Sunday, September 01, 2013

Green Hucksters

The Center for Biological Diversity
Green Hucksters
The case of Canis-Homo reincarnation
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             Growing up in southwestern New Mexico in the ‘60s, night time radio was limited. Listening to the Louisiana Hayride with grandparents out on the porch was losing its charm. By 6:00 PM, local radio had either gone off the air or the rheostat had been turned counter clockwise to static, fade in, and, finally, frustration.
            By the time our grandparents were losing us to the world, most of us were listening to KOMA, Oklahoma City. That is what you’d hear on summer evenings dragging Main in downtown Silver City.
For the bilingual, there was the powerful XERF thumping out of Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico across the Rio Grande from Del Rio. It has been said that the signal from XERF could be heard in West Virginia and beyond when the conditions were right.
Late at night, none other than the original wolf man himself, Wolfman Jack, would broadcast from that big hummer. To stay awake long enough to hear him, though, you had to listen to nearly nonstop commercials recorded in an echo chamber in Mexican disc jockey style.
One of the great advertisements in radio history came from that chamber. It was XERF’s reverential plea for money. In return, they’d send you an original sandal worn by Jesus Christ. If you doubled the contribution, they’d mail the one that still had blood on it!
We now know the same hucksterism perfected in Ciudad Acuna over 50 years ago is alive and well today in Tucson, Arizona, and it’s coming to the metropolitan area nearest each and every one of you.
The Center
At an EarthFirst! rendezvous in northern New Mexico in 1989, a young man from the East surfaced. With all indications, the gathering made such a big impression on Kieran Suckling he wound up in jail after chaining himself to a tree. While there, he met a woman who introduced him to several things one of which was Peter Galvin. Galvin was in the Gila National Forest surveying for spotted owls. On release, Suckling hit Galvin up for a job and Galvin obliged.
One day a member of the survey team got lost, and purportedly in his clueless wandering, spotted one of the owls. Determining the Forest Service was on the verge of letting a timber sale where the bird was found Suckling sought some means to bar the action. Since he was under a nondisclosure demand, somebody was highly offended when the map detailing the location of the bird was delivered to the Silver City Daily Press.
Suckling was fired.
That action set the stage for what would become the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). If Suckling and his colleagues … Galvin, Todd Schulke, and emergency doctor Robin Silver …  couldn’t halt the Forest Service action indirectly, they would seek to halt it directly. They became environmental activists, professional green hooters, and Silver City became the launching pad for early CBD mayhem.
Targeting livestock grazing in the Gila, CBD leveraged protection of a southwestern flycatcher in seeking the removal of cattle from hundreds of miles of streams. A similar owl campaign shut down scores of timber operations throughout Arizona and New Mexico
Their first real success, though, came in 1990 when they sued for endangered species status of the Mexican gray wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had determined the species was ‘unrecoverable’, but wanted to put some wolves in the Tularosa Basin east from the Gila. The Basin, with its extensive federal holdings, was considered a federal enclave where public outcry would be minimized.
Holdings including Ft. Bliss, White Sands Missile Range, McGregor Range, Holloman Air Force Base, San Andres Wildlife Refuge, the Jornada Range, and White Sands National Monument formed a contiguous federal block that amounted to 4.48 million acres. Added to that was the New Mexico State University Ranch which added another 100 sections of land. In all the public was shut out of or a combination of 7,100 square miles of land.
The commanding general, though, put the stop to any dream of wolfdom. He declared, “Wolves and national defense don’t mix!”
The suit continued and FWS was compelled to do another wolf study. That resulted in the release of wolves in 1998 into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in 5,000 square miles of contiguous Apache and Gila National Forest lands on the Arizona-New Mexico border. That became the epicenter of the war zone of human and wolf conflicts.
An arbitrary population of 100 wolves was established, but no comprehensive habitat or prey studies were done to actually address the release area. Rather, prey studies were interpolated from Arizona and New Mexico game department census data for much broader areas. There was no science driving any semblance of a legitimate population goal, but no CBD program was ever hindered by science.
CBD Mission
The mission statement of the organization has been “Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.” It is time to alter that statement because CBD is outgrowing the West. It is becoming global. In fact, the North and South Poles are on the radar for CBD’s brand of franchised environmentalism.
Recognizing that quaint Silver City was a good place to grow long hair and debate a return to Pleistocene, but not the center of slush funds and blank checks, Suckling and company kissed the environs of their activist adolescence goodbye and headed to the fashionable bastions of Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, and Washington, D.C. It was in those cities and similar places that the big hitters of environmentalism lived and dabbled in causes that could dramatically accelerate the destruction of heritage industries beyond the western states.
The group is now certified and approved by the IRS in seeking donations and support in at least 39 states. It current annual revenue is about $9 million and is poised to grow. Indicators of growth are the group’s intentions to designate another 130 million acres of unspecified critical habitat and to expand into other metropolitan areas. The stage is being set for hundreds of new endangered species listings across the continent.
The next reason for a change in mission statement is the manipulation of environmental laws and the bastardized application of science, policy and education. Forget science, CBD’s central arsenal employs legal wrangling and bad press.
