Don't let facts get in the way

Critics of far-right political activists accuse them — often correctly — of making up facts to match their pre-existing biases, whether the topic is climate change, evolution or President Obama's citizenship. But the tendency to twist the truth to fit one's preconceptions knows no ideology. For an example, look no further than the opponents of the Mount Ashland ski area expansion.

To hear them tell it, cutting 68 acres of trees out of a 12,700-acre watershed will destroy Ashland's drinking water supply and imperil the Pacific fisher.

Just one problem: It's not true.

U.S. Forest Service hydrologists and biologists — trained experts who know what they are talking about — have determined that the ski area's expansion plans will have no measurable effect on water quality. In fact, planned mitigation measures will actually improve water quality over what it is today. The logging would remove two-tenths of 1 percent of one male fisher's range and 1 percent of one female fisher's range — out of a population of 1,000 to 2,000 animals, the vast majority of whom live in California.

Opponents have no scientific evidence for their dire predictions of environmental catastrophe, but that hasn't stopped them. They have blocked the expansion through administrative appeals and lawsuits for 20 years, losing every step of the way because the facts are not on their side. And they are still not finished.

The opponents' latest tactic is to launch a boycott of the ski area and businesses that sponsor it. That ought to expose their real objective.

Opponents have repeatedly insisted they have nothing against the ski area and want to see it continue to operate. If that were true, they wouldn't now be threatening to damage the nonprofit ski area economically and hurt businesses that support it.

"It's reached the point where we have no choice except to boycott," opponent Eric Navickas said.

Oh, but they do have a choice. They could just stop.

If opponents had the facts on their side, they would have succeeded by now in convincing the ski area and the Forest Service to withdraw the expansion. But this battle has never been about facts.

Instead, it has been about a relatively small group of people who aren't about to let facts get in the way of their philosophical convictions. Sound familiar?

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