Easterners like myself who "care about the West" are often puzzled by the small value that many Westerners seem to place on their magnificent landscapes, judging by their opposition to meaningful protections. I’m encouraged to learn that local ranchers are uniting against environmentally destructive energy development in the Powder River Basin. Yet the energy policies that drive such development were framed by Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly Rep. Cheney, R-Wyo., and enjoy the support of the state’s present congressional delegation. Their record on other environmental issues is equally dismal. Unless you think that Wyoming elections are rigged, you have to conclude that environmental protection just isn’t very important to most residents.
Unfortunately, the same is true elsewhere in the region: The poet asks for "men to match my mountains," and the West serves up the likes of Larry Craig and Orrin Hatch. We owe what environmental protections there are for Western federal lands not to them, but largely to people from elsewhere, such as Ted Kennedy.