RANGE, The Cowboy Spirit on America's Outback
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The West 2000 Page 13

Git Home! | he West 2000 Page 1

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Our need for food and for raw materials will not be served by the Internet alone, and cannot be met by a political policy that is short-sighted and guided by special interests. “Preservation” of productive and generally renewable resources in the United States in favor of importation of food and raw materials from emerging nations poses threats not only to national security, but to global survival. Such policy seems not only reckless, but totally unnecessary.


The expansion of federal control and authority in the past 10 years especially is simply too obvious to be regarded as merely the evolving process of our government. Many in the West see what they suspect is a sinister move to socialism behind it all. Indeed, several of the key founders of what has become the environmentalist movement were in fact self-proclaimed socialists or acknowledged their interest in the theory. That includes Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall, a democratic socialist who instigated the formation of the Wilderness Society in 1935.

Yet for the most part, even though some point to the “Green Cross” role of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in the movement, environmentalists are not “Communists” or even dogmatists. On their side, there is equally deep suspicion that those who use the land and its resources are directed by rich and greedy capitalists who would carelessly exploit all public wealth for themselves if left unchecked.

On the battleground for public opinion, those separate assumptions seem to underlie the contending messages between regulation and free enterprise. Attitudes and prejudice have been formed among the public in a way similar to political campaigns, and as is common to such campaigns, opinions have been formed based less on truth than emotion.

It is a commonly held assumption, for example, that agriculture in general is represented by powerful political lobbyist groups and organizations which sometimes act against the public good in order to preserve their traditional advantages.

Such long-standing associations representing farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners and recreationists do exist in a complex, and sometimes conflicting, assortment of politically attentive offices. Yet there is also a body of equally complex environmental organizations with political bases in Washington, D.C., that certainly exert no less power and influence.

The difference for more than a quarter century has been that agricultural groups have found themselves disarrayed in actions commonly directed at a specific issue or region, while large environmental interest groups have employed huge sums of their non-profit holdings in attempting to shape general public policy.
No president or politician would ever say they are against farms, for example, yet it involves a more politically popular, and often more profitable, stance to declare themselves “pro-environment,” even though that position may carry hidden baggage.

Some idea of what that’s worth may be seen from the financial holdings of major non-profit environmental organizations: The Nature Conservancy is the most outstanding example and reported non-profit revenues of $1.6 billion last year.

“We have found the enemy,” said Pogo, “and he is us.”
The battleground may seem to be the environment, but the objective is really power.


Much of what urban America imagines about the West in particular today is simply not true.

The forests have not been destroyed by loggers. If anything, forest lands as vast as any known by our ancestors are in far greater danger today from the absence of harvest and management.

• The rangeland is not being grazed into desert. To the contrary, the public range in particular is today regarded to be in better condition than at any time in the last century, thanks mostly to agreements sought by ranchers themselves, but also to increasing knowledge on conservation provided by environmentally aware scientists. If the future of the range may be limited from what it once was, it is because ranchers themselves have more respect and understanding of its natural cycles than ever before.

• We have not “mined out” our natural resources in fuel and minerals, and face no risk of doing so in the foreseeable future. What is at stake is our understanding of how to use the knowledge we have in making the best and most beneficial use of the resources that exist.

•Mankind alone is not responsible for all natural catastrophes. Humans have always had an effect on the environment, no less than buffalo or wolves or prairie dogs, but in many cases no more than other species. The obvious difference is in our understanding of how we affect the environment. The grasp we have of that comes from education and knowledge far more than from restrictive enforcement and threatened punishment.

We are, however, squandering our own natural wealth and the well-being of the planet itself in allowing the destruction of farms, managed forests, rangelands, and other means of natural, regenerative production in favor of what we are misguided to believe is an answer in global technology no longer reliant on natural resources.


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last page update: 10.27.04