Siletz River to Appear in Court
September 6, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contacts for Lincoln County Community Rights:
Newport, Oregon: In the morning of September 11th, Judge Sheryl Backart will hear from proponents of the Siletz River Ecosystem why it should be granted admission into the lawsuit Rex Capri and Wakefield Farms LLC (Plaintiffs) v. Dana W. Jenkins and Lincoln County (Defendants), and Lincoln County Community Rights (Intervenor-Defendant).
The lawsuit, filed in June by Rex Capri of Newport and Wakefield Farms LLC of Eddyville, claims that voter-approved Measure 21-177 cannot ban aerial spray of pesticides because plaintiffs have more legal rights to continue to spray aerial pesticides than the people do to ban the practice. Measure 21-177 has been law in Lincoln County since early June, as approved by voters on May 16, and since then no documented aerial spraying has occurred.
Pesticides have been documented as being toxic and harmful to people and the environment for a long time. The most recent evidence of that, and of collusion of the EPA with the pesticide industry to falsify and hide that evidence, came to light when 20 tons of documents stored for close to 40 years in a dusty barn by Lincoln County resident Carol Van Strum, were finally scanned, digitized and made available to the public this last August through the efforts of Carol Van Strum and Peter Von Stackelsburg, her publisher, with the help of funding from The Center for Media and Democracy. Carol Van Strum was a key figure in getting the government to stop aerial pesticide spraying on federal forests in Lincoln County back in the 1980´s. The collection of documents stored in her barn has been made available to the public at – www.poisonpapers.org. Access to the complete and continually updated documents is available at http://thegemstonefile.org/the-documents.html.
The Siletz River Ecosystem filed a motion to intervene in July, with Carol Van Strum acting as its advocate. Measure 21-177, Section 3a, establishes the following rights, among others (in Sections 3b and 3c) for ecosystems and natural communities:
Right to be Free from Toxic Trespass. All people of Lincoln County, along with natural communities and ecosystems within the County, possess the right to be free of aerially sprayed pesticides.
“No other river provides more drinking water to Lincoln Co. residents than the Siletz River watershed,” says Debra Fant of Waldport, registered nurse and supporter of Measure 21-177. Corporations granted ‘personhood’ rights seek to protect their profits; the Siletz River ecosystem’s stake is defending life and well-being including that of humans living downstream. It’s time to give voice for Nature’s Rights to be free of poisons and defended in our courts.”
The Siletz River gorge landscape has changed drastically in the last ten years. The entire Siletz watershed has lost 46% of its forest in the last 16 years. Huge clear-cuts have all been aerially sprayed with pesticides multiple times. The steep terrain, barren of vegetation, leads to mudslides and pesticide run-off into the river and smaller feeder creeks. Steep slopes entail a major risk of contaminating the river and streams during the spray season. The Siletz River is an important source of drinking water for Lincoln County. This area is also a crucial salmon and steel-head habitat.
Over the last year, high courts in New Zealand, India, and Colombia have recognized rights for rivers as a means of creating a higher standard of protection for those ecosystems. In Ecuador, the federal constitution has recognized the rights of nature since 2008, and has held in two different legal cases that rivers have rights which human activity has violated and that restitution goes to restoring the damaged ecosystems.
ABOUT LINCOLN COUNTY COMMUNITY RIGHTS
Lincoln County Community Rights is a public benefit organization that seeks to educate and empower people to exercise their right of local community self-government in matters that pertain to their fundamental rights, their natural environment, their quality of life, their health and their safety. Given the harms that people and ecosystems suffer from the practice of aerial pesticide spraying of industrial forestland, the group drafted an ordinance to ban aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County, Oregon. Measure 21-177 was adopted by voters in May 2017, making Lincoln County the first county in the United States to ban aerial pesticide spraying through the vote of the people. www.lincolncountycommunityrights.org
All documents filed in this lawsuit are available to the public at http://www.lincolncountycommunityrights.org/court-documents/
Press information and photos are at www.lincolncountycommunityrights.org/press-info/
A letter from Carol Van Strum.
Standing to be heard
Fifty-six years ago, Dr. Seuss wrote the parable of the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, trying to save them from an insatiable factory that consumes every tree and poisons the river, air, and soil of a once-verdant forest.
A year later, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas eloquently argued for “the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.” Because corporations, ships, counties, and other inanimate objects have standing — the right to be heard in court — Justice Douglas urged that natural objects such as rivers and lakes should have similar standing. “The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes — fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear and all other animals, including man….The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled.”
Neither the Lorax nor Justice Douglas were heeded, and countless ecosystems have since been lost, dooming innumerable species into extinction.
Today an inanimate object called Wakefield Farms Company is plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging a voter-approved ordinance banning aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County, which specifically provides standing for natural objects threatened by aerially-applied poisons. On Monday, September 11, the court will decide whether the Siletz River Ecosystem has the same right as a profiteering company to argue for its own preservation.
“The sole question,” wrote Justice Douglas in 1972, “is who has standing to be heard?”
Lincoln County, with a proud history of landmark environmental victories, has a chance to score another by finally upholding Justice Douglas’s unheeded plea.
Carol Van Strum
For Siletz River Ecosystem in Rex Capri, Wakefield Farms LLC v. Dana W. Jenkins, Lincoln County.
7493 E. Five Rivers
Tidewater, Oregon 97390