Out of the woods: Minnesota loggers take on deep ecology

By Diane Alden
web posted January 17, 2000

Associated Contract Loggers, a Tower, Minnesota based logging group, has brought suit against two environmental organizations and the U.S. Forest Service. The basis for the action is that the ACL considers the environmentalist's underlying philosophy, Deep Ecology, as religious in nature.

On January 14th, Stephen Young, the attorney for the group, argued the case before U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum. The judge's response to the ACL's arguments was to ask lawyer Young, "Stephen, what in the world are you doing?"

However, after a dramatic half-hour debate, attorney Young prevailed, onvincing the judge that the case had merit. Young maintained, "He heard us out, and that makes you feel good when you are advocating something." Says Young, "(Deep Ecology )is an earth-based belief system which can't be proven by science."

The judge's decision is pending and is the first hurdle that the loggers must overcome if the suit is to go to trial. Young believes the decision will take about two weeks.

The lawsuits were filed in late September against the St. Paul based Superior Wilderness Action Network, the New Mexico based Forest Guardians, and the Forest Service for $600,000 in damages. The lawsuit contends that certain environmental groups have influenced the Forest Service, a federal agency, thus, breaching the widely held doctrine of "separation of church and state." Furthermore, that Deep Ecology is a religion and should not have as much influence on government environmental policies as it does.

Rosenbaum asked Young, "Why should the courts get involved in this issue?" Young responded, "If the group is going to use its influence to sway government decisions" it should be held accountable under the separation of church and state doctrine.

When the time comes, the ACL and Young will have to prove that Deep Ecology is a religion. At the moment, there are several ways Rosenbaum may rule. He may dismiss the lawsuit, proceed with it as filed, or consider parts of it; also possibly throwing out the parts against SWAN and the Forest Guardians.

The environmental groups involved in the suit are convinced the case will not go to trial. However, the fact that the question has been brought up at all and taken to court means that the moral and religious overtones of the environmental movement have finally been challenged.

Deep Ecology is a way of looking at the environment and nature with a twist. Its current advocates maintain that man has much more than a responsibility not to foul his nest. One of its primary tenets is that humankind must "save" the environment at any cost, because the environment is a sacred living thing. The problem with the philosophy is that it places the environment before any and all of mankind's needs.

Deep Ecologists include the likes of Dave Foreman of Earth First! Others involved are young men such as Kieran Suckling of the Southwest Biodiversity Center in Tucson, Arizona. Recently, journalist and analyst for the Paragon Foundation, J. Zane Walley, interviewed Suckling: "Kieran…openly surrenders reasoning to a view that all species, animal and plant, are as important, if not more so, than humans. He is represented in mainstream newspapers, including the New York Times as the "Green Savior."

In a recent article in Range Magazine, Walley recounts the views of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Tenney of Navaho County Arizona. "Our mills were shut down by the Southwest Center and the Forest Guardians. I believe these people worship the earth and its creations but not the Creator." So far Crusader Kieran and the Forest Guardians have closed down 4.6 million acres and held up crucial logging on another 21 million acres in the Southwest.

Even mainstream religions have jumped on the environmental bandwagon. Religious leaders in several denominations have become activists. Advising their flocks to get involved on the side of what appears to be extreme environmentalism.

The environmental movement uses the inherent moral and ethical nature of religion in order to bolster the sometimes-unscientific nature of their beliefs. In doing so they give those beliefs legitimacy. Like many religions they circle the wagons and demonize people who have the temerity to ask questions. Subjecting those who disagree to a ridiculous standard which calls for unquestioning obedience. It boils down to the fact that if you don't agree with every environmental dogma you are a heretic and an enemy of the environment.

If one reads the writings of two famous environmentalists, Al Gore and Bruce Babbitt, the striking features are the moral and religious implications of what they are saying. Unfortunately, their concerns for the environment don't extend to the affect these policies may have on people.

Whether or not Judge Rosenbaum rules in favor of the loggers, or the environmental groups and the Forest Service, the question has been raised, and that is a good thing. Perhaps it will stir a few Americans to ask themselves about the basis for environmental doctrine and its implied infallibility.

However, the main question is: Has the sacred cow of one interest group, become the instrument of persecution and destruction of another?

Most religions preach love and brotherhood. The religious crusaders in the environmental movement preach intolerance towards those who disagree with them. They will not admit that their god is green. It may be an outside chance but perhaps Judge Rosenbaum will recognize that possibility and rule accordingly.

Diane Alden is a research analyst and writer and news analyst, The American Partisan columnist, Newsmax contributor and commentator for Georgia Radio, Inc. Reach her at Wulfric8@aol.com.

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