I enjoyed Ed Marston's editorial in the Dec. 26 High Country News. I'm a (gasp) federal-land rancher in (gasp) Catron County, N.M., and write a weekly editorial in the Courier, which often bashes (gasp) enviro-preservationists. I've been active in working on the Catron County Land Plan in relation to water.
I've watched each side rally the troops and vilify the opposition until the enemy has no face or soul. It is with terrible discouragement and frustration that I've watched the process grow with each side guilty of telling part of the truth in short news bites. Over the years, I've tried to argue with purists such as Jim Fish, Sue Schock and Mike Sauber, to no avail. I've tried to urge compromise in the realization that the seeds of discontent were being sown, and that the backlash would destroy rather than improve.
Too many people, including myself, are being pushed until their backs are against the wall. When people's life savings, opportunities to work and ability to feed their family are threatened, they will fight back. The irony is that there is much in environmental initiatives that should be commended. However, often they go too far or the means of implementation are counter-productive.
We have gone from the new forestry, or pick and pluck (which requires a greater area and is anathema to the environmental community), to no timber cutting and total preservation. When did the word conservation become synonymous with preservation or with total non-use? How does Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt expect to get federal ranchers to take better care of their federal lands when any investment or value that their ranch had will be taken away by the government?
It is often argued that Western lands are too fragile to run cattle, mine or log. My answer is that the lands and people of the West are too fragile to sustain a senseless war of sacred viewpoints and extremists. We are hell-bent on repeating history. The Indian wars and the aftermath of European settlement changed the West so much that it can never be returned, no matter what the purists cry.
My main complaint is that too often the environmental community wants to turn back the clock to an ideal world that may never have existed or that has been altered too much to allow a return anyway. Let's go forward from where we are.
Quemado, New Mexico