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Up Front

The legend of Seabiscuit. By C.J. Hadley

We like The Nature Conservancy. It offers fodder not found elsewhere. Its antics (that TNC claims are “transparent”) can make you search for a punching bag or lick your chops.

We like Seabiscuit too, the big-hearted runt who came from an abused youth to flourish and embarrass mighty War Admiral, the Goliath of race horses, back in 1938.

Seabiscuit’s wins are legendary, as are his owner, trainer, and jockey. Charles Howard told the press, “My horse is too small, my jockey’s too big, my trainer’s too old, and I’m too dumb to know the difference.”

Tom Smith, Seabiscuit’s trainer, was a horse whisperer. “[Biscuit’s] got real heart,” he told Howard about the horse that nobody else would touch. Smith had already saved another “hopeless” equine from a bullet, explaining quietly, “You don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little.”

Ranching and farming has been banged up a little over the past few decades. Some say good riddance. Others say the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws were not written to destroy productive families and honorable resource industries (“The Gentleman From Nowhere,” p.10).

Investigative reporter Tim Findley made a big circle last winter, braving sleet and snow to talk to ranchers who are being banged up by Jon Marvel and his mob. What Marvel thought was going to be a celebration at the “get the criminals off the range” third annual conference called RangeNet in Boulder, Colo., turned into an insipid and lily white dismantling (“A Mad Tea Party,” p.44).

And when famous science-fiction writer Michael Crichton spoke about the “world’s biggest threat” to a well-coiffed crowd in San Francisco at the Commonweath Club last fall, his answer was “environmentalism” (“What Really Scares a Scary Story Writer,” p.26).

RANGE reader Keith Collins of Cody, Wyo., is all too familiar with the Goliath of greens. He forwarded a snip from MSNBC’s website dated January 17, 2004. The title of the piece was “IRS to Audit Nature Conservancy.” It included, “A team of IRS examiners will move into the global headquarters of The Nature Conservancy in Arlington to begin auditing the charity, the world’s largest environmental organization.... A specialist in nonprofit corporations who reviewed the Conservancy’s tax returns described them as confounding. ‘It stunned me,’ said the specialist, Peter Dobkin Hall, of Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. ‘It’s not exactly what I’d call a transparent organization. I couldn’t find out a damn thing about them. It was a brick wall’.”

If Hall had read Tim Findley’s special report from Spring 2003, “Nature’s Landlord: The Arrogance of The Nature Conservancy,” he would have already known that. If he believed the three-part series from The Washington Post that was printed three months after ours he wouldn’t be so shocked. And if TNC had responded to the Senate investigation appropriately and handed over requested documents to explain their business practices in a timely manner, perhaps agents of the Internal Revenue Service wouldn’t be sitting in TNC’s palatial offices in Virginia right now.

But at least the boss at TNC (who happily accepted a $1.1 million interest-free loan from his own board) is apologizing: “I feel like the guy in the stands in Chicago who reached out and caught that ball in the playoff game,” McCormick said at a Land Trust Alliance rally in Sacramento early last winter. “All of a sudden, you feel this shame….” (“The More Things Change,” p.52).

Ranchers felt pretty banged up when the enviros’ “bible” called “Welfare Ranching” was published in 2002 by the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Filled with photos of cows knee deep in their own dung and urine opposite “cow-free” pristine, flower-filled landscapes, ranchers from many states asked RANGE to respond and “tell the truth.”

We don’t have “Welfare Ranching’s” war chest or the mean spirit, but with major gifts from a few friends like Nevada cowboys (who were most generous), Oregon AgriWomen, American Farm Bureau, Nevada Rangeland Resources Commission, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, California cattlewomen, Montana ranchers, Northern Ag Network, California Farm Bureau, Henningsen Cold Storage, plus T. J. Day, Tom Nicholson, Ted Lyster, Harry Bettis and countless others, we did publish a “good news” book.

“The Romance and Reality of Ranching” has already spread all across the country. “An absolute triumph,” said the president-elect of Oregon Cattlemen’s Assn. “No praise is too extravagant,” said a reader from Annapolis, Maryland. And from others, “An excellent gift for urban friends, plus one I want to keep around for reference.” “Tells a story of generations of people dedicated to family, livestock and the land.” And from North Carolina, “I loved every page” (“The Book Everyone is Talking About,” p.50).

RANGE has been spindled and mutilated a bit over the past 15 years but we agree with Tom Smith: “You don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little.”

Summer 2004 Contents

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