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Reformers needed, not abolitionists

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Dear HCN,

Jeffrey St. Clair complained in the last issue that no "abolitionists' were included in the Colorado grazing reform working group. Of course they were excluded! That decision was deliberate. The sharing of goals is a necessary preliminary to any successful resolution of conflict, and the abolitionists declare outright that they don't share the goal of maintaining Western ranching culture. The discussions focused on how to reform public-lands grazing, not on how to eliminate it.

Abolitionists take the extreme side of the debate. Their words can serve a productive purpose if they illuminate the problems and raise the tenor of debate. If they were to somehow find the political muscle to reach their goal, it would certainly solve problems, since the source of problems would be gone.

But abolitionists are essentially declaring war on Western ranchers and by implication, most rural communities in the West. In the pursuit of this war, they should recognize that it will take many more years, cause many harsh conflicts, create divisiveness and block social healing. It will do little to inculcate environmental values into the ranching industry.

The abolitionists must believe that learning and change in the ranching industry are impossible, and that ranchers are and will always be ignorant, self-serving bullies without any genuine care for land community and other cultures. Therefore, ranchers cannot be reformed, they must be eliminated.

War is not my style. Environmentalists should preach and build peace. Our long-term success depends partly on winning legal and political battles, but even more on educating everyone about the environmental impacts accompanying just about every human activity, and the possible solutions to these problems. We will always need some laws and rules to force those who refuse to learn and change, but we will never win until environmental values and knowledge permeate every aspect of our economy and culture.

Gary Sprung

Crested Butte, Colorado

Gary Sprung is president of the High Country Citizens' Alliance.

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