Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, September 11, 2015, Page 6, Image 6

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September 11, 2015
Editorials are written by or
approved by members of the
Capital Press Editorial Board.
All other commentary pieces are
the opinions of the authors but
not necessarily this newspaper.
Editorial Board
Managing Editor
Mike O’Brien
Joe Beach
Carl Sampson Online:
O ur V iew
Don’t delay immigration reform until ‘after the election’
farm labor leader was in
our office the other day,
and became the first in
this cycle to utter what is now a
familiar phrase — immigration
reform will have to wait until
after the election.
We heard that in 2009 and ’10,
again in 2011, 2012, 2013 and
2014. We wonder which election
everyone is talking about.
Proponents of comprehensive
immigration reform have a lot in
common with Chicago Cubs fans.
Wait ’til next season.
There are some 12 million
illegal immigrants in the United
All have violated federal law
by entering the country illegally.
Millions have further submitted
fake papers to employers.
More than 300,000 are
classified by the U.S. government
as “criminal aliens,” having been
arrested and convicted of a crime
here or in their home country.
The vast majority have not
committed other crimes, let
alone violent felonies. They are
regular people trying to escape
intolerable conditions at home.
They work, illegally, at jobs
in agriculture, hospitality and
construction that employers say
they otherwise would be hard
pressed to fill.
What do we do with 12 million
illegal immigrants? As we’ve said
many times, in simplest terms
there are only two choices. Either
we let them stay, or make them
The next election won’t
produce new choices, or
decisively eliminate the
opposition to either choice.
Most Americans would
concede that such a large,
undocumented population
running at large represents a
substantial security threat, as
does an unsecured border that
has proven so porous. At the
same time, even many Americans
who would be happy with the
repatriation of these people
to their home countries aren’t
comfortable with the optics of
men, women and children being
rounded up and herded into
camps to await deportation.
A recent poll by the Pew
Research Center shows that
72 percent of Americans favor
allowing illegal immigrants now
living in the country to stay if
they meet strict requirements.
So do we. Let’s do it now.
Congress must offer illegal
immigrants willing to register
temporary legal status and a
path to permanent residency
after 10 years if they meet strict
requirements — no prior felony
convictions, no violations while
awaiting residency, learning to
speak English and pay a fine and
back taxes. Those not meeting the
requirement should be deported.
O ur V iew
State pays to keep wolf issue at bay
he Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife is making
another investment in secrecy
with its decision to spend more than
$850,000 on a wolf consultant who
insists on meeting behind closed doors.
The “Wizard of Oz” comes to mind.
Whatever goes on behind the curtain
is, well, magic. Just by clicking her
heels she can help environmentalists,
ranchers, hunters and others find the
yellow brick road to coexistence.
Through the centuries, Americans
have insisted that the public’s business
be done in public. Discussing wolf
policy in Washington state is somehow
exempt from that concept, according to
Fish and Wildlife managers.
There are two ways to look at this
One is that department managers
really do hope she can somehow
convince Washington citizens that
they don’t want to know anything
more about the issues related to wolf
Apparently, the concept of a well-
informed citizenry is highly overrated.
If the department can feed the public
only what it believes they need to know,
everything will be much better.
Another way to look at it is the
bigwigs in Olympia just wanted to get
rid of the wolf issue and stroked a check
to get it off their desks.
If she succeeds in getting all sides of
the wolf issue to hold hands and build a
bridge to each other’s heart, they’ll all
be heroes.
Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press
If the effort fails, the Olympia crowd
can say they tried but, dang it, it just
didn’t work out.
Either viewpoint is highly cynical,
we will readily admit. We’re always
cynical about secrecy.
But the only other way to view this is
to put on our rose-colored glasses, jump
on a unicorn and ride into the sunset,
crossing our fingers that whatever
happens in secret will be for the good
of all.
Wolf management is not a secret,
and it’s not magic. And, believe it or
not, Washington is not the first state
to deal with gray wolves. Idaho did it.
Oregon did it. Montana did it. Canada
has more than 50,000 wolves — 10,000
are in British Columbia alone — and
Wyoming farmer need-
ed to build a stock pond
to provide water for his
livestock. But, in discussions
with state and county permit-
ting departments, he decided
that he’d also make sure his
pond provided broader en-
vironmental benefits. The
pond that he built now pro-
vides habitat for fish, moose
and a bald eagle. It created
wetlands where there’d been
none. And it filters the wa-
ter that passes through it, by
allowing sediment and other
materials to settle.
