Nature cultists such as Earth First and others have been lying for decades about the supposedly "devastating" impacts of ranching, mining, lumbering, and just about any other productive use of the Western lands that you can think of.
One of their favorite tactics is to post misleading photos of "damaged" lands on their Web sites – blithely ignoring the fact that many ecosystems depend on large ungulates (today's cattle partially replacing yesterday's bison, elk or antelope) to trample grass seeds into the ground, fertilize and stir up creeks to promote insect hatches, etc.
Down in Arivaca, Ariz., near the Mexican border, rancher Jim Chilton, 66, went on the Internet and was shocked to find a bunch of green extremists dubbed the Center for Biological Diversity had done the same job on him, posting photos which they claimed showed the harm Chilton's 425 cattle were doing to his mountainous leased allotment of U.S. Forest Service land.
Mr. Chilton set about taking his own photos of the very areas the nature cultists contended his cattle had destroyed – showing the pro-desert group's photos had been carefully framed to make isolated dirt patches amidst plentiful greenery look like some kind of war zone.
His real coup, though, concerned photo No. 18 – a shot of Chilton's cattle resting on a bare stretch of sand.
Chilton filed a defamation lawsuit against the center in January 2004, contending the stretch of sand depicted in photo No. 18 had been the site of a big May Day weekend campout involving several hundred people only two weeks before the center's posted photo had been taken.
And he produced a photo of the campout.
Under oath at the two-week trial, CBD member A.J. Schneller admitted that he had attended the camporee on the Forest Service site, and knew darned well what had trampled down the land.
Mr. Chilton said he would have been happy with the vindication of a $1 damage award.
But the Tucson jury was not so forgiving, awarding $600,000, including $500,000 in punitive damages against the lying anti-human green extremists, whose co-founder now says the jury award could financially devastate the group.
And the Center for Biological Diversity is actually among the more litigious of these gangs; a third of its $3 million income in 2003 came from court awards and settlements.