Suckling responds: Cashing in? Nope, just saving species every day

 

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Extreme Green

Note: This is a response to a Writers on the Range column by Ted Williams, headlined "Extreme Green."

Industry-funded zealots are angling to prevent nonprofits from protecting veterans, children, workers and the environment. With the absurd argument that nonprofits are getting rich by making the government follow its own laws, they want to ensure that only the truly rich are able to take the government to court.

Even those who should know better are drinking the Kool-Aid on this one, including outdoor writer Ted Williams, whose recent essay in High Country News' Writers on the Range accused the Center for Biological Diversity of "shaking down taxpayers." Cribbing from the Internet like a Fox News intern, Williams serves up industry propaganda with a side of his own trademark use of "anonymous" sources and dubious quotations.

Laws to make working conditions safe, ensure our water is clean, and protect the rights of veterans and children only work when they are enforced. But often they are not because of industry pressure. Witness the complete dominance of the U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service by the oil industry in the run-up to BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

American democracy guards against corruption by allowing citizens to sue the government. Now, taking on the government isn't cheap. You have to go up against the entire Department of Justice. That's easy for the oil industry, Wal-Mart and developers who have money to burn. Not so easy for the rest of us.

To level the playing field, the federal government pays the legal fees of individuals, small businesses and nonprofit groups -- but only if they win. If they lose, they pay their own way.

In its campaign to revoke this essential equalizer, industry has launched a public relations war hinged on the big lie that nonprofits -- especially environmental groups -- are getting rich by ensuring that environmental laws are followed.

The current darling of the propaganda machine is Ted Williams, who accuses the Center for Biological Diversity of filing petitions to protect hundreds of endangered species and then suing the government when it inevitably fails to rule on the petitions within 90 days. In Williams' tightly scripted anti-environmental message, it's a racket producing "a major source of revenue" for the Center.

Nonsense. Between 2008 and 2011, the Center received legal fee reimbursements for an average of one case per year challenging the government's failure to process endangered species protection petitions within 90 days. The average yearly total was $3,867; much less than the Center spent bringing the cases. Not exactly a get-rich quick scheme.

Rush to court? Every one of these suits was filed after the government missed its 90-day protection deadline by months, and in some cases by over a year. I would submit that spending $3,867 of the federal government's money to save the Mexican gray wolf, walrus and right whale from extinction is a bargain and a half.

Williams dives completely into the propaganda sewer when he quotes an "anonymous" government official complaining of a Center petition to protect 404 rare southeastern plants and animals. The alleged "anonymous" source is allegedly outraged that the Center will file a slam-dunk nuisance lawsuit because the government can't possibly study all 404 species in 90 days.

In fact, the Center didn't sue, even after the government missed its deadline by 420 days. Instead we developed a plan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure all these rare species get reviewed for protection in a reasonable amount of time.

The 1,145-page petition, by the way, was written by three Center ecologists with contributions by a dozen academic scientists and scientific societies specializing in aquatic ecology. The $75,000 research project took a year of hard work and set the standard for state-of-the-art regional biodiversity assessments. Far from a nuisance, it is a massive contribution of critical scientific information to be used by state and federal wildlife agencies.

Without providing any supporting data -- not even an "anonymous" source this time -- Williams goes on to charge that the Center is raking in the cash by suing  "for missed deadlines when the agency can't keep up with the broadside of Freedom of Information Act requests."

Hmm. In the past four years, the Center received legal reimbursements for exactly one Freedom of Information Act deadline suit and the amount we received ($3,031) was far less than we spent forcing the Department of the Interior to come clean with the public over its offshore oil leasing program in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The Center for Biological Diversity will keep expending vastly more resources ensuring the government follows its own wildlife protection laws than we'll ever recoup. That's fine with us, because making sure bald eagles, wolves, wolverines and owls have a place to live and grow is more important than money.

It's why we do what we do.

Kieran Suckling is executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group based in Tucson, Ariz., advocating for endangered species and the wild places they live.

Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Jul 25, 2011 04:35 PM
Kieran, let's get to Ted's first claim, the one before the endangered species lawsuits. That is the lawsuit you lost, filed by the rancher over the "overgrazed ground" that was actually a parking area?

>> For example, after the Center posted photos on its website depicting what it claimed was Arizona rancher Jim Chilton's cow-denuded grazing allotment, Chilton sued. When Chilton produced evidence that the photos showed a campsite and a parking lot, the court awarded him $600,000 in damages. Apparently this was the first successful libel suit against an environmental group, yet the case was virtually ignored by the media.<<

Are there facts at hand Ted didn't tell us? What all was involved with pretrial negotiations? He did cite this before he cited the endangered species suits, after all.

I like that CBD is not a "Gang Green" group, but ... I'd like to hear more on this, as per Ted's angle in his column, it "went to motive," to use a legal phrase.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
Jul 25, 2011 06:37 PM
Moving past the rhetoric more suited for the Huffington Post, Mr Suckling's last two sentences certainly resonate..

He states the reason they do what they do is to make sure bald eagles, wolves, wolverines, and owls, all have a place to live and grow. Mr Suckling I know this will come as a surprise but those animals are listed by the IUCN (internationally accepted rating agency for threatened species) as having the lowest possible rating. They are called "a species of least concern". If you are really interested in habitat, why not buy some land and donate it to the public? Instead you waste the precious time and energy of the good scientists we as Americans employ to care for our wildlife. I think it's well past time for a legislative fix for groups such as yours.
Ted Williams Williams
Ted Williams Williams
Jul 26, 2011 11:18 AM
Former Fish and Wildlife Director Jamie Clark is “an anonymous source”? Former National Fish and Wildlife Foundation director Amos Eno is an “anonymous source”? Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is “an anonymous source?” Mr. Suckling and I could have a more interesting exchange if he would read my article before attempting to rebut it.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service all refuse to release records of what is paid to the Center in attorney fees, so Suckling cannot blame the public for raising questions about what Jamie Clark calls the ESA litigation “industry.”

But far more hurtful than any money these agencies and the Department of Justice lose is the loss in time and effort of federal biologists who have to cease working for wildlife in order to spend weeks and months consulting with Justice about the endless, frivolous petitions filed by the Center. The Center’s petition to list the dwarf seahorse is a good example. There is absolutely no evidence that it should be listed, yet it occurs in the Gulf and provided the Center with some publicity during the oil spill. According to the IUCN: “There are no published data about population trends or total numbers of mature animals for this species. There is very little available information about its extent of occurrence or its area of occupancy. There have been no quantitative analyses examining the probability of extinction of this species. As a result, we have insufficient data to properly assess the species against any of the IUCN criteria, and propose a listing of data deficient.”

The Center revels in criticism from wise-use guru Karen Budd-Falen but waxes apoplectic when environmentalists like me join in. Budd-Falen is one of my least favorite people on the planet, but occasionally she’s not wrong. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Re. Suckling’s claim that the center doesn’t collect much money for Freedom of Information suits, consider this on-record comment from John Hunt, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Freedom of Information Act officer at Region 9 (headquarters): “Once we’ve provided a response or haven’t the Center for Biological Diversity can appeal for inappropriate applications of exemptions, not meeting the statutory time frame (20-30 days, 30 days of extenuating circumstances like multiple locations), no-records-found response, a variety of scenarios. The Center is one of our more frequent requesters…. They appeal first, then litigate. If they have not received a response on appeal from the department; and the department FOIA field office is frequently backed up, they can jump directly into litigation.”