This sounds praisewor-
thy, right? You’d think so.
But that’s probably because
you aren’t familiar with the
myriad ways that federal bu-
reaucrats abuse the hopelessly
vague and far-reaching Clean
Water Act. Instead of praising
Andy Johnson — the farmer,
from Fort Bridger, Wyoming
— EPA sent him an order ac-
cusing him of violating that
statute and threatening him
with $37,500 per day in fines
unless he removed the pond
and let EPA dictate how he
uses his property.
The intentions behind the
Clean Water Act were undeni-
ably good. It sought to protect
major waterways — referred
to as “navigable waters” in
Lawsuit stops land management
beneficial to sage grouse
For the Capital Press
somehow its leaders have managed the
What, exactly, makes Washington so
Wolves are not typical endangered
species. They are predators, prolific,
highly mobile and can fend for
These qualities alone call for
managing them differently that other
protected species.
And the fact that some of them prey
on livestock, threatening the financial
well-being of ranch families, many who
have lived off the land for generations,
makes it that much more important for
wildlife managers to do their job, not
shovel it off to high-paid consultants
who hide behind closed doors.
Farmer sues EPA to protect his stock pond — and his freedom
For the Capital Press
As penalty for entering
illegally, those made permanent
residents should not be eligible
for citizenship.
We think the border must be
secured. A viable guestworker
program must be established, and
employers must verify the work
status of their employees.
It is legitimate to oppose
mass illegality, and we respect
the position of those who would
take a harder line and suggest we
favor “amnesty.” Let us reason
together on a workable solution.
Waiting until after the next
election, or the election after that,
to end up with the status quo is
de facto amnesty without any
Jonathan Wood
the Act — from pollution. But
EPA and the Army Corps of
Engineers have stretched the
statute far beyond anything
Congress could have intended.
As Supreme Court Jus-
tice Samuel Alito put it: “The
combination of the uncertain
reach of the Clean Water Act
and the draconian penalties
imposed for … violations …
leaves most property owners
with little practical alterna-
tive but to dance to the EPA’s
Johnson’s case is a partic-
ularly stark example of that
abuse not only because he
did something that was good
for the environment and clean
water but also because the
Clean Water Act expressly
says that stock ponds like his
are exempt from the statute’s
elaborate — i.e. expensive
and time-consuming — per-
mit regime.
But that didn’t stop EPA
from threatening Johnson
with massive fines, which
in the year he’s spent trying
to explain to EPA that it has
overstepped have already
grown to more than $16 mil-
That’s pretty terrifying for
a small hardworking farm-
er trying to provide for his
growing family. And that’s
the point. Johnson is only the
latest in a long line of prop-
erty owners whom EPA has
tried to strong-arm with ille-
gal compliance orders.
Until recently, EPA got
away with this by barring
people from challenging these
orders. But three years ago, in
a case brought by Pacific Le-
gal Foundation, the Supreme
Court of the United States
held that every property own-
er subjected to such threats is
entitled to a day in court.
Since that decision, EPA
has been sued numerous times
for abusive compliance orders
and often backed down rather
than defending its illegal ac-
tions. For instance, two years
ago, Pacific Legal Foundation
represented a New Mexico
property owner who removed
trash from a dry ditch that
crossed his property, only to
be threatened by EPA. Ac-
cording to the agency, the ditch
— in the middle of the desert
— was a “water of the United
You read that right. Shortly
after the complaint was filed,
EPA caved. Makes you wonder
how much the agency abused
compliance orders during the
decades when property owners
had no right to challenge them,
doesn’t it?
Johnson too is taking EPA
to task. Also represented by
Pacific Legal Foundation, he
recently filed a lawsuit against
the agency arguing that his
pond is exempt from the Clean
Water Act and the compliance
order’s threats of ruinous fines
for creating an environmental
benefit are absurd and illegal.
Johnson isn’t only stand-
ing up for himself, though.
He’s also fighting so that other
farmers and ranchers who rely
on the Clean Water Act’s ex-
emption for their ponds can’t
be bullied by federal bureau-
This is no small ordeal. Ev-
ery day that passes before the
courts finally strike down this
compliance order is another
$37,500 hanging over John-
son’s head. If this case goes
all the way up to the Supreme
Court — as many such import-
ant cases do — he will likely
be facing tens of millions dol-
lars in fines, all for creating
an environmentally friendly
pond on his private property.
