Mar 12, 2010
by WLJ

WLA: What it is and what it is not

As Western Legacy Alliance (WLA) is well into its third year, the highlight of which—thus far—is the introduction into Congress of H.R. 4717 with bipartisan sponsorship, it seems an appropriate time to remind our supporters and ourselves what WLA is. WLA is a grassroots initiative, a loose coalition of individuals and organizations gathered behind a single purpose.

For decades, the real people of the West’s traditional industries have been fading from the public’s eye, no longer seen behind a screen of nonexistent or, increasingly, negative media coverage. The general population is two or three generations removed from their ancestor’s farm. It is an intention of WLA to resurrect the image of those real folks and families who work on the land.

Misanthropic, elitist environmental groups have exploited, and even created that obscuring veil of negatively-biased media coverage which helps them justify the avalanche of litigation with which they have managed to usurp agency management of the public lands. These lawsuits have cost communities and taxpayers unknown millions, perhaps billions, of dollars and have brought modern land and resource management to a halt.

The purpose of WLA is to counter this trend, to bring the stories of real people back into the spotlight, and to further shine that spotlight on the costs and the abuses inherent to the burdensome litigation which has befallen natural resource management. The purpose of WLA is to preserve reasonable, sustainable economic access to our natural resources. It is a purpose which has transcended the boundaries of public lands, just as the litigious strategies of these environmental groups, intent upon social-engineering, have expanded their field of willful interference into private lands.

WLA is not intended to supplant any previously existing advocacy organization or trade association.

With its single focus, it is meant to complement and, where appropriate, to amplify, the ongoing missions of those organizations. Anything which WLA has accomplished to this point has come with constant consultation and support of the membership of the cattle industry associations of the western states, of the Public Lands Council, of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and of the Farm Bureau.

Armed with the groundbreaking litigation datamining of Karen Budd- Falen, a tireless advocate for natural resource access and judicial fairness, of Budd-Falen Law Offices, WLA has drawn public and political attention to the abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) and similar “fee-shifting” regulatory mechanisms by environmentalist groups nationwide.

In a process not intended by the well-meaning authors of EAJA, environmentalist groups and their attorneys meet with government lawyers to settle litigation, receiving unreported and unmonitored millions of taxpayer dollars for unspecified and unrecorded legal costs.

H.R. 4717, the Open EAJA Act of 2010, is intended to return a degree of congressional oversight to EAJA, a modest goal, yet an important start to interrupting this gravy train.

Who, after all, could argue for continued secrecy and obscuration in this time when even our president is rightfully calling for governmental transparency?

WLA recognizes the broad and growing coalition of organizations which will carry H.R. 4717 forward; its ownership is open to all who agree with the purpose of this legislation.

WLA will continue in its efforts to generate stories and information useful and supportive of the families and communities who rely upon continued and sustainable use of our country’s natural resources, and would, again, like to thank those who have supported its efforts thus far.

Preston Wright, Western Legacy Alliance