litigation imposes huge costs on the country and economy, and has real-world consequencesfor companies and property owners, even while achieving questionable ecological benefits.
Greens Gone Wild
This report attempts to highlight the problem by focusing on the activities of one relativelysmall but highly-litigious environmental group, Sante Fe-based-WildEarth Guardians, or WEG,which was formed with the 2008 merger of Forest Guardians and Sinupu. WEG is relatively newto the green lobbying game, as compared to longer-established players like The Sierra Club orAudubon Society, but it stands out in its eagerness to use litigation as a tool of intimidation,influence and policy-making. In one recent year, as an example, the group cranked-out lawsuitsat a rate of roughly one per week.What’s also interesting -- and to some probably troubling -- about WEG is the group’s cannyability to tap into taxpayer dollars to help subsidize its activities, in the form of legal feereimbursements and government grants. This may strike some as ironic, given that thesubsidies frequently come from the same government agencies that WEG spends its days suing,lobbying, protesting or accusing of procedural or regulatory misconduct. While it might beunfair to say WEG makes money suing the government, or that it couldn’t support itself withoutgovernment grants, the fact is that a growing share of the group’s annual revenue comes fromlegal fee reimbursements or government grants – money that’s coming from taxpayers whomay adamantly oppose the group’s extreme agenda and view WEG as a threat to their propertyrights, jobs, access to public lands and so on.Equally disturbing is the fact that many of the group’s activities seem aimed at tying federalagencies in knots and generating even more paperwork, diverting funds that could go forconservation and preservation to defending lawsuits and complying with court orders. Thedirect government support the group receives thus represents only the tip of an extremelylarge iceberg, which remains largely submerged from public view.With that in mind, let’s learn more about what WEG is doing and what it might be costing us.
Litigation Central, USA
WEG was founded in 1989 as Forest Guardians, which originally organized in opposition to aNew Mexico logging project but quickly expanded its areas of interest and activism to includeopposition to public lands cattle grazing and the protection of riparian areas. It already wasbeginning to shift focus toward energy, opposing drilling and coal mining, at the time of the2008 merger. Although only four years old in its present form, WEG has already made aconsiderable splash (and wreaked considerable havoc, depending on one’s viewpoint) bypursuing a strategy of saturation litigation.