HCN ignored the real issues



Dear HCN:

Does Jon Christensen work in his off hours for the wise-use movement? He should learn a little more about Nevada before he writes about environmental issues. With several articles about ranching April 3, how come Mr. Christensen fails to give readers a full understanding of how this one activity detrimentally affects the state?

He failed to mention a recent study by the Forest Service Range and Experiment Station in Fort Collins, Colo., which mapped biodiversity. It concluded that Nevada has had more species decline to endangered species status attributed to livestock production than any other state. Why no mention of the sage grouse, desert tortoise, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and dozens of other species in the state threatened with extinction primarily due to habitat destruction resulting from livestock production? Why not mention that all this destruction is done in the name of the less than 2,000 people who work in agriculture? Nevada, despite its myth of the cowboy, is a lousy place to try to grow anything. Ask my wife.

In his story about Great Basin National Park, he is again sympathetic to the livestock industry. He doesn't tell HCN readers that virtually all of Nevada is grazed by cows and that there is virtually no place cow-free. Is it too much to ask that less than 100,000 acres in a national park be reserved strictly for the native wildlife?

Nor does he bother to note that two out of the seven permittees running livestock in the park are corporations from California. Christensen leads readers to believe that livestock production in the park was a benign activity. The rancher quoted implies they are being forced from the park, but all that is being required is that they graze without damaging the land - something that ranchers aren't used to doing, so they take it as a threat.

At least for perspective, a good reporter would have noted that an Oregon State University range study completed last year concluded that livestock were destroying riparian zones and causing other problems in the park. A good reporter would have also noted that the park's bighorn sheep herd is in decline and threatened with extinction, in part, due to the continued exposure to disease from domestic sheep grazed in and adjacent to the park (available from the park).

And why didn't Christensen mention in his story about the Newlands Irrigation Project that 90 percent of the water consumed in the state is used by agriculture instead of implying it's sprinklers and golf courses at the Las Vegas casinos or growing suburbs that is the problem? We don't have a water problem in Nevada, we have an agriculture problem. Why does he ignore the fact that the farmers in the Newlands project - besides threatening Pyramid Lake - had already drained 20-mile-long Winnemuca Lake by the 1930s? Or note that this lake was a wildlife refuge that is now gone? Nor does he mention that a similar fate may soon await the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge which often is nothing more than a dry, cracked lakebed while adjacent alfalfa fields are flood-irrigated, and that through subsidies to irrigators taxpayers are paying to destroy their wildlife refuge.

He doesn't mention the "great" deal worked out by the Nature Conservancy to have "waste" water diverted to the Stillwater Refuge that will be loaded with fertilizers and pesticides, and that potentially could make Stillwater into another Kesterson death trap.

I expect to read stories with a slant like Jon Christensen's in Range Magazine or in the local booster papers here in Nevada. But I expect better from a paper that bills itself as an "environmental" paper.

Randy Weber

Elko, Nevada


One thing I have learned about Nevada: Although there is a vast open territory between the environmental and wise-use movements, very little of it is productively occupied. What troubles me about Mr. Weber's letter is not everything that he feels I need to learn about Nevada. Although I've immersed myself in the state's environmental issues for five years, I've mainly learned how much more we all can and need to learn. Mr. Weber faults me for sins of omission. I think his letter is an excellent amplification of his point of view. I'm glad to see his concerns in print. What bothers me, however, is that he feels the need to jump-start his argument with a personal attack. The message is clear: You're either for us or against us. It's the same message that comes from both sides in the so-called War on the West. I don't work for either side.

As a journalist who writes about people and the environment, I feel fortunate to work for a newspaper that doesn't adhere to any organizational battle lines. In my off hours, I try to enjoy this region that Mr. Weber calls "a lousy place to grow anything" by spending time outdoors with my growing children, planting a garden, taking trips to beautiful and not-so-beautiful places in the Great Basin, and talking with friends about making our communities and environment better for all of us. n