We are not elitists

  Dear HCN,


It seems to me that we environmentalists are in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot - again! In retrospect, it's clear that a major mistake was made in giving the appearance (sometimes maybe more than that) of not caring about workers who lost their jobs in mining, timbering or elsewhere.


This gave the wise-use fraud and its allies the ammunition they were looking for. Suddenly all those politicians, who never said a word as corporate decisions to automate and move overseas cost more jobs than the Endangered Species Act ever could, became friends of the common man. Efforts to undo this mistake are all to the good and, hopefully, not too late.


Now we have grazing on the front burner. Granted that cattle and sheep should never have been brought to this arid land and that they have done horrendous damage, ranchers at least have some kind of historical claim. In Arizona, there are worse demons - golf courses, over-development and excessive, careless tourism come immediately to mind. Why should enviros not work with ranchers who are trying to do it right? There aren't any, you say. Not so - I know several. There aren't enough, you say? So what; why lump the decent ones with the absentee, greedy or invincibly ignorant? Impossible, you say. Available evidence suggests otherwise.


I understand the fear of Babbitt's local-control groups. Enviros have been burned in the past and surely ranchers have a more obvious commitment to participate. On the other hand, ranchers have their fears: that enviros will be doctrinaire cow-haters from far away with little understanding of local issues. Ranchers are hooked, however. After screaming for local control, they can hardly refuse to participate. Enviros can hardly object to the Babbitt theory of local decision-making by the parties most concerned, or deny that it has sometimes worked. Why not give it a chance? If, in a given group, ranchers and/or agency people are inflexible, devious or domineering, this must be publicized (in HCN, for example) and pressure brought to bear. Participating enviros - and ranchers - must be prepared to live through their initial distrust and preconceptions.


I think we are smart enough not to be "had" and we must not continue to fuel the perception of enviros as elitists who care more about trees than people.





Norm Wallen


Flagstaff, Arizona