--Ted Williams
stacey deck
stacey deck
Jul 26, 2011 03:26 PM
Thanks Ted. I'm now writing a big fat check to the Center for Biological Diversity. Just because the U.S. Govt doesn't have any records on the Dwarf Seahorse doesn't mean we shouldn't protect it and in the bigger picture force the oil companies to do a better job of protecting the environment!
Ted Williams Williams
Ted Williams Williams
Jul 26, 2011 03:33 PM
Stacey: You’d do better to write a big fat check to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation so that Interior can afford to get the records they don’t have. Of course we should protect the dwarf seahorse. But the ESA has limited funds, and the CBD’s endless, frivolous petitions are depleting those funds.
Mick Ondris
Mick Ondris
Jul 26, 2011 08:34 PM
I don't if The Center For Biological Diversity is making any money off of lawsuits or not. But I do know, as reported by HCN, that they have used faked "evidence" in court. The subsequent settlement basically wiped out all of the money weas its' supporters had donated. The Center didn't even send notification of the judgement to its' contributers.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Jul 26, 2011 08:50 PM
Mike, I'll wait for another day or two for Kieran to respond himself on my questions about that lawsuit over the photos. But, if what you said is true, then in at least some ways, CBD is like the "Gang Green" environmental groups it claims to be different from. I'm not a donor, but I get its email alerts, and right ... I never heard anything.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Jul 27, 2011 01:37 PM
Interesting. On that other blog, Kieran still doesn't address the "goes to motive" issue of the rancher's lawsuit, which he hadn't addressed on HCN, either. Guess I'll be waiting a long time for Kieran to say more. And, re his new blog, Felice, I disagree. It does "go to motive," and to responsibility.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 01, 2011 03:26 PM
Ted Williams’ hit piece on the Center for Biological Diversity was remarkable for its lack of supporting data. It was nothing more than a string of quotes affirming Williams’ dislike of the Center. But quotes--especially anonymous quotes--prove nothing. And as the Center showed by presenting precise data on the number of lawsuits it filed and legal reimbursements it received over the past four years, Williams was dead wrong.

So what does Williams’ do to defend himself against the data? He serves up a few more incendiary quotes while running from anything that remotely resembles facts. It is garbage journalism. The more Williams defends it, the higher the garbage pile grows.

In response to my complaint that Williams used an anonymous source who we proved to be completely wrong, Williams changes the subject by listing named sources in other parts of his hit piece. That changes nothing. The fact stands that Williams, with shocking unprofessionalism, cited an anonymous source who lied when charging that the Center would file a lawsuit in 90 days when the USFWS failed to issue a decision on its petition to protect 404 imperiled southeastern aquatic species.

I complained that Williams (of course, with no data) asserted we file a “broadside” of Freedom of Information Act timeline litigation to make money, when in fact we received legal reimbursements for just one case in the past four years, and that that totaled just $3,031. Williams now defends his lie—yes it was a lie, a flat out lie—by quoting a FOIA officer saying that the Center is able to file timeline litigation. Totally irrelevant. The fact stands that receiving legal reimbursements on one FOIA timeline suit in four years is not a “broadside” under any possible interpretation.

Realizing that defending his vacuous hit piece is a losing proposition, Williams changes the subject again, claiming that the Center’s petition to list the dwarf pygmy seahorse as an endangered species is frivolous. It is worth looking at his “argument” in some detail here, because it demonstrates how Williams picks and chooses information to purposefully mislead his readers.

Though the Center filed a 68 page scientific petition in 2011 explaining why the seahorse qualifies for Endangered Species Act protection, Williams declares it “frivolous” without rebutting or even referencing a single sentence in the petition. That is because Williams couldn’t care less what is in the petition or how many scientific studies indicate the species is declining. His only agenda is to find a single quote that appears to say the species doesn’t warrant protection.

That is the logic of Williams’ hit-piece journalistic style: find a quote that affirms your pre-determined hatred and ignore everything else. After all, the point is not to promote understanding, it is to spew bile onto the page with the slimmest pretense to supporting information.

So Williams cites the IUCN saying it lacks sufficient data to classify the species as stable or imperiled, then smugly declares his point proven. What Williams’ hides from the reader, however, is that the IUCN made this determination 2003, while the Center filed its petition in 2011. Williams also fails to reveal that the IUCN simultaneously declared that “this species may be particularly susceptible to decline”, that it may be threatened in the United States, and that it is listed as threatened by the American Fisheries Society.

William’s did not accidently exclude this information. He hid it. Like his previous essay, his response is an agenda-drive rant which dishonestly ignores all contrary information.

The Center’s scientists worked for months gathering the best available information on the plight of the pygmy seahorse. They cited numerous studies indicating its decline in various parts of the Gulf of Mexico in response to seagrass habitat destruction. They fairly discussed competing scientific opinions.

There is nothing frivolous in the work to save imperiled species. I wish I could say the same for Williams’ vicious, error-laden, dishonest editorials.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 01, 2011 06:11 PM
Of the four sources I quoted only one asked for anonymity because, as he said, the CBD would “go after him.” He’s a high-ranking official in the Obama administration whom I’ve known for years. He doesn’t “lie,” and I have never known him to be in error regarding wildlife issues. Nor did I quote him as saying, as Suckling wrong claims, “that the Center would file a lawsuit in 90 days when the USFWS failed to issue a decision on its petition to protect 404 imperiled southeastern aquatic species.” Again, Mr. Suckling and I could have a more productive and interesting exchange if he would read my piece. I do not “hate” the Center. I have known and worked with many fine, young, idealistic people there who are ill-served by their leadership. And I recognize that, even with that leadership, the Center has done many good things for wildlife. As for the money the Center takes from the public and wildlife no one can say how much because the agencies refuse to report what the figures are. But the real cost to wildlife of the Center’s endless and often meritless petitions and lawsuits is the weeks and months federal biologists must spend conferring with the Justice Department instead of working for wildlife as we pay them to do.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Aug 01, 2011 07:03 PM
Meanwhile, though coming back here today, Kieran still hasn't addressed the issue of the rancher's lawsuit. It's a week and counting.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 01, 2011 07:07 PM
Ted, you can dance around this changing the subject as long as you want, but here is the bottom line:

1) you claimed the Center makes huge amounts of money by filing "broadsides" of Freedom of Information Act requests then suing when the agency can't possibly respond in 30 days. IN FACT, over the past four years, the Center received legal fees over just one FOIA timeline suit, and the amount we got was just $3,031.

2) You claimed we filed a huge number of lawsuits over late 90-day findings on ESA listing petitions in order to make huge sums of money. IN FACT, we filed an average of one such suit per year over the last four years, being reimbursed an average of $3,867 per year.

3) Following up, you cite an "anonymous" source insinuating that we'll frivolously file suit because the USFWS can't respond to our 404 endangered southeastern species petition in 90-days. IN FACT, even at the time you printed your piece, the agency was over a year late and Center hadn't sued. To the contrary, we reached an agreement the agency on processing the petition without a suit.

You either knew these accusations were false, or you were too lazy too check them. Either way, you completely failed to have any journalistic integrity. Shame on you.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 01, 2011 08:11 PM
Yes. You “reached an agreement.” As I correctly reported the USFWS couldn’t possibly respond in 90 days to your broadside petition to list 404 species. So it cut a deal with the you to figure something out by 2018 if you didn’t sue it.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 01, 2011 08:41 PM
Wrong again Ted, USFWS will issue a decision on the petition later this year.

BTW, I still fail to see any scandal whatsoever in the fact that we assigned three scientists to spend a year writing a 1,100 page petition to list 404 imperiled southeastern aquatic species. As I'm sure you know, the Southeast is America's ongoing aquatic extinction hotspot. Of course, the agency can't process the petition in 90 days. So what? No one is expecting or forcing the agency do so. What we're doing is getting these species into the system by using our own resources and scientific expertise to determine their status. It takes some years to work through that system, so it's critical to get the process started.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 02, 2011 08:01 AM
"Wrong again Ted, USFWS will issue a decision on the petition later this year."

So your news release had it wrong?
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 10:30 AM
Our press release is correct. Readers can find out more at www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/species_agreement/index.html

I'm truly puzzled, Ted, that in every defense of your error-laden oped you make new errors. We're dealing with very serious public policy issues issues here. Slinging false, unresearched opinions around isn't going to cut it.

Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 02, 2011 11:38 AM
Mr. Suckling:
You even got your own the link wrong. Here it is:
As you yourself wrote:
“The deal sets legally binding deadlines between now and 2018 for the government to make protection decisions on species in all 50 states.”
Also I’d be interested in your response to Todd Woddy’s piece in The New York Times. Does The New York Times also “lie”?
“These megapetitions are putting us in a tough spot, and they’re in essence going to close down our capability to list any possibilities is to foreseeable future,” Mr. Frazer said. “If all our resources are used responding to petitions, you don’t have resources to put kind on the involved kind list. It’s not a cheerful situation.
“Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians , have filed 90 percent of the listings petitions given 2007 and sustain that a bioblitz, as it is frequently called, is the most appropriate plan for forcing the service to be more noisy in its wildlife insurance mission....”
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 12:15 PM
Ted,

Your inability, and even more disturbingly, your apparent lack of interest, in understanding a simple press release provides an excellent window into the shallow sense of "journalism" you practice. It is hack, gotcha journalism without regard for truth and no time for any factual research.

