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Monkey Wrenching the Courts

Monkey Wrenching the Courts

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Published by Rich Myslinski

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Rich Myslinski on Jan 24, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Monkey-Wrenching the Courts
How One Green Group Games the Systemfor Headlines and Profit
This is the first in a series of “Monkey-Wrenching the West” reports to be published in themonths ahead, which are aimed at measuring the economic, fiscal, judicial and human costsimposed on the American West by professional green extremists.
January 23, 2012Americans for Prosperity-Colorado
Monkey-Wrenching the Courts
How One Green Group Games the Legal System for Headlines and Profit
Litigation Nation
The extreme litigiousness of American society has by now been widely noted and remarked-upon. What was once decried as a “litigation explosion” has today become a routine, widely-accepted state of affairs in the clogged U.S. court system, which most Americans now seemresigned to, even if not pleased about. But perhaps nowhere are these lawsuit-happytendencies more on display than in the arena of environmental and land management policy,where virtually all decisions are made not through democratic action but by judges – many of them activist judges – who have been empowered to rule like royalty by hyperlitigiousenvironmental groups and poorly-conceived and crafted environmental laws.That these endless (and endlessly expensive and time-consuming) judicial battles have becomecounterproductive and paralyzing is obvious to many, but not to all, unfortunately. Many of thenation’s largest environmental groups continue to turn to saturation litigation as their primarymeans of achieving objectives. Not a week goes by that the newspapers aren’t dotted with oneor two reports of green-inspired lawsuits being threatened, implemented or settled. Federal judges, not federal legislators or federal land managers, make most management decisions onour vast federal land holdings -- lands that hold the key to the nation’s
as well asecological well-being. The threat of potential litigation hangs over virtually every decision aforest manager or park superintendent makes. Huge amounts of bureaucratic time and effortare invested in either guarding against lawsuits or complying with court orders. The ever-present specter of litigation contributes to what former U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworthcalled “analysis paralysis” – the tangle of bureaucratic and legal red tape that prevents federalagencies from taking action or accomplishing their missions, leading to the gradualdeterioration and benign neglect of the very lands that greens claim to love. And many of thesecourt cases can profoundly impact private land owners and private companies as well.The combined burden of this relentless judicial onslaught – a burden that falls not just on thewarring parties and the court system, but on government agencies, private entities and entirecommunities and states -- is hard, maybe impossible to measure, or even fathom, when oneattempts to grasp the whole picture. But there’s no question that environment-inspired
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.

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