High Country

by Tom Bell

Gov. Stanley K. Hathaway was criticized last week for siding with the mineral industry in Wyoming. It was not an unusual situation. I was doing the criticizing and he was doing the reacting.


The governor said of me, "He hasn't had anything good to say about this administration for six years." In which he was correct, for I have consistently tried to look down the road while he has opted for the short-term special interest. It has been so on grazing fees on the public lands, clear-cutting on national forests, special interests on the Game and Fish Commission, wilderness or no wilderness, special dispensation for air polluters and now strip mining. ...


I know Gov. Hathaway has acted at all times in what he thought was the best interest of the state. So have I. He, of course, has prevailed for he is governor while I have been teacher, environmentalist and editor.


But lowly though my position, I believe I have had some small influence, even on him. If he represented the people of Wyoming as they are, I like to think I represented the people as they may be. I think I speak for many who cannot speak for themselves. Some of them are yet unborn who will have to exist in a world which we made for them. If their lives are blighted by air they cannot breathe, water they cannot drink or land upon which they cannot exist, then I think we must take the blame. ...


Wyoming is a conservative state - sometimes too conservative for its own good in a fast-changing world. Many of us still believe a handshake and a word are as good as a written document. That won't do when you are dealing with an impersonal board room back in New York City, especially when the directors have to deal in turn with stockholders whose only interest is the dividend check.


I do not mean to be arrogant or egotistical when I call the governor's hand on some matter, though I am sure some believe so. I certainly have not become rich by my endeavors, and I believe I have as many enemies as friends.


Sorry to say to my detractors, so long as I live, I will continue to call the shots as I see them. I have been a maverick and a gadfly all my life, and like many Wyomingites, I am too old to change now.


*HCN, Feb. 16, 1973 © High Country News