Coming across a quote that 757 species will receive listing decisions between 2011 and 2018, you illogically assume that the 403 southeast species will get decisions in 2018. Why? Because it's easier than actually doing research to find out exactly when the 403 species will get decisions. You are lazy and unprofessional.

Here is the text from the web page you didn’t bother reading:

“403 Southeast aquatic species: The southeastern United States contains the richest aquatic biodiversity in the nation, harboring 62 percent of the country’s fish species (493 species), 91 percent of its mussels (269 species) and 48 percent of its dragonflies and damselflies (241 species). Unfortunately, the wholesale destruction, diversion, pollution and development of the Southeast’s rivers have made the region America’s aquatic extinction capital.

In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity completed a 1,145-page, peer-reviewed petition to list 403 Southeast aquatic species as endangered, including the Florida sandhill crane, MacGillivray's seaside sparrow, Alabama map turtle, Oklahoma salamander, West Virginia spring salamander, Tennessee cave salamander, Black warrior waterdog, Cape Sable orchid, Clam-shell orchid, Florida bog frog, Lower Florida Keys striped mud turtle, Eastern black rail, and Streamside salamander.
None of the Southeast aquatic species are on the candidate list. Under the agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will issue initial listing decisions on all 403 plants and animals in 2011.”

You are wrong here as you’ve been wrong throughout this entire debate. You have no regard for the truth.


Faced with a press release that says 757 species will recieve
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 02, 2011 12:29 PM
Wow! 757 species! And you claim you don’t “barrage” the USFWS with petitions? It is hard to keep this barrages straight. So it’s “initial decisions” in 2001. Okay. Please answer my two questions. Again: What’s your response to Todd Woddy’s piece in The New York Times. And does The New York Times also “lie”?
To quote in part:
“These megapetitions are putting us in a tough spot, and they’re in essence going to close down our capability to list any possibilities is to foreseeable future,” Mr. Frazer said. “If all our resources are used responding to petitions, you don’t have resources to put kind on the involved kind list. It’s not a cheerful situation.
“Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians , have filed 90 percent of the listings petitions given 2007 and sustain that a bioblitz, as it is frequently called, is the most appropriate plan for forcing the service to be more noisy in its wildlife insurance mission....”

 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 04:06 PM
It is not difficult to keep things straight Ted. In fact, it’s your job as a journalist. If you can’t do it, you shouldn’t make embarrassing public statements.

The Center has never denied that it files scientific petitions to protect hundreds of endangered species. We provide an important public service by identifying and conducting status reviews of imperiled but unprotected species. As I’m sure you know, very few protected species have gone extinct in the past three decades while scores of unprotected species have disappeared. It is critical, serious work.

Nor has the Center denied that through petitions, litigation and lobbying we put pressure on the USFWS. That’s how things change; through pressure.

The agreement we just reached with the USFWS to move forward with listing decisions on 757 species is a result of pressure. It’s a landmark agreement that will end the shut down of the ESA listing program during the Bush years. It is something to be celebrated, not derided.

You published the ridiculously false editorial in High Country News, not Tom Woddy. You are the one floundering here to defend your lies, not Woddy. Thus I have no intention of diverting my attention from your shoddy journalism to Woddy’s story.

What’s your strategy here Ted, keep changing the subject every time you are busted for saying something false? Keep throwing mud at the wall and hope something sticks? You printed false, vicious accusations. Thrashing around hoping to find a new critique will never change that.
Ray Ring
Ray Ring Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 04:32 PM
Here's the NYTimes story about "megapetitions" etc -- www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/science/earth/21species.html -- OR www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/science/earth/21species.html?pagewanted=print -- it's by Todd Woody, published April 20, 2011 -- Ray Ring, HCN senior editor
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 02, 2011 04:38 PM
Mr. Suckling: Since you bring up the subject of “changing the subject,” can you please answer the question I just asked you about The New York Times. In reporting most of the things I reported did it “lie” about the center too?

Also can you please stop ducking the question Steve Snyder has been asking you for more than a week. As Steve writes above: “Meanwhile, though coming back here today, Kieran still hasn't addressed the issue of the rancher's lawsuit. It's a week and counting.”

In my piece which you claim is a compellation of “lies,” I wrote: “Kierán Suckling, who directs and helped found the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center, boasts that he engages in psychological warfare by causing stress to already stressed public servants. ‘They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed -- and they are,’ he told High Country News. ‘So they become much more willing to play by our rules.’ Those rules include bending the truth like pretzel dough. For example, after the Center posted photos on its website depicting what it claimed was Arizona rancher Jim Chilton's cow-denuded grazing allotment, Chilton sued. When Chilton produced evidence that the photos showed a campsite and a parking lot, the court awarded him $600,000 in damages.”

Stacey (above), based on what I reported, proclaims that she’s going to write your organization “a big fact check.”

So please answer these questions and don’t “change the subject”:
1. Do you consider spending more than half a million dollars on damages and penalties for publishing gross fabrications about a good rancher who is working to save Chiricahua leopard frogs a proper use of the money Stacey and others gives your outfit?
2. Is it true, as Interior informs me, that the center is the only environmental organization ever to be successfully sued for libel?
Carol Carson
Carol Carson Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 05:04 PM
Ted'scomment "One way they did this was with brilliant habitat conservation plans that rewarded landowners for harboring endangered species instead of punishing them -- as the law had previously done" proves how ranchers are constantly subsidized by our government for things they should be doing anyway, like not killing wolves. You guys must make a lot of money this way and also using our public lands as your personal money making machines with your cattle! BTW, why don't you send me some of that money, Ted? I'm not getting any subsidies for doing the right thing everyday to save our natural treasures. I am glad that I am a member of the Center for Biodiversity, the only environmental group that takes a stand against the overpopulation of the Earth, which is the most significant factor in the devastation of the Earth. Thanks for having the guts, Kieran, to stand up!

Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 02, 2011 06:17 PM
No, Carol: Habitat conservation plans discouraged the ranchers’ old modus operandi of “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up.” Who are “you guys”? Why do you imagine that I have access to government money? I’m a freelance environmental writer, and freelance environmental writers could make more money driving trucks (unless they write about sex). I too salute the center for “taking a stand against the overpopulation of the Earth.” You “glad” that, as “a member of the Center for Biological Diversity” your money goes to pay off libel penalties and damages?
Patrick Donnelly-Shores
Patrick Donnelly-Shores
Aug 02, 2011 07:49 PM
Williams' and Suckling's inane bickering aside, I am pretty thoroughly disappointed in HCN for publishing the original piece.

HCN's typical style is calm, cool, collected, and well-thought out. Whereas the original piece by Williams reads like it's written by someone with a serious grudge or bone to pick. This coming hot on the heels of the cover article a few months ago by Hal Herring, equally damning of CBD and other environmental groups.

It concerns me that HCN is going down this road. You wouldn't dare publish an article by some radical Earth First!er, condemning ranchers as welfare recipients and loggers as soulless savagers of the earth. And yet you're willing to publish what's very clearly an attack piece against of the nation's most prominent and effective environmental groups, accusing them of being thieves and liars. This gradual shift toward the middle of the road, in an attempt to appeal to a broader slice of the West, is diluting the quality of HCN. You may be winning friends in traditional communities all over the West by damning environmental groups, but you risk alienating your core constiuency: environmentalists.

 When I first came to the West 8 years ago, I discovered a copy of HCN, and was thrilled to find that someone was reporting about the West's "curious desire to rape itself" (Wallace Stegner). I've been a subscriber (and donator, when I can) ever since. But if that first issue I had picked up had been full of articles like Williams' or Herring's, I'm not sure I would have read any further.

Self-examination in the environmental movement is critical. Have there been missteps? Of course. But the tone of both articles speaks of environmental groups as "them" and ranchers and other traditional Western constituencies as "us". Whereas, I would guess most of your current readers, subscribers, and donators think of that dichotomy differently. If you are going to publish pieces severely critical of environmental groups in that way, it needs to be done differently. It's one thing if a recognized figure or writer from the environmental movement is utilized for this purpose- then it is self reflection. While I think that both Williams and Herring are great writers and have enjoyed their work in the past, they both represent a less environmentalism-based perspective. Herring writes for Field and Stream, for instance. So when characters like that write pieces like they did, and you publish them, it comes across as reactionary and hostile to environmentalism. If that's the type of magazine HCN is becoming, it will lose readers in droves. Take heed from the example of the Canyon Country Zephyr- Stiles pissed off every group he could, until no one cared to read him any more.

