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Environmentalism on taxpayers' dime


Residents of Klamath Falls, Ore., situated on the Klamath River, are of course mightily interested in fishing, particularly of salmon. So they are also mightily interested in anything that impinges on their ability to harvest salmon from the river, from Howard Bay, and from the Pacific Ocean.

Which is why they’re not exactly happy with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group known to High Desert residents for its efforts to protect the desert tortoise. One of the methods the Center has used in those efforts is to resort to the courts seeking injunction orders against any individual or firm attempting to develop projects in the High Desert that, in the Center’s view, threatens the habitat of the tortoise.

So it’s no surprise to learn that the Center is one of four environmental groups seeking to protect the “spring run” of the Upper Klamath chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act by submitting a petition seeking to designate the fish as a “distinct species.”

The Klamath Herald and News carried a recent column by Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance, an organization headquartered in Klamath Falls that works in behalf of family farms and their relations with governmental bodies, about all this.

Keppen, in doing research about the controversy, discovered that Budd-Falen law offices of Cheyenne, Wyo., set out to determine the amount of litigation filed by environmental organizations and the amount of attorneys' fees these groups have received from the federal government for these cases.

Turns out that between 2000 and 2009, eight environmental groups — led by the Center for Biological Diversity — filed at least 1,596 federal court cases against the federal government. According to Keppen, every one of the groups is “a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that receives attorney fees from the federal government ... for suing the federal government. These same environmental groups are receiving billions of tax dollars in attorney fees for settling or ‘winning’ cases against the federal government.”

Keppen charges that the organization's petition on the salmon “is just another in a long series of actions that suggests money — and not a desire to protect fish — is the real reason behind their latest action.”

He writes that Budd-Falen found that over $4.7 billion — that’s $4.7 billion, folks — in total payments were paid in taxpayer dollars from 2003 through July 2007 for attorney fees and costs in cases against the federal government. The Center for Biological Diversity alone has filed 149 cases in the four federal district courts in California, all of which have been decided in a nine-year period ending in 2009. Of the 59 cases where fees were disclosed, the Center for Biological Diversity was awarded over $3.6 million in attorney’s fees and costs.

Further, Keppen writes, the organization has a list of 350 species it believes should be listed and critical habitat designated under the ESA to protect them from greenhouse gases and global warming. Just between five states and the District of Columbia, the Center for Biological Diversity has amassed over $6.7 million in attorneys fees, all paid by taxpayers. So taxpayers — whether they agree with the views of the Center for Biological Diversity or not — are funding its environmental activism.

In this time of tight budgets and frightening government deficits, it seems clear to us that if the Center for Biological Diversity wants to pursue its agenda in the courts, it ought to fund those efforts with its own, and its contributors’, money. We feel the same, by the way, about National Public Radio. If NPR wants to further its political agenda — whether left or right — it ought to do so the same way the rest of the broadcast industry does; by selling advertising in the marketplace to fund its operations.

We suspect a little research would reveal that the Center for Biological Diversity has, in its pursuit of protection for the desert tortoise, has managed to recoup its expenses, and then some, from the feds. One more reason why the country is going broke, and nobody seems to be watching.


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              Page Updated: Friday April 22, 2011 03:48 AM  Pacific

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