A day in the field beats one in court, but environmental journalists have to find a way to cover key decisions

GreenGavel-300x262By David Poulson
You may have caught this weird judicial twist in a recent story on the Knight Center’s environmental news site: A Wisconsin judge ruled that manure was not a waste but a valuable commodity.
That’s no surprise. Anyone with a backyard garden knows that.
But providing that legal stamp produced a counter-intuitive outcome. It meant that an insurer was on the hook for damages when a farm polluted nearby wells with that valuable manure.

Confused? Read more here.
It’s a good illustration of how what’s going on in the outdoor environment is settled inside – in this case, in the courts.
This is important stuff that often gets lost in the shuffle of staying on top of the environmental beat. And if we have the time, chances are we all would much rather spend the day in the field with an environmental scientist than in the courtroom with a prosecutor of environmental crime.
And yet we need to make room for coverage of key decisions. It comes with the territory.
To that end, the Knight Center is making it court news more of a priority for the journalism that we produce here. This story is part of Echo’s new green gavel series. Judicial decisions with great impact – or at least that are incredibly interesting – frequently go unreported.
So occasionally on Echo we will highlight court decisions affecting the environment of the Great Lakes region.
Here’s a look at some of the court decisions we’ve already covered.
David Poulson is the senior associate director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism