuriated with the general public’s ignorance about pesticides and their effect on honeybees and the environment. Not only is there a lot of evidence that pesticides are the reason for CCD being so widespread, but pesticides (mainly herbicides) in western Montana have killed more of my honeybees this year than CCD ever has.

Based on what I’ve seen at the front entrances of my hives, I’ve lost 30 to 50 percent of my foraging workers that have been poisoned by the county, state, federal and private landowners who have sprayed herbicides, all in the name of a false “war on weeds.” The concept of “weeds” is a totally unscientific, biased viewpoint pushed by chemical companies and their friends (i.e. government entities using taxpayer money to poison the earth). And when people start poisoning the soil and groundwater in the name of an illusory battle against plants, everybody ends up drinking these poisons in their water. This most certainly causes cancer and miscarriages.

If people were to stop using chemicals in trying to solve their poor land management practices, not only would the environment be healthier, but we would have less cancer and fewer miscarriages. But if we keep on spraying poisons onto our very porous soils, we will surely see the complete sterilization of western Montana. I am sure no one wants to see honeybees or any other pollinator disappear forever just because someone told you that a plant is bad and it should be killed with poison.

Jacob Wustner


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Circus slaves

Posted on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Anyone driving down South Avenue past the fairgrounds entrance July 9 or 10 prior to one of four circus performances might have seen a group of citizens protesting the abusive use of animals in circuses. Our numbers ranged from three at one performance to 10 at another, but regardless, our message was the same: captive animals don’t belong in circuses.

Carson & Barnes, the circus in question, has a string of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection violations including transport accidents, injuries, poor health maintenance, escapes, and more. But even if no violations occurred, animals don’t belong in circuses where they are simply slaves with broken spirits trained to perform through abuse and intimidation. Where’s the entertainment in that?

Many thanks to the kind parents who, with youngsters in tow, turned around and left when they learned the circus featured captive animals. They refused to support animal exploitation and taught their kids a beautiful lesson in compassion.

People concerned about animals and those in a position to sponsor circuses can find more information (including animal-free alternatives) at Animal-free circuses are growing in popularity, as are the locations around the U.S. and world that have pledged to contract with humane, non-animal circuses only. Can Missoula County join their ranks? It depends on us—the species that can either exploit fellow sentient animals for entertainment or treat them with dignity, compassion, and justice.

Kathleen Stachowski


Lookout outlooks

Posted on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Ana Maria Spagna’s piece “Cabin Fever” (see Writers on the Range, July 7, 2011) profoundly missed the mark. While the author may dislike Wilderness Watch’s work to protect the Glacier Peak Wilderness by taking the Forest Service to court over this unlawfully built replica, her opinions and emotional attachment to the structure don’t change the facts surrounding its construction and history (or lack thereof).

Putting aside for the moment the fact that the Wilderness Act prohibits the construction or reconstruction of non-essential buildings in wilderness, the Forest Service dealt history the deathblow in 2002 when it tore down what remained of the original hand-built and mule-hauled Green Mountain lookout constructed in 1933. What’s now standing at the top of Green Mountain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Washington is a new structure built in 2009 that was helicoptered in, not packed on mules; supported by concrete footings rather than native stones; assembled with power tools, not hand saws and hammers; and built without any public notice or environmental analysis. Its construction is a testament to modern engineering and transportation technology rather than the pioneering wilderness skills by which the original lookout was hewn. To be sure, the agency re-used some of the original materials and the “cabin” looks like many old lookouts, but to equate the historic value of this new building to the original is akin to placing a grizzly from the taxidermist’s shop in the forest and pretending it to be the living, breathing, wilderness beast that once roamed there. No proper “hoops were hopped,” as Ms. Spagna likes to say, likely because the agency knew it would be breaking the law and preferred not to announce the fact in advance.

Wilderness Watch’s lawsuit seeks to restore the wilderness character of the Glacier Peak Wilderness by returning Green Mountain to its natural condition. To claim the basis of the lawsuit is the use of helicopters disregards too many important facts. It’s not the “offense of hearing a helicopter” that deserves a lawsuit, but rather the Forest Service’s disregard for the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and the resulting harm done to the wilderness.

Everybody has a reason for giving his or her particular interest precedence over the law and the restrictions imposed on others. But the Wilderness Act and its founders got it right in setting wilderness apart from all other public lands “as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man…retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

As “increasing populations accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization” spread across the whole of North America, the Wilderness Act protects extraordinary places like the Glacier Peak Wilderness so future generations can know wild, unsettled and undeveloped lands.

Dawn Serra

Wilderness Watch


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Be wary of China

Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Breaking into the Chinese market is riddled with challenges like no other market. U.S. businesses are flocking to China in pursuit of rising earnings. “However, time after time, local entrepreneurs, either with or without the tacit support of the Chinese government, have found ways to fleece American companies bare,” according to an article on the VentureBeat website.

Ed Royce, chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, quoted an influential government official in his published testimony during a March subcommittee hearing: “China’s indigenous innovation policies threaten global intellectual property protections, fair government procurement policies, market competition, and innovators’ freedom to decide how and when they transfer technology.” He also stated “China has a history of promises made, promises broken.”

Caution is in order when doing business with China. The Chinese regime refuses to adjust its currency, which equals job loss in America; thinks nothing of stealing, confiscating, and copying intellectual property; uses reserves of American debt to escalate the Chinese military; and uses the de facto natural resources embargo through its new colonialism to put a noose around the necks of all the world’s economies. Not to mention the government’s well documented, egregious human rights violations.

Perhaps we need to look at the natural resources around the world and fully grasp how many of them are being controlled by China’s “colonial strategy.” I highly recommend a book, Death by China, which gives good insight into the way the Chinese government thinks.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do business in China. It may be a good opportunity to remind their government of the importance of human rights, good solid business ethics, trust, and not compromising them.

Katherine Combes


Coyotes are worse

Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Stop attacking the wolves! They have been around for thousands of years. The Native Americans domesticated the wolf. All dogs are related to wolf through their DNA. They are part of the naturally balanced system. Other states have three times as many wolves as Montana or Idaho and they have no problems with the wolf! The undereducated people can’t tell the difference from wolf or coyotes. Coyotes outnumber wolves 10 to one! They are fearless predators. In my area we have over 400 elk and no wolves. On the other hand, the coyotes are killing dogs, cats, fawns, and small elk. Nobody’s hunting for them. Go to the library and read up on all the wildlife to understand how the people are ruining the natural system and not global warming. So stop picking on the wolf. You people make Montana residents stupid!

Joseph Kranitz


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