Environmental Groups Pose Billion-Dollar Challenge to Ag


by Don Jenkins, Capital Press

The 10 largest environmental organizations operating in the West collectively raise almost $1 billion each year to fund their activities, including filing lawsuits targeting farmers, ranchers, timber companies and the federal government.

The lawsuits often attack farming and ranching activities, but most focus on how the government enforces the federal Endangered Species Act, a law Congress passed in 1973 to protect some plants and animals. They include salmon, sage grouse, wolves and hundreds of other species either listed or under consideration for protection.

Environmental groups have pushed government managers — often through lawsuits — to protect the populations. In California alone, 321 species are protected under the ESA, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In Oregon, the number is 62, in Washington it’s 57, and in Idaho 22 species are listed. Those listings are accompanied by reams of regulations to protect the species and their habitats.

Though government agencies and agricultural groups attempt to negotiate with the environmentalists, doing that is often difficult, industry representatives say.

Dairy farmer Jay Gordon, director of governmental affairs for the Washington State Dairy Federation, says negotiating compromises to agriculture-environmental conflicts is a painstaking, at times painful, process.

“It’s democracy. It means you’ve got to put a huge amount of time into basic understanding,” he said. “Sadly, some of the environmental groups choosing to sue us are shutting that down.

“It’s really hard to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ and roast marshmallows over the fire when you’re in the middle of depositions,” Gordon said. “I don’t mind criticism, but let’s have a conversation, not just hold a gun to my head.”

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Source:  Capital Press


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