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Git Home!



the impact.

By C.J. Hadley

Ranches gone. Farms gone. Timber gone. Mining resources restricted. This is the West as it really is after eight years of a slash and burn administration.

Tom Knudson, in the Sacramento Bee, April 22, wrote: “Although environmental organizations have accomplished many stirring and important victories over the years, today groups prosper while the land does not. Competition for money and members is keen. Litigation is a blood sport. Crisis, real or not, is a commodity. And slogans and sound bites masquerade as scientific fact.” Knudson also reports, “In 1999, individuals, companies and foundations gave an average $9.6 million a day to environmental groups.

Bill Clinton and Bruce Babbitt arbitrarily seized millions of acres “for monuments” while letting the forests burn. In the name of “a magnificent environmental legacy,” they arrogantly strode across the West, coddled by preservationists and Hollywood, taking huge chunks “for future generations.” They cared nothing for culture, history, or for people who work on the land today. (See “Making Monuments, Taking Towns,” page 34.)

When George W. Bush was elected president and Gail Norton blessed as secretary of Interior, we thought we had friends in high places. But, as I write, we in the rural West are still being ignored. Klamath farmers are being denied their water rights. Salvage logging from last year’s fires in New Mexico has been stopped and ranch allotments are being closed due to litigation from enviro groups using federal regulations (a.k.a. Endangered Species Act) against resource users.

Michael Powell, in The Washington Post, March 13, offered a glimmer of hope from Gail Norton. “I’ve always been concerned by the notion that you had to protect the environment only through strong government action,” she says. “I came to a realization that…those in Washington who make the regulations very often have no understanding of the impact.”

And from National Audubon Society’s Audubon Advisory, April 23: “Programs managed under the Interior Department are in serious jeopardy–starting with the Endangered Species Act. The Budget…eliminates (for at least one year) some of the ESA’s strictest mandates and deadlines.... [The] Bush plan allows Interior Secretary Gail Norton to set her own priorities and time-tables for adding species to the endangered or threatened lists.”

President Bush is trying to restrict environmentalist lawsuits against the federal agencies. “We’re going to make decisions based upon sound science,” Bush said recently, “not some environmental fad or what may sound good.”

For more than a decade, RANGE has been listening to hearts and sharing in the spirit of people who still live close to the land, many of them in the same places nurtured and made more productive by generations of their own families. They learned a great deal from the past, but are very aware of the newer priorities in the present and the promises being made for the future.

Investigative reporter Tim Findley writes for RANGE, “In our real-life photography and in the honest stories from westerners themselves, we thought to present a melody based on heritage and a sense of harmony in changing times. But it was soon apparent that we could not ignore the disturbing influence of a tone-deaf agenda that combined radical ideas with government authority meant only to disrupt the rhythm. In what is expected to be peace in the glory of America’s open spaces, there were rumors of war.”

Bit by bit, parcel by parcel, and even family by family, we saw the West brought under siege by those who claimed to cherish nature and yet had little more than political experience of its realities. It was not us against the environmentalists, even though many in the “green” movement adopted those pretensions. It was those who understood the land, and truly loved how nature works, against the influence of others intent less on preservation than on eradication of human presence. People we knew to have been careful stewards of our most precious resources were being proclaimed to be enemies of the environment. It made no natural sense. It could only be understood by politics.

So in these last 11 years, RANGE has changed and grown, and added an edge of controversy and political criticism that annoyed some of our first subscribers. We published special fact-filled supplements to RANGE last year, written by Tim Findley. “The West 2000” and “The Great American Land Grab” should help the Bush administration to understand that it is not a memory of the past, but a warning for the future. “Water in the West” (the Klamath story) is next.

Ranches gone. Farms gone. Timber gone. Mining resources restricted. President Bush and Secretary Norton need to understand the impact. And for the sake of lots of rural families, they need to hurry.

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