For decades, Lincoln County, OR, residents and surrounding ecosystems have been subjected to aerial spray of toxic pesticides by the timber industry. The harms include poisoning of water, soil, and human and natural communities.
In May 2017, residents had enough. After working with CELDF to draft a Community Bill of Rights citizen initiative banning aerial spraying, they adopted their Freedom from Aerially Sprayed Pesticides measure at the spring ballot. In Lincoln County, it is now illegal for industry to aerial-spray pesticides on industrial forests.
Industry Fights Back
The timber industry did not sit quietly to see if the measure would pass. Industry and allies outspent Lincoln County residents 20 to 1 to defeat the Community Rights measure. But corporate money failed to buy this election.
Corporate money is, however being used to challenge the rights-based law in court. After all, folks in the timber industry financially benefit from spraying pesticides on industrial tree “farms” – regardless of the costs borne by residents and local ecosystems absorbing the toxins. Despite the democratic will of the people, front men of the timber and chemical industries filed a lawsuit to override the people.
Their argument: state laws preempt communities from protecting themselves from pesticide use. The state’s preemptive power and the claimed “rights” of corporations to spray pesticides override the people’s rights. This includes their right to adopt a law protecting rights to a healthy environment and the rights of nature.
Lincoln County Residents – and the Siletz River – Stand Their Ground
CELDF stands with residents and the Siletz River, located in Lincoln County, which is directly harmed by aerial spraying. A CELDF-supported attorney represent residents, and we filed for intervention in the case on behalf of the River – the third ecosystem in the U.S. to do so. While the judge denied the River access, she spoke prophetically that there will be a time when nature will be seen by the law and will argue on its own behalf.
A hearing in the case was held October 9th. The people’s attorney countered plaintiffs’ argument that Lincoln County residents had no right to adopt a law that is preempted by state law. The attorney argued that the right to self-determination is protected in the Oregon constitution, and that the state’s constitution allows the court to recognize unenumerated rights, particularly when grounded in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of a community.
A decision is expected soon. Regardless of outcome, Lincoln residents are preparing for next steps to protect themselves and the surrounding ecosystems.
Stand with Lincoln County!
Let the people and ecosystems of Lincoln County know that you stand with them as they insist on their rights to clean air, water, and soil, and the rights of the Siletz River to exist and flourish! And help spread the word! Lincoln County Community Rights
Featured image: Siletz National Wildlife Refuge by Phil Burnett, Flickr Creative Commons
Sign up now to show your support
Dear People of Lincoln County:
I support you as you stand for your rights to clean air, water, and soil, and the rights of the Siletz River to flourish and evolve! Your right to be free from toxic aerial pesticide spraying is far greater than any claimed corporate “right” to cause harm. Your fight to protect Lincoln County is a courageous act to stand for what is just. Thank you for your courage and for inspiring other communities across the country!