Since 2000, it has filed 577 federal and district court cases. Between January 2010 and February 2013, CBD filed 108 cases in federal district court. That doesn’t include circuit and administrative court appeals. Thirty six of the cases since 2010 challenged the adequacy of the NEPA process by federal land management agencies. Twenty two cases dealt with challenges to the Endangered Species Act section 7 consultations and 33 more dealt with ESA time frames for species listings or critical habitat designations. In other words, large successes have come through technicalities. Science is used only where it fits.
With a grand appetite for litigation, how good are these radicals in their environmental assaults? Suckling claims his “unparalleled record of legal successes” is a cool 93 percent. With that success he doesn’t need solid science, and his own words reflect that. The Arizonan columnist Hugh Holub once asked Suckling if CBD activities suffered from the absence of solid science based approaches in its litigious demands for Endangered Species listings.
“No,” Suckling responded. “Kids with science degrees are hindered by (taught) resource management values.” He added that he preferred philosophers, linguists, and poets. They tended to be out in front of the curve and were not handicapped by unproductive, traditional thinking.
His philosophy has worked. CBD has sued successfully for the listing of at least 380 species. The organization claims another victory in forcing the designation of 110 million acres of critical habitat across the West.
In recent fund raising efforts, Suckling has elevated that success to centerpiece status. He claims CBD has developed a unique negotiating position with both government agencies and private corporations. The approach “enables (CBD) … to secure broad protections for species and habitat without the threat of litigation.
CBD has elevated sue and settle tactics, injunctions, new species listings, and bad press surrounding legal action to a modern art form. Consent decrees more often than not result in closed door sessions with concessions or demands made on agency policy formulation. CBD wants to win, but it also wants the combination of legal tactics to take a toll on agency morale.
“They (the feds) think their careers are being mocked and destroyed, and … they are!” Suckling says. “As a result, they become more willing to play by the rules.”
In CBD speak, the suggestion of playing by the rules equates to its rules of manipulating and mandating positive outcomes for its mission. And, speaking of mission, the conclusion for adjusting the group’s statement must be assessed.
The scope of the original mission is far too narrow. Endangered species and wild places are now almost innocent first generation concepts because CBD is starting to take on the universe. It is dealing with national, worldwide, and lunar threats in unsustainable human population growth, climate change, energy discrimination, and off road vehicle abuse. It has also signaled that it will be the leading force in declaring plastic the next hazardous waste product. Since environmental justice seems to be a dynamic and growing trade, all things environmental must be added to its mission statement, but … that has always been it core underpinning.
Wolf Man Returns
In 2011, Suckling said, “Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigns.” It could well be, but showmanship also plays into CBD’s game. In April, FWS signaled its intent to delist the gray wolf from endangered status in all lower 48 states except Arizona and New Mexico. On May 17, CBD sent an appeal out for funds. It was right out of the archives of XERF.
“Save wolves now, Double your gift,” the message proclaimed. The plea promised to lead the fight for the continued protection of most of America’s wolves “before this anti-wolf proposal is announced.”
In a court filing on May 21, the FWS announced it was pushing back its decision on removing the wolf from protected status. Perplexed federal attorneys who defended the change indicated that “a recent unexpected delay” would hold the action up indefinitely. No other explanation was given.
Does anybody believe that CBD’s psychological warfare doesn’t have real life consequences?
Those program directors in Acuna in the ‘60s had nothing on this gang from Tucson. In fact, the change of heart by FWS should make everybody look seriously at a sampling of other headlines from recent CBD newsletters. Assessing its appeals, CBD intends to save the wolf, fill its pockets, and spread its abundant influence to the world proclaiming the following:
● “The more you give today, the faster we’ll be able to dig out the full truth about federal agents to save wolves in the Southwest.”
● “Just three (Mexican gray wolf) pairs left in the wilds.”
● “Use the EPA to protect species from pesticides.”
● “Earth Day – Help save the planet with Endangered Species Condoms.”
● “Men with hairy backs will be the first to die in global warming.”
● “Oklahoma Senator proudly admits, ‘Yep, I’m a climate denier’.”
● And, (an ominous corollary to the subtle shout out to commence using the EPA for species protection noted herein above,) “250 Groups to EPA: Ban Frog-Castrating pesticides.”
Last generation’s wolf man lent his fame to a cause that rewarded the donor with Christ’s sandal. This generation wolf man is engineering treasury harvest and species dominion from a much grander echo chamber.
If there is a flaw, though, it hinges on science. Among the seven percent of unsuccessful cases, the name Chilton looms. The Chilton family, ranchers from south-central Arizona, found themselves squarely in the crosshairs of a CBD action. In a suit filed against the Forest Service in 2002 to deny the renewal of the family’s grazing permit, the CBD got caught in a con game with evidence. In pictures represented as overgrazing results, the family and their expert witnesses employed real science against the CBD poets and philosophers who faked photographs and lied. The jury found actual malice in CBD’s actions. A $600,000 judgment in favor of the Chilton family was awarded.
Truth and diligent science do matter, and it is a lesson that every rancher and every heritage industry in this nation must recognize and uphold. Like Mastodons, echo chambers will fade away.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “If we are being subjected to psychological warfare, there exists a true enemy.”

This is a longer version of the article in the current issue of Range Magazine that I mentioned last week and is posted here with permission.  I'm sure most readers of The Westerner are already subscribers and shame on you if you're not.  Regular subscriptions are only $19.95 per year but if you subscribe online its a steal at only $15.95 a year.  While you're there be sure and check out their Mercantile for great books, western art, calendars, etc.

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