Environmental staffers let go.Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard
In yet another sign that economic tough times continue to plague Lane County, a public interest environmental law firm will lay off four staff members by the end of the month.
The Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center The Western Environmental Law Center is a public-interest, nonprofit organization headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, that was started in the early 1990s by public interest attorneys Michael Axline and John Bonine. has laid off two administrative staff members and attorney Charlie Tebbutt. Attorney Dave Bahr will also be let go sometime in the next few weeks.
Tebbutt has specialized spe·cial·ize
v. spe·cial·ized, spe·cial·iz·ing, spe·cial·iz·es
1. To pursue a special activity, occupation, or field of study.
2. in federal Clean Water Act cases, while Dave Bahr's expertise is in federal Freedom of Information Act work. He also recently represented local groups in a suit filed against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over its plan to increase logging on Western Oregon This article is about the region of Western Oregon. For the University, see Western Oregon University.
Western Oregon is a geographical term that is generally taken to apply to the portion of the state of Oregon that is west of the Cascade Range. forests.
"It was a very unfortunate situation to find ourselves in," said the law center Executive Director Greg Costello. Together, Bahr and Tebbutt represent more than 40 years of legal experience. The Western Environmental Law Center also has offices in Montana, New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S). and Colorado, It employs nine attorneys.
While the nonprofit A corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive.
Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit corporations are created according to state law. center expects to finish the year with about the same revenue it had in 2008 - $2 million - Costello anticipates a financial hit in 2010 to be as much as 20 percent.
All over the Pacific Northwest, the economy is forcing nonprofit groups to make tough choices. A September 2009 survey by the Seattle-based Collins Group, which advises nonprofits about fundraising, found that 87 percent of the organizations it surveyed were making financial changes because of the recession, with 56 percent reporting reductions in staff or wages.
Charitable giving is down all across the country. Giving USA Foundation, which has reported annually on charitable giving since 1956, noted that 2008 saw the first decline in donations since 1987. While religious groups and public and society benefit organizations bucked that trend and experienced increased revenues, environmental groups saw a 5.5 percent drop, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the annual report.
Giving USA, which is based in Illinois, won't have figures for 2009 until next summer, but the New-York-based Foundation Center expects private foundation giving to decline by 9 to 13 percent through 2010.
Private foundations that have traditionally given grants to public interest environmental law firms This list of the world's largest law firms by revenue is taken from The Lawyer and The American Lawyer and is ordered by 2006 revenue:
"It's not a question of foundations being fickle fick·le
Characterized by erratic changeableness or instability, especially with regard to affections or attachments; capricious.
[Middle English fikel, from Old English ficol, . They are looking at the world and asking themselves: `How are we going to be most effective?' Strategies that worked in 2003 may not work in 2010," Costello said.
Foundation grants represent about 46 percent of WELC's revenue, according to its 2008 annual report, with about 10 percent coming from individual donors and 42 percent from attorneys fees that are won in successful litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. .
As foundations shift their focus, the law center is undertaking its own strategic adjustments. That played a part in the staff cuts, Costello said.
"Part of my view, and the board agrees with me, is that we unduly limit our ability to succeed by operating solely as a litigation firm," he said.
The center is adding other projects to its environmental portfolio. It employed a conservation biologist this year to work on the development of wildlife corridors, an effort that has drawn interest from the state agencies and the Western Governors Association, and could lead future grant support, he said.
Tebbutt himself had recently headed a high-profile and successful campaign to persuade the Oregon Legislature to phase out field burning on grass seed farms in the Willamette Valley The Willamette Valley (pronounced [wɪˈlæ.mɪt], with the accent on the second syllable) is the region in northwest Oregon in the United States that surrounds the Willamette River as it proceeds northward from its , an effort that did not involve the courts.
Costello estimates that WELC WELC Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church
WELC Wiki-Enabled Local Community spent between $250,000 and $300,000 in staff and other costs on the campaign, but that it drew only about $20,000 in public support. It was a good strategic plan with a good result, but a failed business strategy, Costello said. "In the future, we need to align all three," he said.
WELC isn't the only local environmental nonprofit group struggling with the bottom line. Eugene-based Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers the ethical relationship between human beings and the natural environment. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including law, sociology, theology, economics, ecology and geography. saw its revenues for the first nine months of 2009 decrease by 26 percent compared with the same period last year, said Executive Director Andy Stahl.
Stahl's nonprofit group opted to take 15 percent across-the-board pay cuts and eliminated matching retirement contributions to avoid layoffs, he said. "Those cuts kept us from closing our doors," he said.
Bahr and Tebbutt will continue to be involved with WELC in a handful of cases that remain active, Costello said.
But the effects of the decision to let go experienced attorneys probably will ripple out to the broader community, said Daniel Rohlf, a director at the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, an environmental law clinic at Lewis & Clark College Clark College: see Atlanta Univ. Center. in Portland.
"They've both done some really good work and litigated some really important cases over the years. The loss of these particular attorneys is going to be felt in Oregon and in the West," he said. Tebbutt and Bahr said they will continue their environmental advocacy in private practice.