Getting beyond yes or no


The Feb. 22 article “Fractured” corresponded in several ways with my own experience in dealing with management issues at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in Southern California.

In the course of an oral history project, I interviewed a great many ranchers who were often unhappy about the restrictions placed upon grazing. On a number of occasions I was invited to stay for lunch, and invariably talk turned to schooling, family and grandchildren. After that, we were able to speak as people rather than opponents, and while we might not agree, it had become easier for each of us to admit that the situation was complicated and that we might not know all the answers.

As a volunteer, I also participated in a workshop conducted by the Bureau of the Land Management, intended to facilitate the creation of a resource management plan for the Carrizo Plain Monument. In one of the exercises, we were to address an issue in the plan, but had to formulate the question as: “How can we accomplish X, while still preserving Y?” We could not ask, “Are off-road vehicles to be permitted in the backcountry?” This would only have a “yes” or “no” answer and could only precipitate a struggle. Instead, we debated, “How can backcountry travel be managed while still preserving intrinsic resource values?” My group consisted of a range technician, a wildlife biologist, a cartographer and a recreation planner. We spent an hour looking for solutions instead of arguing. I believe that Patricia Limerick would understand both of these experiences.

Craig Deutsche
Los Angeles, California