A new conservation law and policy center aims to promote good stewardship of the land without compromising private landowners' property rights, including by cutting red tape to lower the risk of wildfires.
The center, founded by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), intends to drive collaboration, and not the sort of conservation that "pits people against each other" through endless litigation, Jonathan Wood, PERC's legal director, told The Epoch Times in a Sept. 22 interview.
The EPA claimed that the Sacketts' property is a federally protected wetland, meaning they need a federal permit to build on it.
PERC's brief argues for a "clear standard that landowners and others can reasonably apply on the ground," asserting that Sackett v. EPA could help the court articulate such a standard.
By contrast, environmental groups such as the Idaho Conservation League, the Izaak Walton League, and many others backed the EPA.
That connection, they argue, means the Sackett wetlands are themselves waters of the United States. The upshot: The Sackett property can be regulated through the Clean Water Act.
PERC's new center also tackles federal grazing rights, a continual source of conflict between ranchers and agencies.
Clashes over federal grazing rights led to a series of standoffs between members of the Bundy family and the Bureau of Land Management.
While disputes over wetlands and grazing rights are far from trivial to landowners, federal agencies, and others, another top priority for the center may be an even more hot-button issue.
Wildfires Spark Forest Management ProposalPERC's forest management advocacy comes near the end of a very active wildfire season.
Massive blazes have consumed millions of acres across California, Idaho, Oregon, and other Western states.
With the backing of PERC and other groups, including ranching and timber interests, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sept. 22 introduced a proposal to change that.
"The bill's primary goal is to increase accountability for forest management," Wood said.
More generally, he thinks red tape and the threat of litigation are the biggest barriers to the use of controlled burns, mechanical thinning, and other methods that reduce the likelihood of devastating wildfires.
Wood also stressed the value of collaborative forest management, based on voluntary contributions from sources beyond federal agencies and timber harvesting on federal lands.
He pointed out that water utilities often have a vested interest in curbing the risk of wildfires.
"When fires burn through, the consequences don't stop when the fire is put out," he said.
"It will clog storage facilities for water and dramatically increase the cost to treat drinking water."
That makes them a natural partner for such collaborations.
The Epoch Times has contacted other environmental groups regarding PERC's new center. Two of them, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Waterkeeper Alliance, have filed legal briefs supporting the EPA in the Sackett case.
A spokesperson for The Wilderness Society told The Epoch Times on Sept. 22 that PERC's new center is "a bit far afield" of their focus. The other groups didn't respond by press time.