February 16, 2005:
In an unusual episode in the longstanding 'ranchers vs. environmentalists'
drama, a jury awarded Arizona rancher and investment banker Jim
Chilton $600,000 in actual and punitive damages to be paid by the
Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.
The non-profit environmental group, which since its founding in
1989 has made its reputation by filing lawsuits on behalf of endangered
species, in July 2002 posted photos on its website allegedly depicting
environmental damage caused by Chilton's cattle on a 21,5000-acre
Forest Service allotment northwest of Nogales, Arizona. The center
posted the photos as part of a campaign to bar renewal of Chilton's
Forest Service grazing permit.
Chilton, a fifth generation rancher, sued the group for libel,
charging that photos and captions willfully misrepresented his ranching
The center's lawyer argued that the photos and other material represented
the environmental group's opinions, and thus that they should be
protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. Kieran Suckling,
the center's director, was quoted as saying, "We did things
with the best of intentions. If there were some mistakes, they were
After two-weeks of testimony, 21 witnesses and more than 100 exhibits
the jury, in a 9-1 decision, ruled the claims made about Chilton
were indeed, “false, unfair, libelous and defamatory.”
Chilton promised that after paying for his legal expenses and reimbursing
himself for costs he would donate the remainder of the award to
the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association.
Read the full story at: http://mobile.azstarnet.com/sn/pda/58068.html