Reflection and examination are good. Attacks and grudges aren't. And please don't forget who pays the bills at HCN: environmentalists. Many of whom, like myself, also give money to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 08:40 PM
This is one of the more important issues affecting wildlife at this time, and Mr. Suckling is one of the major protagonists. The spamming of the US Fish and Wildlife service has affected all species protection and the effectiveness of the Service itself, why it is happening I still don’t understand. If it were being done by Exon Mobile I’d be just as concerned.

I applaud HCN for publishing the original and the rebuttal. I read both those articles in the NYT when they came out. I also appreciate the platform for the airing of all views that HCN has provided. I’m an environmentalist, and I read Field and Stream.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 02, 2011 11:17 PM
Since Ted Williams’ has been repeatedly proven wrong, he wants to change the target of judgment to the New York Times. He asks “In reporting most of the things I reported did it “lie” about the center too?” That begs the question, did the New York Times in fact “report most of the things” Williams said. No it didn’t. Williams, it turns out, is stretching the truth again.

Williams attacks the Center over the defamation suit. The issue is not mentioned by the NYT article.

Williams attacks the Center over our petition to ban lead bullets and sinkers. The issue is not mentioned by the NYT article.

Williams falsely claimed the Center makes huge amounts of money by filing frivolous lawsuits over a “broadside” of Freedom of Information Act timeline violations. In fact, the Center received a total of $3,031 from just a single such case in the last four years. The NYT article says not one word about Freedom of Information Act litigation or legal reimbursements.

Williams falsely claims the Center makes huge amounts of money suing over late 90-day findings on ESA listing petitions. In fact, we filed an average of one such suit per year over the last four years, being reimbursed an average of $3,867 per year. The NYT article says not one word about ESA litigation reimbursements.

Williams falsely claims the Center files frivolous ESA listing petitions. The NYT article does not assert that any Center petition is frivolous. To the contrary, every species presented in the article as legitimately endangered was petitioned for by the Center (the walrus, yellow-billed loon, Gunnison’s prairie dog, North American wolverine, and southern rockhopper penguin).

So no, the New York Times article absolutely did not “report most of the things [Williams] reported.” Williams vicious, hit piece will have to be judge on its own merits.

But to answer Williams’ question, the NYT article got a few facts wrong, but it didn’t lie. But it also doesn’t reach the conclusion Williams’ would have his readers believe.

Williams pulls out a quote from one of the heads of the Fish and Wildlife Service (i.e. one of the people the Center has successfully sued for violating the ESA) and declares that the NYT agrees with him and has denounced the Center. As usual though, he ignores everything else in the article that contradicts him. Like this from “Patrick Parenteau, a professor and endangered species expert at Vermont Law School who was special counsel to the Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1990s”. He says of the Center’s petitions: “But from an endangered species conservation perspective, the environmentalists are doing exactly what the science demands. If you want to save these species, you have to list them, designate their critical habitat and spend money.”

And this from “Daniel J. Rohlf, an associate professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who specializes in endangered species law”. He says this about the USFWS listing budget request: “In an age of accelerating threats to biodiversity, not just from habitat loss but from invasive species and climate change, the budgets for Fish and Wildlife Service have not even been close to keeping up with the demands on the agency.”

The NYT didn’t lie because it presented both sides of the story. That’s because Todd Woddy has journalistic integrity while Williams clearly does not. Woddy was exploring an important public debate. Williams’ only interest was in attacking the Center.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 03, 2011 07:30 AM
I salute Mr. Suckling for answering, albeit circuitously and incorrectly, my question about the New York Times piece. But he has again ducked the question he has been consistently asked for almost two weeks now and not just by me. Mr. Suckling: On the subject of how the Center fabricated outrageous claims about a good rancher who is saving biodiversity and then spent $600,000 in paying court-assessed damages and penalties: Do you consider this a proper use of funds you collect from the public? And is this standard operating procedure for your organization?

As I keep pointing out, Mr. Suckling and I could have a more interesting and productive exchange if he would read my piece. I did not claim that the Center “makes huge amounts of money by filing broadsides of Freedom of Information Act requests then suing when the agency can’t possibly respond in 30 days.” No one knows how much money the Center makes this way because the agencies won’t release the figures.

As I’ve said, the real cost in money and wildlife of the center’s lawsuits and petitions to list species its attorneys--who lack scientific training, imagine should be managed with limited ESA funds--is the weeks and months federal biologists have to take from their important work to confer with Justice and vet these endless petitions.

Still, the Center’s many critics would like to believe Mr. Suckling when he says his outfit collects few attorney fees. But I’ll ask this question: Why should we believe anything the Center tells us when a court of law ruled that it published gross fabrications and, as a result, assessed it $600,000 in damages and penalties in what was apparently the fist successful libel suit against an environmental organization in U.S. history?

Finally, can I or my readers be blamed for believing Jamie Clark instead of Mr. Suckling? Clark, who served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now directs Defenders of Wildlife, says this: “The suits came mostly from CBD.... The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service isn't making progress. Citizens need to be able to petition for species in trouble, but this has become an industry." Is Ms. Clark also “lying,” Mr. Suckling?
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 11:17 AM
You are backpeddling Ted. How can you possibly say you did not claim the Center is making huge amounts of money from timeline lawsuits? Here is exactly what you asserted:

“You and I are a major source of revenue for that industry. The Interior Department must respond within 90 days to petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, petitioners like the Center for Biological Diversity get to sue and collect attorney fees from the Justice Department.”

“The Center also shakes down taxpayers directly from Interior Department funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, and for missed deadlines when the agency can't keep up with the broadside of Freedom-of-Information-Act requests.”

You accused us of being motivated by “acquiring the public’s money” and capped it with a nasty quote saying we are “ecocriminals” making “obscene” amounts of money by suing the USFWS.

Your statements are as clear as they are vicious and false. You can’t run from them.

You provided absolutely no data backing up your hateful spew. Nothing.

The Center provided exact, complete data showing you lied. Turns out the Center files very few 90-day ESA or Freedom of Information Act timeline suits. We receive a tiny amount of legal reimbursements for winning these cases (less than $2,000 a year from both combined); much less than we spent bringing them.

Other than lying again and saying you didn’t make these charges, your most direct defense has been that you don’t have any data because the agencies wouldn’t give them to you.

That’s pathetic.

Anyone with a shred of ethics or professionalism would 1) not make hateful, vicious claims if they don’t have data to back it up, or 2) put in a little old fashioned work to track the data down. Instead of fabricating charges about our misuse of the Freedom of Information Act, you should have used it yourself. It’s called research, Ted. It’s something real reporters do all the time.

Furthermore, I answered your question about the New York Times very directly and unambiguously: it did not lie, because unlike you, it presented both sides of the debate. Unlike you, it did not descend into a hateful screed. It tried to examine a public controversy.
Ted Williams
Ted Williams
Aug 03, 2011 11:47 AM
Mr. Suckling: I didn’t use the word “huge” for the simple reason that no agency will report what the figures are. You continually accuse me of “vicious lies.” And yet you consistently refuse to answer questions raised by me and others about the vicious lies the court ruled that your organization circulated on the Internet about a good man who was trying to save biodiversity. Please stop ducking. Again: Do you consider spending $600,000 in penalties and damages for what, according to Interior, is the first libel finding against any environmental organization in U.S. history a proper expenditure of funds you say come mostly from private supporters? And is circulating vicious lies about good people who try to save wildlife standard procedure for the Center? People like Stacey (above) who write you “big fat checks” have a right to know. Don’t you agree?
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Aug 03, 2011 12:35 PM
I agree that, as much as possible, having FWS focus on ecosystems, not just individual species, for protective issues, would be great. I'm not sure how far it needs to be nudged, though, and whether this is the best way ... the blitzes.

I'm also curious how many months of net revenue that $600,000 is. Still waiting for Kieran to talk more about that ... pretrial discussions, settlement offers, CBD's initial reaction when told that that wasn't overgrazed land, etc ...
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 12:45 PM
Ok, Ted, "major source of revenue" <> "huge"; "obscene amount of money" <> "huge". Gotcha. The readers can decide on whether you're backpeddling.

They can also decide how they feel about you publicly accusing us of receiving these huge amounts of money, then admitting later that you don't actually know how much money because you didn't bother to do the research before making the accusation. The Center, on the other hand, has responded with actual data, revealing exactly how much money from how many suits it was reimbursed.

