DENVER — Wherever WildEarth Guardians goes, the economy suffers, according to a newly released report.
The study, “Economic Impact of WildEarth Guardians Litigation on Local Communities,” found that household income drops by an average of $2,503 in communities where the non-profit group WildEarth Guardians is active in litigating environmental issues.
The study was conducted by two Utah professors and commissioned by Americans for Prosperity-Colorado, which frequently tangles with the environmental movement over the economic impact of its advocacy.
“The argument often made by the environmental community is that increased intervention by environmental groups, through litigation and other activities, does not negatively impact local communities; this argument, however, is not supported by the data,” said the 47-page report.
“When comparing counties where WildEarth Guardians has intervened to those without intervention, we find that those counties having had intervention are worse off than the non-intervention counties,” the report states.
Jeff Crank, AFP-Colorado state director, said the study represented the first academic research to measure the economic impact of litigation brought by professional environmental activists.
“This is the first time anyone has attempted to hold them [WildEarth Guardians] accountable for the real economic and human harm they do,” said Crank. “That’s something those who support these groups and their extreme agendas need to understand.”
This isn’t the first time AFP-Colorado has put WildEarth Guardians under a microscope. The free-market advocacy group released a report in January, “Monkeywrenching the Courts,” that examines how WildEarth Guardians uses “saturation litigation” to accomplish its goals and, at the same time, earns taxpayer-financed legal fees for its lawsuits under the federal Equal Access to Justice Act.
WildEarth Guardians is based in Santa Fe, N.M., but operates offices in Tucson and Denver. A spokeswoman for WildEarth Guardians did not return phone calls Wednesday requesting comment.
Earlier this year, however, the group did respond to receiving the AFP’s “Monkeywrencher of the Month” award.
“AFP is frustrated that Guardians successfully litigates to ensure our clean [air], our climate, and our wildlife are protected. Their analysis shows that Guardians wins 77 percent of the time we use the courts to ensure our government is following the law,” said the online statement. “This success rate underscores how effective our legal efforts are in safeguarding wolves, our wild rivers, and more. For a brighter and greener future for all, we are proud to accept the award.”
Why WildEarth Guardians? “The answer, in short, is that we had to start somewhere,” said the AFP in a statement. “And we were searching for a test case that is regionally based, relatively confined in its area of influence, clear about its goals, and exemplifies the most troubling traits of the movement.”
The report concludes that the West would take a $4 billion hit if WildEarth Guardians were to achieve its goals of banning grazing, coal mining and drilling on public lands. That figure does not include the ripple effect on indirect economic activity, such as restaurants, hotels and retail outlets, the report said.
Among the report’s other findings:
* WildEarth Guardians’ anti-drilling litigation directly threatens 26,200 Western jobs in targeted counties, and $1.57 billion in related economic activity;
* The group’s efforts to stop coal mining in the Powder River Basin threaten 26,104 jobs and $1.75 billion in economic activity;
* Its fight against cattle grazing threatens 37,237 farming and ranching jobs in counties where the group is active and $662 million in local economic activity.
The report was conducted by Ryan M. Yonk, an assistant professor at Southern Utah University and research director of Utah State University’s Center for Public Lands and Rural Economics, and Randy T. Simmons, an economics professor and director of the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University.
Finding qualified academic researchers to conduct the study was a challenge because of both the subject matter and “because others we approached were frankly reluctant to do research that might create conflict with green-leaning colleagues, controversy-shy school administrators or environmental groups themselves,” according to AFP-Colorado.
A copy of the full report is embedded below.