From Lincoln County Community Rights: Rio Davidson, Lincoln County Community Rights
In May 2017, Lincoln County, Oregon, voters adopted the Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides ordinance. The first-in-the-state law recognizes residents’ rights to clean air, water, and soil, their right to local community self-governance, and the Rights of Nature to exist, flourish, and evolve.
Soon after, timber industry interests sued the county to overturn the ordinance, arguing the county had no authority to pass it and that the law “adversely affected” them.
The law stood for over two years, successfully preventing the aerial application of pesticides—a toxic but common practice of the local timber industry.
On September 23, county circuit court Judge Sheryl Bachart upheld an existing law that limits the powers of local governments to override those the state permits. The judge ruled that the pesticide ban exceeded the authority of Lincoln County because the Oregon Pesticide Control Act disallows local pesticide ordinances, rules, and regulations.
The judge wrote:
“Oregon does not recognize an independent right of local community self-government that is fundamental, inherent, inalienable, and constitutional.”
“In a choice between unconstitutional state law that protects corporate profits over the health and safety of communities, the judge chose to protect corporate profits,” said Rio Davidson of Lincoln County Community Rights, the group behind the initiative.
Petitioners are seeking state constitutional change to establish a right to self-government that empowers local communities to expand the state’s protections for civil, human and ecosystem rights—as the Lincoln County Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides seeks to do.
“Though this decision will be appealed on the grounds of denying the exercise of the right of local self-government, it also serves as positive energy to move the amendment forward so ultimately people, not corporations, decide the fate of their communities,” said Nancy Ward, coordinator for the Oregon Community Rights Network.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Lincoln County Community Rights in drafting the law and representing them as an intervenor in the case. CELDF also sought to represent the Siletz River watershed’s interests in the case. The judge denied intervention.
Appeals will be filed by Lincoln County Community Rights and the Siletz River watershed. At the time of this press release it is not known if Lincoln County will appeal the decision.
Editor’s Note: Timber companies and their contract aerial spraying operators contend they comply with all federal and state rules and regulations related to aerial spraying. They contend they operate strictly within the parameters of those regulations. The U.S. Forest Service says they don’t do aerial spraying on federal forest lands but adds that the Bureau of Land Management along with state agencies do conduct aerial spraying.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights –building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.