Regarding the defamation a case, Williams’ says we posted a picture of “a campsite and a parking lot” rather than the rancher’s grazing allotment. True to his unprofessional penchant for presenting everything in the most lopsided way possible, Williams exaggerates and leaves out critical details.

The “parking lot” is a meadow crossing a stream with endangered species downstream. Once a year hippies hold a gathering in the meadow and park cars along its edge. The meadow is not within the permitted federal grazing area, but the public lands cattle cross out of the unfenced allotment to graze it. Indeed, the picture was of the public land cattle grazing in the meadow.

I’ll let the readers decide why Williams chose to call it a “parking lot” rather than a meadow.

We asserted—and continue to maintain—that the impact of the federal grazing permit includes all areas grazed by the permitted cattle, regardless of whether the cattle are permitted to be there or not. Especially if the cattle are grazing upstream of the public land stream and endangered species we are advocating for. We maintain it is entirely proper to show pictures of public land cattle grazing the meadow.

The court disagreed as it has a right to do. We disagree with the opinion.

Our members we very supportive of our position, contributing more money than they did prior to the ruling. Indeed, we received many contributions specifically dedicated to helping pay off the judgment.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:01 PM
Steve,

I'm glad to see you agree that USFWS should take an ecosystem approach to listing species. That is precisely why Center prodded the agency by identifying all imperiled species in the aquatic ecosystems of the Southeast. We also petitioned for groups of imperiled species on specific Hawaiian Islands and in the Arctic. It is all about taking an ecosystem approach.

Here is recent media story about the positive effect of our prodding the agency toward ecosystems with petitions, lawsuits and agreements. While virtually all reporters nationwide reported positively on the agreement, Williams can only grumble and moan. After all, it was done by the Center, it must be horrible right?


Honolulu Star Advertiser

Deal aims to save rare species
The agreement would add 20 plants and three insects to the endangered list

By Dan Nakaso


Four plants that are among the "rarest of the rare" in the world are now being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, along with three Hawaii damselflies and 16 other plants that can be found on Oahu.

An agreement announced Monday between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based, nonprofit environmental organization, would add to the 437 species currently listed as threatened and endangered by the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Service Office in Hawaii, home to some of the rarest and most endangered species on earth.

It a federal offense to harm any plants, or kill or harass any animal, on the list.

The agreement is part of a settlement to fast-track 757 species across America to get them on the federal endangered species list by 2018.

The crimson Hawaiian damselfly, blackline Hawaiian damselfly and oceanic Hawaiian damselfly are all threatened by non-native insects, development and changes to streams, the Center for Biological Diversity said.

The 20 plants include an annual herb, shrubs, trees and a fern. They're all threatened by the disappearance of their native habitat — and by foraging and trampling from invasive goats, pigs and rodents, as well as by invasive insects that eat the plants' pollinators.

In what the Center for Biological Diversity called a landmark legal settlement, the agreement also protects 43,491 acres across seven different types of ecosystems in Oahu's Koolau and Wai­anae mountain ranges. The habitats are considered essential for the conservation of the 23 plants and damselflies.

ON THE LIST
The common and scientific names of the 20 plants and three insects considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act

PLANTS (20)
» kookoolau, Bidens amplectens
» haha, Cyanea calycina
» haha, Cyanea lanceolata
» haha, Cyanea purpurellifolia
» haiwale, Cyrtandra gracilis
» haiwale, Cyrtandra kaulantha
» haiwale, Cyrtandra sessilis
» haiwale, Cyrtandra waiolani
» no common name, Doryopteris takeuchii
» hulumoa, Korthalsella degeneri
» alani, Melicope christophersenii
» alani, Melicope hiiakae
» alani, Melicope makahae
» no common name, Platydesma cornuta var. cornuta
» no common name, Platydesma cornuta var.

DECURRENS
» hala pepe, Pleomele forbesii
» kopiko, Psychotria hexandra ssp. oahuensis
» kaulu, Pteralyxia macrocarpa
» ohe, Tetraplasandra lydgatei
» ae, Zanthoxylum oahuense

INSECTS (3)
» blackline Hawaiian damselfly, Megalagrion nigrohamatum nigrolineatum
» crimson Hawaiian damselfly, Megalagrion leptodemas
» oceanis Hawaiian damselfly, Megalagrion oceanicum

HAVE YOUR SAY
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider comments by Oct. 3 on whether to include three Hawaii damselflies and 20 plants on the endangered species list.

COMMENTS CAN BE SENT BY:
» Visiting www.regulations.gov and following the instructions for submitting comments.
» Mailing — or hand-delivering — comments to Public Comments Processing, Attn: (FWS-R1–ES-2010–0043); Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

ON THE NET:
» Copies of the proposed rule can be downloaded from the agency’s website at
www.fws.gov/pacificislands.
 
The Fish and Wildlife Service will designate critical habitat for the 23 plant and damselfly species. It also will designate critical habitat for two additional plant species already listed as endangered — and revise critical habitat for 99 plant species currently listed as endangered or threatened, the agency said.

The designation of critical habitat does not affect landownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other special conservation area — nor does it allow government or public access to private lands, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

But the agreement will help protect a fragile Hawaii ecosystem under stress after "tens of millions of years of unique relationships," said Christy Martin, coordinator for the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, which was not a party to the settlement. "When you have an ecosystem like Hawaii that's so isolated, there are interrelationships that we really don't understand."

The agreement was reached last month after the Center for Biological Diversity filed lawsuits against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put 16 Oahu plants and three damselflies on the list of candidates for the endangered species list.

The agency added four additional Oahu plants that are listed as among the "rarest of the rare" by the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, a multi-agency program in Hawaii, said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The four plants — haha (Cyanea purpurellifolia), haiwale (Cyrtandra gracilis), haiwale (Cyrtandra waiolani) and ohe (Tetra­plasandra lydgatei) — are among approximately 180 Hawaii plants that each have fewer than 50 surviving members, Curry said.

"All of the species (announced on Monday) have been in trouble for a long time," Curry said. "The Fish and Wildlife Service has had a backlog of species that have long been known to need protection but hasn't had the resources to get around to (protecting) them."

Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, said in a statement, "Hawaii is a unique and special place in the natural world, and for that reason requires an innovative, holistic approach to conservation. We are on the forefront of endangered species conservation and are the first Fish and Wildlife Office in the nation to utilize the ecosystem-based approach for listing species and designating critical habitat, which will allow us to address the backlog of candidate species and, ultimately, the health of entire ecosystems."

The public has until Oct. 3 to comment on whether to place the plants and damselflies on the endangered species list. The Fish and Wildlife Service has 10 months to publish the species on the federal register of endangered species, Curry said.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been campaigning for a decade "to safeguard 1,000 of America's most imperiled, least protected species," which include 70 in Hawaii, the organization said.

"The Southeast, West Coast, Hawaii and Southwest are America's extinction hot spots," Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "Most of the species lost in the past century lived there, and most of those threatened with extinction in the next decade live there as well."

Some 499 species included in the agreement are not scheduled for inclusion on the endangered species list, Suckling said.

They include:

» The scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, or iiwi, a bright-red bird that the Center for Biological Diversity describes as hovering "like a hummingbird and has long been featured in the folklore and songs of native Hawaiians." The Hawaiian honeycreeper has been eliminated from low elevations on all islands from diseases such as avian pox and malaria that were carried by mosquitoes, which are now moving into the honeycreeper's higher-elevation refuges, according to the center.

Under the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will consider the Hawaiian honeycreeper for protection in 2016, the center said.

» The black-footed albatross, a large, dark-plumed seabird that lives in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, is threatened by longline swordfish fisheries, which kill it as bycatch, the center said.

The center and others petitioned to have the black-footed albatross listed as endangered in 2004. According to the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will propose the black-footed albatross for protection later this year, the center said.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:05 PM
Steve,

We did have settlement negotiations with the rancher, but are legally barred from discussing them.

Because of an outpouring of membership support and our insurance policy, the judgement had very little effect on the Center's operations.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:07 PM
Here's another positive story about how the Center's strategy has lead to greatly increased listings and ecosystem protection.


Oregonian July 13, 2011

 

Sixty Northwest creatures will get thumbs up or down on endangered species protection
 


Sixty Northwest species, including the Oregon spotted frog, the Seattle area's Lake Sammamish kokanee and 32 types of slugs and snails, will be considered for federal endangered species protection under an agreement filed with a judge this week.

