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Judge Confirms $600,000 Libel Award and Finds Fault with
Environmentalists

(Tucson) Judge Richard Fields entered formal judgment on March
2, 2005 against the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental
activist corporation, and found that they must pay $600,000 in actual
and punitive damages to Arizona rancher Jim Chilton and the Chilton
Ranch and Cattle Company.

The formal judgment confirmed a Tucson jury's verdict, delivered
on January 21, 2005, finding the Center for Biological Diversity guilty
of making "false, unfair, libelous and defamatory statements" against
Jim Chilton, a fifth generation Arizona rancher whose pioneering
ancestors drove cattle into Arizona in the 1880's.

The jury awarded Chilton $100,000 in actual damages, and
$500,000 in punitive damages because the Center for Biological Diversity
defamed him and his family business in a two-page press release which
included links to 21 photographs posted on the Center's website, from
July 2002 until July 2003.

In his ruling, Judge Fields entered a formal judgment declaring
that the Center and its employees "made false statements" in their press
release. The judge also found that the press release "contained
misleading photographs" and "did not accurately describe the condition"
of Chilton's 21,500 acre Forest Service grazing allotment, located
northwest of Nogales, Arizona. The Center for Biological Diversity, a
high profile environmental activist corporation, has written many
petitions leading to the listing of species as endangered. Scientists
have questioned whether some of these species are actually endangered.
At trial, the Center claimed to have filed over 170 lawsuits against
federal agencies. According to Chilton, these lawsuits have stopped
school construction, terminated thousands of lumber production jobs, put
Arizona and New Mexico communities into economic distress, and driven
many western ranchers to the verge of bankruptcy. Kraig Marton, an
attorney from the Phoenix-based law firm of Jaburg and Wilk, who
represented Chilton when he fought back, stated "this case shows how
pictures can lie", said Marton. "We are very pleased with the ruling",
he added, and noted "it is about time that the tables were turned on
this group". Chilton said the suit was filed to challenge the way the
Center for Biological Diversity consistently does business. "They don't
use science, they just wear people down and drive them out of business",
said Chilton. "They routinely use endangered species to raise money and
fund their attacks on the cowboy and the western culture."

Chilton has also stated that after his expenses for this lawsuit
are covered, he plans to donate the remaining money to the Arizona
Cattle Growers Association to help spread the word that modern ranching
conserves habitat for wildlife, increases biodiversity, and reduces
threats of wildfire. At trial, the jury was shown the photographs
disseminated by the Center that focused on tiny barren areas and implied
that the range had been devastated by cattle.

Chilton's lawyer put up photographs taken from the same sites
looking north, south, east, and west that revealed a vibrant and
thriving environment. Experts testified that the allotment had been well
managed by the Chiltons and, in fact, had been written up by leading
range scientists as a "Success Story", in the professional journal,
Rangelands.

The jury agreed with Chilton's claims, finding that the Center
knowingly disseminated false and malicious statements in a news
advisory, and that misleading photographs were used to harm the Chiltons
after the Center's unsuccessful attempt to block the renewal of
Chilton's grazing permit. Chilton, who felt elated and vindicated, said
the jury had done an admirable job of understanding days of scientific
testimony. "This case will help the public become aware that ranchers
support real recovery of endangered species because quality habitat
makes quality ranches."

Chilton emphasized that this case demonstrates the need to
strengthen the Endangered Species Act to close loopholes that have
allowed groups like the Center for Biological Diversity to make money by
suing the federal government. It was revealed at trial that the Center
collected over $990,000 in 2003 from lawsuits it filed, mostly against
the government. Chilton decried the Center's list-and-sue policy as
preventing the agencies and landowners from actually working to recover
species.

According to Chilton, "Now is the time to get recovery results
from the Endangered Species Act by requiring peer-reviewed science for
listings, providing incentives for landowners, recreationalists and
rural businesses to preserve open space and improve habitat for
species". Chilton concluded that "we must actually recover species, not
just play the game of listing them to put money in activist coffers and
put Americans out of work".

For more information regarding this case, please contact Kraig
Marton at (602) 248 - 1017 or (602) 570 3510 or PRfect Media at (480)
706-6880.
 

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That is the best thing I've heard all year. I mean, I love our country, but it sucks that the right high profile squealer can turn over the turnip cart. We don't use tortoises for traction. Ranch owners have a vested interest in their land being productive. Do some abuse it?? Sure. But I wish they would go after them, and leave the rest of the masses alone, to get stuck in the mud, or hunt, or...whatever.
 

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Mike said:
Judge Confirms $600,000 Libel Award and Finds Fault with
Environmentalists

...snip...

According to Chilton, "Now is the time to get recovery results
from the Endangered Species Act by requiring peer-reviewed science for
listings, providing incentives for landowners, recreationalists and
rural businesses to preserve open space and improve habitat for
species". Chilton concluded that "we must actually recover species, not
just play the game of listing them to put money in activist coffers and
put Americans out of work".
The Center had this coming, they are bullies, and that is coming from a biologist.

Regarding what Chilton said that I quoted above, I couldn't agree more. Well said Mr. Chilton. Too bad Bush won't fund any more species being listed, regardless of the science behind it. Here is a link of just candidate species US FWS Candidate List We can't even recover the ones listed due to lack of funds. It's the same lack of funds that doesn't give us the enforecement on our public lands that we need to keep the yahoos from tarnishing it for the rest of us.
 
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