The fight against the MX missile was a turning point in the Great Basin, the first time the region said a resounding "no" to a major federal pork-barrel project.
Great Basin MX Alliance - a coalition of environmentalists,
ranchers and miners, activists and academics, and state officials -
is still seen by many activists as a model for a "Sagebrush
Alliance" against the federal government.
miners and ranchers are still the first guys I call when the
military wants more land," says Grace Bukowski, a former Citizen
Alert staffer who has taken this organizing model nationwide with
the Rural Alliance for Military Accountability.
"We follow the same model and it continues to
work," says Steve Erickson of Downwinders in Utah. "If you can shed
turf battles, mistrust and the animosity that exist between Western
constituencies, and accept that they come from their own culture
and background and not make value judgments, then our interests
converge more often than we think."
are times when value judgments cry out to be made. This was driven
home in the far reaches of Utah's West Desert last summer as I
drove along the old Pony Express trail. There I spotted Cecil
Garland's name on a mailbox.
Garland became a
folk hero in Utah when he stood up at an MX hearing in the early
1980s and said, "We've heard about the racetrack-basing mode and
the railroad-basing mode, well, I think they should all be put in
the commode." Garland is also widely respected as an
environmentalist. Before he came to Utah, he owned a hardware store
in Montana that was boycotted by loggers because of his support for
wilderness. Environmentalists say his ranch is a paragon of
Garland invited me in for some iced
tea. But before I could even ask about the MX days, he launched
into a tirade. "The greatest environmental disaster we face is the
Blacks, Asians and Mexicans invading our country," he said. "Every
place they're in control is a basket case. No place controlled by
anyone but white North American Europeans has an environmental
ethic. And you can't talk about it or publish it because the Jews
control the media. "
Later, I learned that some
of Garland's former allies in the MX alliance had also heard this
kind of talk, but had kept quiet to hold together the coalition.
Wayne Hage, a Nevada "rancher for peace," was
vocal in the fight against the MX. Everyone knew his philosophical
bent, but they tolerated it for the sake of the alliance.
Hage has since sued the Forest Service for
"taking" his central Nevada ranch by cutting his grazing permit
without compensation. "There are no public lands," he told a recent
"Win Back the West" rally. "Private property is the cornerstone of
all civil liberties. If you don't have property, you don't have any
civil liberties. It's the same old battle of 1776 and before,
whether free people will exist or we'll be serfs under an elite
class that is destined to rule.
"We are faced
with a do-or-die situation," Hage said. "We hope this can be
accomplished through courts of law and legislation because God help
us if it has to be done another way."