The agreement between the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service dictates that the service must decide by 2018 whether to add plants and animals to the endangered species list. The agreement, pending with a federal judge in Washington, D.C., applies to 757 species across the country and five dozen in the Northwest.

Of the 757 species, the 258 already on a "candidate" list for protection have the best chance of being classified as endangered or threatened under federal law, said Noah Greenwald, the center's endangered species program director in Portland.

The wildlife service will make decisions on the species in a series of steps over the coming years. First up are decisions on the 32 mollusks, the kokanee -- a freshwater salmon -- and the dusky tree vole, which favors old-growth forest habitat in northwestern Oregon. The agency will decide this year whether to propose them for protection or determine they don't qualify.

In a news release, the wildlife service said the agreement will allow the agency to focus its resources on the species that most need protection. It also provides clarity and certainty regarding when listing decisions will be made, the agency said.

A decision on the spotted frog is due in 2013. It's been a candidate for listing since 1991, and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list it as endangered in 2004. The frog stands a decent chance of gaining protection, Greenwald said.

The Pacific fisher, a cat-like animal related to minks and otters, also has been a candidate for listing since 2004 and appears likely to gain protection, he said.

The most famous animal on the endangered species list is the northern spotted owl, which was listed as threatened in 1990 and has been at the center of lawsuits, research and logging shutdowns ever since.

Greenwald agreed that species-by-species decisions are difficult and broader habitat preservation may make more sense.

"Both approaches are necessary, I think," he said. "The individual species does matter. Often they represent the best of what's left of the habitat or ecosystem."

The fisher needs old-growth forest habitat, he said, while the spotted frog prefers the flood plain and is an excellent indicator species of wetlands health.

The judge's decision is expected in late July or early August.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:13 PM
Regarding whether it is necessary to push the USFWS toward taking an ecosystem approach, consider the story below. We pushed FWS to do exactly that, but it would do it. I still have hopes, however, that it will come around when the efficiency of the approach becomes apparent. Note also how long this species was waiting for protection (since 1996) and that it was petitioned for listing by a state agency. Many of the Center's lawsuits are filed to force the USFWS to process petitions by scientists and state agencies.


Virgin Islands Daily News July 12, 2011
 
Rare V.I. plant among species listed for protection in agreement

A rare Virgin Islands plant is a step closer to federal protection on the Endangered Species list, now that the federal government and an Arizona-based environmental organization have reached a settlement agreement.

The agreement was jointly submitted Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., for approval. The judge must sign off on the agreement before it becomes binding.

"Today's agreement will fast-track protection for 757 of America's most imperiled but least protected species," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The only Virgin Islands species on the list is the plant Agave eggersiana, an aloe-like plant native to St. Croix with yellow flowers on tall stalks.

The agreement between the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will require the federal government to make initial or final decisions on whether to add hundreds of plants and animals to the federal endangered species list by 2018.

In return, the Center for Biological Diversity will withdraw its legal opposition to a May 2011 agreement between the agency and another conservation group, which the center argued was too weak, unenforceable and missing key species in need of protection.

Most of the 757 species are considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Being listed as a candidate means the agency believes the species is worthy of protection, but the agency has chosen not to list it, usually because of lack of funding and low priority.

The federal agency deemed the Agave eggersiana a candidate for listing in September 2010.

Another rare Virgin Islands plant, Solanum conocarpum, became a candidate in March but is not included in the settlement agreement. Solanum conocarpum is a bushy plant with small purple flowers and a small, tomato-like fruit and is found only on St. John.

Suckling told The Daily News Tuesday that the settlement agreement originally only listed species made candidates prior to 2010. He said a revised agreement made some exceptions, but the Center for Biological Diversity was not successful in including the Solanum conocarpum.

"We certainly pushed to get all of them, but we were not able to in this round," he said. "We will continue to push the agency to get both plants listed."

As part of the settlement agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to implement greater efficiency measures in dealing with candidates for the Endangered Species list, Suckling said. The agency also will be able to plan better knowing it has until 2018 to make decisions on the 757 species, according to Suckling.

One of the efficiency measures is that the federal agency will deal with species in a single ecosystem - grouping several candidates together to conserve resources, Suckling said.

He said he hopes that when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets around to looking at the Agave eggersiana, it will realize that the Solanum conocarpum should be considered, too.

In 1996, the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources' Division of Fish and Wildlife petitioned the federal government to protect the two plants under the Endangered Species Act. Two years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted an initial report, called a 90-day finding, that agreed with the local government's petition.

By law, after a 90-day finding is issued, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has one year to provide an in-depth review of the species and make a final finding. The final report was supposed to be submitted within nine months, but six years went by without any action by the federal government.

In 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity picked up the territory's cause and took the federal government to court. In a 2005 settlement agreement, the federal government agreed to submit its final finding by February 2006.

When the final finding was submitted, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed its initial position and found that the petition to protect the two rare plants was not warranted, saying that the plants failed to meet even one of the five criteria used to determine an endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed another lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Sept. 9, 2008, challenging that decision. That suit was settled, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to submit a new 12-month finding to the Federal Register for Agave eggersiana by September 2010 and a new 12-month finding for Solanum conocarpum by Feb. 15, 2011.

The Center for Biological Diversity wrote scientific listing petitions or filed lawsuits to protect the 757 species as part of its decade-long campaign to safeguard America's species - including several found in the Virgin Islands.

The 757 species included in the settlement agreement include 26 birds, 31 mammals, 67 fish, 13 reptiles, 42 amphibians, 197 plants and 381 invertebrates. The species are found in all 50 states and several territories.

Lists of the 757 species broken down by state, taxonomy, name and schedule of protection are available at www.biologicaldiversity.org.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:18 PM
And here's one describing how our ecosystem-based petitions are changing the USFWS approach in Nevada's Great Basin desert and springs:


LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL July 12, 2011

Agreement forces decision on 54 Nevada additions to federally protected species list

A nationwide species preservation group reached a landmark agreement Tuesday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will spur the agency to make decisions on adding more than 750 plants and animals to the list of federally protected species, including 54 in Nevada.

"What this means is hundreds of species will finally get a decision on protection," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity's office in Portland, Ore. In some cases, a decision has been awaited for decades, he said.

Of the 54 Nevada species, Greenwald said the Fish and Wildlife Service is obligated to make decisions in the next few years. That includes calls on whether or not to list the Mount Charleston blue butterfly, the relict leopard frog, the Mono Basin sage grouse and the Western yellow-billed cuckoo.

Decisions to grant federal protection as threatened or endangered species could impact development or land use in habitats where the species are found, requiring costly mitigation measures.

The inch-long Mount Charleston blue butterfly, for example, is believed by some biologists to be on the brink of extinction.

"It clings tenuously to existence in the Spring Mountains west of Las Vegas and remains threatened by habitat loss, fire suppression and drought," according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

A news release from the center says the relict leopard frog, once found in Utah, Nevada and Arizona, disappeared in the 1950s and was thought to be extinct until some small populations were rediscovered in Nevada in the 1990s. Those populations are being monitored by biologists in and around Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Lower Colorado River system.

"It lives in undisturbed, permanent springs and is threatened by water development, recreation, disease and invasive species," the center's news release states.

In addition, Greenwald said 42 Great Basin spring snails fall under the agreement, including many that he said are threatened by the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plans to pump groundwater to Las Vegas from remote locations in eastern Nevada.

A decision on listing the spring snails is expected this year.

Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman J.C. Davis said the authority "is firmly committed to environmental protections and will continue to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service."

The service is in the process of determining from studies what actions, if any, are necessary to protect spring snails in the Snake Valley basin in White Pine County, 300 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to set legally binding deadlines on deciding whether or not to list species for protection in exchange for the center dropping lawsuits on the spring snails and some 90 petitioned species and dropping a global lawsuit over the service's lack of progress on species listing decisions.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., accepted the agreement for approval pending the outcome of a petition to intervene by another group.

"The agreement has been reached. We're waiting for imminent approval by the court," Greenwald said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Southern Nevada, Dan Balduini, said in an email that the agreement "allows us to focus our resources on the species most in need of protection. It provides a clear path forward."

Under the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will have to make decisions on 757 species across the country with a decision on the last one, the Pacific walrus, finalized in 2017.

"Most decisions will be in the next two years or so," Greenwald said in a telephone interview.

