Saul Alinsky wrote “Rules for Radicals” (a playbook for groups like SUWA). One of Alinskys truths which he accurately describes is this: Organizations that possess power are “in turn possessed by power. Obsessed with the fear of losing power, their every move is dictated by the idea of keeping it.” SUWA is obsessed with keeping power.

Commentary by Phil Lyman

August 21, 2017

Let’s Stop Pretending That SUWA is a Charitable Organization. They’re not. 

Opposition is a cornerstone of humanity, but the mushy, sloppy, illogical arguments of the left have lost their connection to reality. What may once have been an actual debate about, say, global climate change, is now a topic used by the left as a sort of inquisition to identify those people on the planet who they feel, quite simply, need to suffer or disappear.  

These self-appointed garroters have conjured a complex metaphor wherein their violence and hatred is justified because it is all in pursuit of “saving the planet.” This was illustrated characteristically a couple of days ago when Utah Representative Mike Noel was on C-Span’s “Washington Journal.” A caller (Steve, from Kendall County, Illinois) said, “I’m sick of you Trump-loving people. I haven’t even begun to let my rage out at this president and his staff. I’m ready to take up arms to every one of the Trump-ites.” Speaking about the National Monuments in Utah, he said, “I’ve been out there; I love it; there’s nobody out there. It’s perfect.” Then he goes on to say, “I want everybody to understand, that I’m buyin’ arms and when I meet you on the battlefield, I’m going to cut you down without regard. You’re not Americans. I am so pissed! I say, I’ll cut you down like wheat in the field!”  

There is no place in civilized society for this kind of verbal assault; but, besides being out of order, it is completely psychotic.  

Another recent event, which I believe is just as psychotic, is the filing of a lawsuit by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) against Garfield and Kane County Commissioners. SUWA complains that the Commissioners violated Utah’s Public Meetings Act by meeting with Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, when he visited their respective Counties. On the face of it, the average citizen may be inclined to believe that attorneys at SUWA must have some legitimate basis for filing this lawsuit. Surely SUWA is an upstanding charitable organization – right? Even in their filed law suit, they don’t miss an opportunity to pat themselves on the back. They say SUWA “promotes local and national recognition of the unique character of Utah’s remaining wild lands through research and public education;” That SUWA “provides leadership within the conservation movement through advocacy for wilderness preservation.”

The truth is that SUWA sues. That’s what they do.

They sue counties, they sue federal agencies, they sue politicians, they sue producers. They sue anyone who disagrees with them, and if they are not suing, they are goading other organizations to sue, or goading the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the states US Attorney to prosecute people who have criticized SUWA at one time or another. In my own federal prosecution, SUWA attorneys sent and/or received more than 400 emails from or to the BLM, as well as the Department of Justice (yeah right), the Salt Lake Tribune, and other organizations parading as conservation organizations, i.e. Grand Canyon Trust, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Dine’ Bikeyah, Great Old Broads from Colorado, the Wilderness Society, Pew Trust, etc., etc., etc.  

The lawsuit filed against Kane and Garfield County is not about protecting Utah’s “wild places” it is about trying to harm counties by using vexatious litigation. As attorneys, the SUWA folks know that no open-meetings laws were broken. This might be an appropriate time to actually refer to the law, which says: 52-4-103 (6)(c) “Meeting” does not mean the convening of a public body that has both legislative and executive responsibilities if: (i) no public funds are appropriated for expenditure during the time the public body is convened; and (ii) the public body is convened solely for the discussion or implementation of administrative or operational matters: (A) for which no formal action by the public body is required; or (B) that would not come before the public body for discussion or action.”  

SUWA alleges that Kane and Garfield Counties had “Closed Meetings” that were “meetings” within the meaning of Utah Code § 52-4- 103(6)(a).” Yet section 103(6)(c), as noted above, defines what is NOT a “Meeting” under 103(6)(a). County Commissions have both legislative and executive responsibilities. This was not a meeting called by the commissioners but a meeting called by the Secretary of the Interior in an effort to gain information that the Secretary was seeking. Does SUWA now pretend that National Monument Decisions are within the purview of the Counties in which those monuments lie? No county funds were appropriated during the meetings, and the commissioners were included in the meetings solely in their administrative roles as county executives.  

Could it be that SUWA was sore over being rebuked a couple of weeks earlier by the Utah Supreme Court? Kane and Garfield Counties were targets of that litigation as well which was brought by SUWA regarding RS-2477 roads. The judge who authored the opinion in that case wrote that SUWA’s interpretations of the law were “completely nonsensical” and “so overwhelmingly absurd that no rational legislator could ever be deemed to have supported” it.

Regardless of the motivations behind SUWA’s lawsuits, there is no question that they are creating a hardship for the counties. In San Juan County, not only do they sue our County, but they have a constant stream of hateful communications to other attorneys who are suing us. SUWA is apparently very interested in San Juan County’s mail-in ballot process. SUWA attorneys scour through our meeting minutes and if they find anything that they think might assist in taking San Juan County down, they quickly send it off to whomever they think can do the most harm. When these frivolous suits are brought, the County is obliged to hire attorneys and go to court. San Juan County alone has spent millions of dollars as the result of vexatious law suits brought by SUWA or aided by the attorneys at SUWA.  

The fact that they are creating a hardship on counties is welcome news to SUWA. They are a group that ridicules our successes, and celebrates our failures. There is a place for watchdog groups, and I am the first to criticize government that is not done in the full light of day. Counties are required to conduct their business in the open, and from my observation they do that to a greater extent than any other level of government. Even in regard to the national monument debate, counties have been completely transparent in their objectives, meetings, and proposals. To be sued by SUWA, the most secretive and subversive of organizations, is truly ironic.  

Saul Alinsky wrote “Rules for Radicals” (a playbook for groups like SUWA). One of Alinsky’s truths which he accurately describes is this: Organizations that possess power are “in turn possessed by power. Obsessed with the fear of losing power, their every move is dictated by the idea of keeping it.” SUWA is obsessed with keeping power. They will use any means necessary to harm the Counties and the people’s elected representatives. In a twist of irony, they have become the very thing they started out to combat. The one-time hippies (misguided but sincere) have been replaced with ruthless attorneys with a multi-million-dollar budget. It is a business pure and simple and, while their motto may be to protect the planet, their stock in trade is hate and malice.  

They have become a tool in the hands of wealthy anti-American businessmen. Their business model is dependent on federally-funded lawsuits brought under the “Equal Access to Justice Act.” They take extraordinary measures to befriend federal judges, US Attorneys, and US Senators and Congressmen. They buy every politician or judge that is for sale. Those elected representatives that are not for sale will feel the wrath through criminal accusations and phony lawsuits. like the one currently being brought against the commissioners from Kane and Garfield County. Good job Commissioners! People may know you by the friends your keep, and also by your foes. Kane and Garfield Counties have some of the best commissioners in the free world! 

Phil Lyman

San Juan County Commissioner


Free Range Report

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