Watch out, Nevada! It's gonna rain shovels. In case you haven't heard, the Montana timber boys are teaming up with Nevada cow-punchers. The loggers are sending 10,000 shovels to Elko, Nev., as a sign of solidarity against the federal government.
I think collecting stepladders might
be a more appropriate gesture. The way the B.S. is piling up around
here, it's hard to stay above it.
For 99 percent
of Americans who don't reside in either state, here's the deal:
Folks in Elko are spittin' mad over the Forest Service decision to
close a short stretch of dirt road (HCN, 10/25/99: Nevada rebellion
ends with a whimper). The road was within the floodplain of the
Jarbidge River and kept washing out, dumping sediment that
threatened native trout.
In a flourish of
anti-fed rhetoric, Elko officials said they would reopen the road,
if they had to do it with shovels.
Jim Hurst is a
Montana mill owner with a taste for theatrics. As a "show of
solidarity" he offered to send 10,000 shovels to Nevada. The Nevada
folks didn't ask for a lifetime supply of shovels and don't know
what to do with them when they arrive.
course, is irrelevant. This is a triumph of symbolism over
Add to this mix, Humboldt-Jarbidge
National Forest Supervisor Gloria Flora. Ms. Flora got sick of the
rude behavior of the Nevada provincialists and quit in public
protest (HCN, 11/22/99: Nevadans drive out forest supervisor). She
came on a speaking tour in Montana, sponsored by the Montana Human
Rights Network, urging people to be more
Get stuffed, said Jim Hurst. A
Montana timber industry spokesman claimed the Forest Service had
violated the "human rights' of folks in Elko, for closing the
Now, you're probably scratching your head,
trying to make all these connections. After all, what does a road
in the Nevada desert have to do with the Montana timber industry,
let alone human rights?
Let me simplify this in
three words: President Al Gore.
Those three words
terrify folks like Jim Hurst. And not without reason. The economy
is booming. President Clinton's popularity is up. Al Gore is
soundly defeating his Democratic challenger. As well-monied as the
George Dubya Bush campaign used to be, his father lost to the
Clinton-Gore ticket. Smart money doesn't bet the ranch on a
Republican White House in 2000.
To these guys, Al
Gore makes Bruce Babbitt look like James Watt. The side-effect of
fear is nastiness. In Nevada, local county commissioners call
Gloria Flora a "fascist." Here in Montana, the Flathead County
Commissioners compare the local national forest supervisor to a
Their crime against humanity? Managing the
national forests according to federal
Federal law is messy, imperfect and
complicated, but by no means should it be compared to marching
several million people to gas chambers. Evidently these county
commissioners slept through history class.
get me wrong. Sprinkled amidst his rhetoric, Jim Hurst and the
shovel brigade make some good points.
shutting down. The Sierra Club goal of zero logging on national
forests is both bad for the land and bad for rural Western
But there are solutions to these
problems, and shoveling coal on the fires of fury isn't among
Around the West, including Hurst's home of
northwestern Montana, environmental groups and loggers are working
together to find ways to cut timber, yet protect wildlife, water
and scenery. It requires trust and humility on both sides. It
requires setting some of the rhetoric
These collaborative efforts are tiresome,
tedious, frustrating and difficult. It's far easier to shout names
and wave shovels.
But in the long run, these
efforts will pay off.
Face it. Neither the timber
industry nor public-land cowboys have a stellar reputation. Both
the timber and grazing industries will have to satisfy the American
public before they are entrusted with America's public
Inflammatory rhetoric and empty symbolism
isn't going to cut it. The proof is on the
I suggest Jim Hurst and his minions get
to work. Or all those shovels might be digging their own