In the center's news release, Greenwald said, "Nevada's endangered species are a bellwether telling us there's too much urban sprawl, pollution and habitat destruction. If we can't save them, we won't be able to save ourselves. We're in this together."
John Villinski
John Villinski
Aug 03, 2011 01:20 PM
Too bad this isn't a more civil discussion. I think both sides have their points but like our political process, no one really talks to each other.

Mr. Williams' piece has its merits and its problems. It certainly appears one-sided. Maybe not everyone agrees with it, and maybe Mr. Williams could have research further into the issue before publishing the piece. Did Mr. Williams get some of his info from the Woddy NY Times article?

Mr. Suckling takes issues with what Mr. Williams wrote and that is his prerogative. I have met Mr. Suckling briefly once but never really had a conversation with him so I don't know the man. I do have a good friend that works for CBD and I trust her integrity. But outside of that I have no dog in this particular race.

That said, I was dismayed at the way that Mr. Suckling starts off his response, with so much obvious anger it was really hard for me to even bother to read his response and the ensuing "discussion." With phrases like “Industry-funded zealots,” “drinking the Kool-Aid,” and “Cribbing from the Internet like a Fox News intern,” I found myself starting to skim the article and the comments. I came back to read everything today just because I felt like this was an important issue. I am glad that I reread both pieces and that I read the NY Times article.

But I, like other commenters, am dismayed at the lack of true discussion happening between these two men.

I don’t understand why Mr. Suckling chose to start his rebuttal with invective instead trying to educate Mr. Williams and HCN readers. Mr. Suckling accuses Mr. Williams of the above names/attributes, but he does not provide any proof. Does Mr. Suckling have any proof that Mr. Williams is an industry-funded zealot? Could it be that Mr. Williams has some legitimate concerns that Mr. Suckling could have better explained? Why not state up front things like was stated in the NY Times article:

“Noah Greenwald, the endangered species program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the government needed to streamline the listing process. “It’s more efficient to list species in batches by habitat or geography,” he said. “The petitions are also designed in part to pressure them to take that approach more often.””

That would have cleared up a misunderstanding right there.

Mr. Suckling does provide some facts about what the CBD does, and what it receives from the federal government with respect to the filings, etc., and that is great, and it would have been nice if Mr. Williams acknowledge that fact. But reading the NY Times article, it states:

“The center raised $7.5 million in 2009, according to its annual report, including $4.8 million from membership donations and $1.2 million in what it calls “legal returns” from cases.”

Those legal returns is a large part of the monies raised by the CBD, so it would be understandable that someone might question where did that money come from. If it didn’t come from those sources alluded to in Mr. Williams’ article, where did it come from?

And there is the problem with Mr. Suckling not answering the question regarding the ranch and the libel suit. I didn’t know about that and I find that distressing. If Mr. Suckling is not going to answer questions and continue to basically state the same things again and again about the amount of monies received from the Fed, then to me his credibility comes into question. And that is sad because I know that the ESA and the issues it faces with this problem is huge. It’s not all the ESA’s fault I would not think as the Republican’s seem to continually try to dismantle and defang the agency/program. That’s not to say that everything the ESA does it does well and/or efficiently. But working with the agencies certainly seems the way to go. And if that is what Mr. Suckling feels that the CBD is trying to do, then he should state that and how they are trying.

I could go on, but I hope I made my point. A little more civility from all would make this all work better and we could all learn more.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 01:43 PM
John,

I answered the question regarding the defamation suit. See above.

In regard to my anger toward Williams, it is because distributed an essay to newspapers and websites nationally calling us "extremists" and "ecocriminals" who are "engaged in an industry whose waste products are fish and wildlife." He accuses of filing lawsuits in order to make money. Then he lied about our legal reimbursements.

That kind of extremely aggressive, public attack tends to invite anger, not civil discourse.

I don't accuse Williams of being funded by the industry campaign. I accuse him of falling prey to the campaign by reprinting its propaganda.
John Villinski
John Villinski
Aug 03, 2011 03:22 PM
Kieran,

Thanks - I had not read your comments during the time it took me to write my comment. I can certainly understand the anger that comes from the accusations from Mr. Williams. My point is that the yelling and screaming pushed me away from this story rather than towards it. I realize that I misspoke when I said that you called him an industry-funded zealot after I sent the comment in and for that I apologize.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Aug 03, 2011 03:42 PM
Kieran, thanks for the background on the suit. I think Ted probably could have presented that in a less harsh light. OTOH, I probably wouldn't have pursued the suit in the first place, or at least dropped it if discovery told me it was going nowhere. I don't know how often the rancher's cattle stray into that particular area, if the "parking area" or whatever is also public land, like the grazing lease, or private property or what. I also don't know how often how many cattle strayed beyond the allotment into this particular area and many other things. So, maybe not ridiculous, but still perhaps questionable to pursue the action.

Anyway, back to the ecosystems model. Ideally, FWS and environmental groups (and perhaps also USGS on the government side) could start identifying particular ecosystems in more cases. Greater Yellowstone is obviously nailed down, as are a few others. And, related to the ecosystems' geography, a fairly comprehensive list of "indicator species." There's no way these can be totally listed and totally monitored, but, a reasonable indicator list would be good.

Unfortunately, on the suits, Members of Congress can't be sued. It would be nice if a consent decree could force FWS to budget X million dollars for some of this work, though.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 04:08 PM
Steve, we're trying to engage the FWS with where the listing progam goes after our current agreement to protect 757 species runs its course. I'd love to see the agency develop a clear plan to address the next thousand plus species in a swift, ecosystem-based manner. Much of the petitioning and litigation has stemmed from our sense that the program lacks a goal and direction. If it can find one, we'd be happy not force one upon it.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Aug 03, 2011 04:18 PM
Kieran ... has an environmental suit ever been won with a consent decree on the spending side? I doubt it, but didn't know if there was a shot on that. Oh, and kind of related ... with BOERME's Alaska shenanigans ... can't we bring USFS into Interior and boot BOERME into Energy or somethign?
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 04:35 PM
We've been able to get the agencies to commit to work (listing species, doing scientific studies, installing exotic fish barriers, etc.) but not to seeking more money from Congress. This is really frustrating, because the lack of money--especially in the listing program--is the essential stumbling block. But since the federal budget request involves FWS, DOI, OMB and the White House, we've never succeeded in making it happen.

Interestingly, it is much easier to get private corporations to commit to spending money because they have a much simpler decision-making structure. Indeed, a huge portion of the Center's "legal returns" are actually monies corporations consent to spend purchasing or restoring land as mitigation for harming endangered species. We leveraged $700,000 that way a few years ago to restore vernal pools in San Diego. None of the money is available to the Center, but it gets classed a "legal return" because it passes through our bank account.
 Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Aug 03, 2011 04:38 PM
We've also advocated moving the Forest Service out of the Agriculture Department and into the Department of Interior as well. As long as we think of our national forests as "agriculture" it will be very hard to manage them correctly. Rather than create BOERME in the aftermath of the MMS scandal, we wanted the offshore leasing program to move back to USGS. Originally, onshore leasing was done by BLM and offshore by USGS. James Watt took it away from them and created MMS because he complained the agencies were too environmentally focused. That is good thing in my book.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder
Aug 04, 2011 11:07 AM
Kieran ... now all you have to do is hire me for that communications manager position you now have open. :)
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Aug 04, 2011 11:49 AM
Kieran -- I somehow doubt that moving the USFS from USDA to USDI will magically transform it into the NPS 2.0, which is what most who advocate the move seem to desire. And remember that James Watt was Sec. of Interior, not Ag., hence would have been unlikely to 'protect' resources.

And it actually begs a further debate about what connotes 'manage correctly' when it comes to the National Forests that harkens all the way back to John Muir and Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot's argument that in order to protect resources we must be able to economically exploit them to an extent seems to have as much validity today as ever. As much as anyone I'd like to be able to treat most forests as museums but the reality of human use of wood products isn't going away anytime soon -- nor should it when compared to many of the alternative products.

The current trend for loss of productive commercial forest land because of conversion to exurban development only concentrates the demand further. Which suggests that actually utilizing NF wood products will become more important in the future, not less. And if we really intend to manage all of our forests along the principles of ecosystem management, we'll have to actively utilize a more extensive land base, including the NF's, as we shift away from a focus of intensive fiber growth and harvest.

We simply cannot afford to convert the NF's to NP's without causing significant unintended consequences down the road either here or on other countries. Note, I'm not advocating we turn our NF's into intensive, short-rotation monocultures (as was widely advocated 1950's-1970's) but that we recognize that harvesting domestic wood fiber, even on NF's, is a valid use of public lands and one that, when done 'correctly', is sustainable and isn't tied to the Dept. that houses the agency.