Something has gone terribly
wrong when a statute intended
to clean up our waters is being
used to threaten someone for
doing just that.
Jonathan Wood is a staff
attorney with Pacific Legal
Foundation, and lead counsel
in PLF’s lawsuit against
the EPA on behalf of Andy
ou have got to be kid-
ding me.
Many of us in East-
ern Oregon have invested
thousands of hours into staving
off another listing of an endan-
gered species which could be
devastating to rural Oregon’s
communities, the greater sage
Many conservation groups,
soil and water conservation
districts and hundreds of con-
cerned citizens have been in-
volved. Private landowners
voluntarily designed and be-
gan implementing conserva-
tion agreements with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service on
more than a half-million acres
of private land. Our ranching
families committed to manage
their land in the way they al-
ways have, towards good con-
The federal Bureau of Land
Management completed a plan
to manage land they oversee.
The governor’s Sagecon effort
worked towards an Oregon
All these efforts were col-
laborative. We will end up with
an Oregon Plan and hopefully
we can do the things that make
healthy lands and healthy
communities. A real success
story for all.
Sage grouse will benefit
from this collaborative effort.
The threats in Oregon are
described by the USFWS as
invasive weeds, fire and juni-
per encroachment. In Harney
County, Ore., a collaborative
group worked with the BLM
to address juniper encroach-
ment. A plan was developed,
the community and neighbors
supported the project, a con-
tract was awarded, invest-
ments were made and work
started. A very progressive
effort by the local community.
In the face of this effort,
one conservation group filed
litigation arguing against the
methods and size of the proj-
ect. Seven years later, the juni-
per in the entire project is still
awaiting removal pending the
litigation. The federal court
imposed an injunction, stop-
ping the project. While the
litigant acknowledged that the
project was an ecosystem res-
toration project, it nonetheless
chose litigation over ecosys-
tem restoration.
The BLM considered off-
road vehicles a tool to enable
the removal of juniper; the
conservation group argued that
mechanized vehicles should
be banned. One has to assume
that group thought the project
could continue without off-
road vehicles, could pile and
burn without the off-road ve-
hicles, and could safely burn
without the protections afford-
ed by vehicles. Given the cur-
rent fire conditions, it would be
gross negligence to send crews
in with the absence of fire con-
trol tools.
To the community in Har-
ney County, we had to ask the
question: Why? We collabo-
rated, we identified the need to
Steve Grasty
address the juniper encroach-
ment, we thought we had all
the parties at the table and we
were working to improve/sus-
tain rangeland health in our
backyard, so why litigate?
I suspect part of the issue
for the group is the wilderness
study area, but juniper removal
will increase wilderness char-
acteristics. Perhaps they will
suggest removing juniper with
fire, but I caution all not to sug-
gest fire in Eastern Oregon in
light of last week’s 43 homes
lost in Grant County.
Or you will be told that
juniper removal is ecological
restoration, not administrative
work, which just leaves me
confused as that is the project
and the reason we all advocat-
ed for it.
To accomplish restoration
in a broad enough area to be
effective there is a need to cov-
er a lot of ground quickly, the
actual removal of the juniper
is critical. Following all res-
toration work with an after ac-
tion recovery plan will address
and restore impacts.
The district court agreed
with the litigant and forbid the
BLM from using mechanized
equipment to remove juniper.
Is this what Congress intended
in the Steens Act when it em-
phasized the need for juniper
removal? Now 80,000 acres of
juniper removal is unlikely to
move ahead. Sage grouse hab-
itat will not be restored.
Will the message from the
litigants be “we won” in pro-
tecting wilderness? When the
real message is “We have cre-
ated so many special designa-
tions that we have effectively
abdicated land management.”
Our communities, our land-
scape and our wildlife deserve
better than this.
Communities are maintain-
ing the ecology we enjoy and
our residents are the ones doing
the restoration work. Should
single groups use litigation to
control land management in
opposition to science-based
ecological restoration?
In rural Oregon we need
your assistance; we are over-
whelmed by professional lit-
igators who take away from
communities and the environ-
ment. Please consider getting
Two questions we might
Is it time to demand Con-
gress set a standard as to what
actions can and cannot occur
within wilderness study areas,
particularly as we deal with
endangered species?
Are we satisfied with a pro-
cess where litigation is driving
land management decisions on
public land?
My statement stands, we
are going to stop ecological
restoration in the name of
making a legal point....
You have to be kidding me!
Steve Grasty is the county
judge in Harney County, Ore.