- Jim Chilton is one of hundreds of ranchers targeted by environmental groups for allegedly allowing cattle to despoil the West's backcountry. Now Mr. Chilton is showing ranchers how to turn the tables on the green groups by using their own playbook.
The Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson is known for its lawsuits against ranching practices -- and for its methods of posting photos on the Internet that it says depict land destruction. So when the Center came after Mr. Chilton, he struck back with a defamation suit in Arizona Superior Court in Tucson last year.
He produced his own photos of lands the group claimed he spoiled in order to argue that their photos had exaggerated the damage. He snapped one photo, for example, of a hillside featured on the Center's Web site to show that what looked like barren earth was just a tiny patch surrounded by lush grass.
After a jury trial this year, Mr. Chilton was awarded $600,000, including $500,000 in punitive damages against the environmental group. "I had to decide whether I was a cowboy or a wimp," Mr. Chilton says. "I decided to be a cowboy...and not ignore people saying bad things about my ranch." The Center denies wrongdoing and has appealed the decision.