As a side note, I really have to wonder at CBD's involvement in the Richardson Grove debate in northern California. I've looked at the CalTrans EIR and at the project area and can't see any practical ESA implications -- it's not like the work will likely disturb marbled murrelet nesting since it's planned for the winter and because the work is concentrated along an already used highway it doesn't seem likely that any murrelets would be nesting there to begin with. We're not talking pristine old-growth, it's a well used state park that even hosts an outdoor music festival nearby during nesting season.
J T
J T
Aug 09, 2011 06:53 PM
As a supporter of CBD,I'm very interested in this exchange. I too was dismayed at Kieran's attitude, and wish he'd taken the high road. Facts, please, not invective, no matter how low the other party has sunk.
Why did it take so long for you to respond about the rancher case? Was this mentioned in newsletters? Please be above board with all of us.
Westford Mason
Westford Mason
Aug 10, 2011 04:26 PM
I am no fan of Ted Williams. I’m a trout angler, and he’s been whooping it up for a ridiculous scheme by the feds and Arizona to kill trout in the Colorado river to save a bunch of CHUBs!!! I toss them in the bushes. But thanks to what Mr. Suckling has posted here I am now a FORMER supporter of the Center for BD. His vitriol in these posts and on at least one other site that I have visited is over the top. Also, he needs to be more honest. First, I can understand that he can’t talk about his organization’s $600,000 fine for slandering an honest rancher. But he can still answer the questions that Steve Snyder and others have asked him: “Do you consider paying $600,000 in penalties and damages for slandering an honest rancher who is saving vanishing species a proper use of funds given to you by your supporters?” That’s not “discussing the case.” What about it Mr. Suckling????? And it wasn’t Williams who used the word “obscene,” as Suckling claims. It was Amos Eno in a quote he gave Williams. Maybe Eno was lying, but what possibly could have been his motive? Maybe he was just wrong, but Eno ran the fund-raising arm of the Fish and Wildlife Service. If anyone knows about funds obscene and otherwise, it’s Eno. Could it be that that’s why Williams sought him out for an interview? Finally, Suckling claims that his organization is so rich losing the $600,000 it coughed up for libeling the rancher didn’t affect funds. That can only mean that my little contributions have been meaningless, and they will cease.
Dennis Parker
Dennis Parker
Aug 15, 2011 08:28 PM
Many of you have been asking how Mr. Suckling's Center for Biological Diversity could have avoided having to go to trial and paying damages to Mr. Chilton for maliciously defaming Mr. Chilton and his business. The answer is simple: 1)it could have removed the defamatory information from its website; and 2)apologized to Mr. Chilton for publishing that defamatory material in the first place. This could have done upon receipt of Mr. Chilton's demand letter from me as his attorney. Instead, the CBD chose to ignore both the demand for retraction and apology, and, well, you know the rest of the story. If you want to learn more about what actually happened, please visit: www.chiltonranch.com/chilton_ranch_lawsuit.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
Aug 16, 2011 06:23 AM
I couldn't get that link to work, but by deleting part I got to the Chilton Ranch web site where there is quite a bit of interest to read. I liked this one best.
http://www.chiltonranch.com/images/got-cha.pdf
also
http://www.chiltonranch.com/chilton_ranch_lawsuit.html
The irony is that the Chiltons are such exemplary conservationists
Westroad
Westroad Subscriber
Aug 16, 2011 08:21 AM
CBD wants to end all ranching on private and public land. It has never tried to pretend otherwise. The Washington Post quoted Mr. Suckling as follows: “Ranching is one of the most nihilistic life styles this planet has ever seen. It should end. Good riddance.” I can’t agree. The alternative to ranching is malls, houses, ski resorts, and general habitat destruction. People forget that most of the public land in the West is high-elevation ice and rock. The rich river valleys with most of the fish and wildlife are on private ranchland. I wish the CBD would work with ranchers in an effort to improve their practices instead of trying to wipe they off the face of the earth--the good with the bad.

Also, I will point out to Mr. Mason that the “chubs” I have been defending are federally endangered humpback chubs; and on the Colorado River they’re being pushed toward extinction by alien trout. Moreover the trout-control program on the Colorado is not trout elimination. The section below Lee’s Ferry used to be trophy trout water. Trout have overpopulated to the point that they’re stunted. If Mr. Mason would like to catch five-pound rainbows (instead of the 11-inchers that now invest the Colorado), he should support trout control. Meanwhile, sportsmen need to support the professionals they've trained and hired with their tax and license dollars, forget everything their grandfathers taught them about "trash fish," and remember how they reacted most everywhere else -- where the natives harmed by aliens are trout.
Kieran Suckling
Kieran Suckling Subscriber
Sep 26, 2011 03:14 PM
Good news for endangered species and citizen action: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just ruled on the Endangered Species Act listing petition that Williams complained so much about. All 374 of the aquatic Southeast species in the Center's year-long, 1,400 page petition were given a positive protection ruling. The rest of the 404 will be ruled on later this year.

Here's the press release:

374 Southeast Species Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Florida Sandhill Crane, Alabama Map Turtle, Streamside Salamander Among Hundreds of
Freshwater Species in 12 States That May Get New Protection

WASHINGTON— In response to a 2010 scientific petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today found that protection of 374 freshwater species in 12 southeastern states may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act. The decision was made in accordance with a historic settlement agreement reached this summer between the Center and the government to push 757 of the country’s least protected, but most imperiled, species toward Endangered Species Act protection.

“With today’s finding that 374 southeastern freshwater species will be considered for Endangered Species Act protection, it’s clear the Fish and Wildlife Service is finally taking action to help hundreds of American species that desperately need a lifeline,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “Like so many species in our ever-more crowded world, these 374 species face a multitude of threats to their survival — habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and pressure from invasive species.”

The 374 include 89 species of crayfish and other crustaceans; 81 plants; 78 mollusks; 51 butterflies, moths, caddisflies and other insects; 43 fish; 13 amphibians; 12 reptiles, four mammals and three birds. They are found in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Included among the 374 species are the Florida sandhill crane, streamside salamander, Alabama map turtle, beautiful crayfish, clam-shell orchid, cobblestone tiger beetle, frecklebelly madtom and the Canoe Creek pigtoe.

“The Southeast is home to more freshwater species than anywhere else in the world. Tragically, the region has already lost many of them to extinction,” Greenwald said. “Endangered Species Act protection for these remaining species will help stem the tide of extinction and herald the beginning of a new era of species protection in the Southeast.”

As documented in the petition, southeastern freshwater species are threatened by many forces that have altered, and continue to alter, the region’s waterways, such as dams, pollution, sprawl, poor agricultural practices, invasive species and a warming climate.

“Protecting these species will also protect rivers and streams that are a source of drinking water and recreation for Southeast communities,” said Greenwald. “Endangered Species Act protection will not just save these species from extinction but benefit millions of people.”

Groups that joined the Center on the petition included Alabama Rivers Alliance, Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Additional Information
For a copy of today’s finding, more information on our campaign to address the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis, a copy of the petition, a list of species by state and a slideshow of a sample of the species, please visit:
http://biologicaldiversity.org/[…]/index.html

For more information on our landmark settlement agreement, please visit:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/[…]/index.html
john burk
john burk
Oct 20, 2011 03:19 PM
Man, Kieran sure goes on and on and I am sure he will get the last word in on protecting the Council for Biodiversityb (CBD). It would be nice if the council would consider some diversity of opinion. It is indeed sad to see such single-mindedness in imposing ones own personal opinions forcibly upon others. Regretably it seems this is the mission of CBD and Kieran bears this out. CBD has certainly ruined things in our neck of the woods for kids catching trout. They have tied-up our only local stream into knots so that the DF&G cannot stock trout for kids. Consequently, our fly-fishing club can't go there on an outing with recent youth graduates to complete our fishing academy so they can get some instant sucess with their new skill. The CBD lawsuit has also stopped our elementary school "Trout in the Classroom" kids & teachers from letting their hatched finderlings go in the river. This river gets too warm in the summer to support trout year round so it is just a few months where fish can be stocked & caught --but, no more thanks to the Council on Biodiversity's stubborn pursuit of textbook ideals instead of following some good common sense. Kieran, your group has created alot of frowns on kid's faces in our community.