Patricia Schifferle

Continuing the Fight

Recorded: May 29, 2012

When it comes to protecting natural resources, Patricia Schifferle explains why it is important to keep the pressure on politicians.

Patricia Schifferle is recognized by many in the environmental field for her rare ability to get things done. Congressman George Miller has called her “one of the most talented individuals involved in resource policy and strategy on the West Coast.” With more than twenty years of experience in campaign management, Ms. Schifferle’s work has ranged from preventing toxic dumping on Native American reservation lands, restoring California and Pacific Northwest fisheries, and to exposing the wildlife impacts of cyanide heap leach gold mining. For many years, she was a consultant to the California Legislature. Ms. Schifferle drafted and helped to enact major environmental legislation, including a Marketing Approach to Water Allocation (Katz, 1982), Drinking Water Monitoring Program (Connelly, 1983), Underground Tank Act (Sher, 1983) and Toxic Pits Cleanup Act (Katz, 1984). She is the owner of Pacific Advocates.

Huey Johnson: Persistence is the only tool we have.

Patricia Schifferle: Yes, and I think we’re learning today as people try and, just recently there was discussion of raising a dam to flood the Merced River that’s wild and scenic. None of our battles are ever really won, it’s just, it can be viewed as something…we like to view it as permanent and permanent protection but always forces can go back and try to do that. If we’re going to run our government like it was a profit center, it’s really clear cut.

All I do is operate under a theory of greed. I go ahead in my profit mode if it’s clear, but in public service and in the government, we think there should be a burden of proof to protect resources, that somebody should champion all of our salmon, whether you want crab on the table, whether you actually want forests to exist and you don’t want a strip mine our rivers and our lands.

We’ve had under previous administrations, such a cozy relationship with the regulated that they’ve been able to get around the laws and get waivers for water pollution laws and that creates what is the most disturbing part for me, which is a sense of lack of power. And that, if I had anything that I wanted to teach, or to do, is to say to people, that will only feed the beast. As long as you believe that you don’t have the power or they have it all and you don’t stand up for your rights and I would say for our public resources, they will win. But to me, that is the fallacy that these PR agents and all this money will win. That isn’t even true, it always costs less to protect resources than to restore them and it costs less to have resources not be polluted. The cleanup costs are never looked at in many of these issues along with the destruction of the jobs, the communities and the families.

Right now, we’re looking to build Shasta Dam. We’re going to inundate a railroad, a town and a major interstate highway. We’re looking at destroying a way of life in the Delta by putting this concrete tunnel through. Those are enormous costs and I think when we look at the public trust resources, whether it’s the effects of mining or clear cutting or diverting our rivers, people are not looking at the overall costs to these communities and the way of life, and to our natural heritage and what we have left as a result.

Trying to make sure that we have a federal and state system that has a payback for taking all these public resources and making a profit, that has been lost in the shuffle. Now the profit mode is the most important thing. We’re going to run our government like it was a corporation with profit being the highest motivator. Well, you know I go to the lakes around my community and the rivers and I see dads out with their kids, their sons and daughters fishing or you see people playing in parks, then you go there’s more to our communities and our relationships with one another than just making sure that my greed can overtake your well being.