Free speech can be costly in New Mexico

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, A struggle for the last grass.

In southwest New Mexico, it's a struggle to be green. In 1991, wolf advocate Pamela Brown tried to show her video, Wolf Teacher, at schools in Silver City and neighboring towns. It mixes cuddly scenes of wolves licking kids' faces and prancing down beaches with stories of how ranchers tried to exterminate them.

But this is a place where ranchers, environmentalists and the federal government have fought over whether to reintroduce the wolf in the Blue Primitive Area straddling the New Mexico-Arizona border to the west.

In the small ranching town of Glenwood, three ranchers' wives stopped Brown at the schoolhouse door, she recalled. The women today deny that they physically barred Brown, 50, but after some haggling, the video was never shown.

Rancher Bob McKeen, whose daughter-in-law taught at the school, said the video failed to show the wolf's killer side. Mary Beth Britton, the teacher who had brought Brown in, later wrote her that "we heard money talking today.

"These same women actively promote the beef industry in our school district. Campaigning for their survival seems to be acceptable, while doing the same thing for the wolf is not," she wrote.

Newspaper editor Kate Keely felt the ranchers' sting, too. From 1988 to 1992, she put out a bi-weekly newspaper, Wilderness Outlook, that mixed environmentalism with community news, tales of camping out and personal histories. While it was hardly a call to arms, rancher-county commissioner Hugh McKeen hinted that an advertising boycott would be appropriate. Sometimes, 100 copies of the paper would disappear from a news rack, racks were torn up, and a big grocery chain stopped carrying it.

"I have nothing against any of these people," says Keely. "I was trying to be a forum for both sides. They figured out I was the enemy because I am an environmentalist." Keely is now a second-grade teacher.

In spring 1993, Beverly Malo, a clerk at a local petroleum distributor, lost her job to rancher pressure after she wrote a letter on company stationery to protest some anti-environmentalist ads on the radio.

Several of those ads more clearly pointed at Susan Schock and her group Gila Watch, since they exhorted listeners not to tolerate "third-party interference" on the Diamond Bar.

The radio ads likened environmentalists to "pagan nature worshippers" and animal rights activists to Nazis. One traced the roots of modern environmentalism to Eastern mysticism. Another ad blasted environmentalists for stepping in and objecting to the "marriage" on the Diamond Bar between the Forest Service and ranchers. The sponsors were a livestock-mining interest coalition called Minuteman Media.

"Many of these environmental leaders aren't just demanding better conservation practices, they are seeking a total transformation of society," an ad said. "One that seeks to destroy or totally restructure our current economic system and replace it with mystic hope, or in some cases, no hope at all."

Outraged, listener Malo faxed a letter to radio station KSCQ, saying, "The music has turned sour with the garbage of Minuteman Press." When word got back to her boss, she was fired.

KSCQ owner John Alsip, whose family is in ranching, strongly defended the ads, calling environmentalists "eco-Nazis." "I hate their damned guts," he said.

"They don't care about riparian habitats," Alsip said, "they don't care about how many spotted owls they save. All they care about is getting the cows off public land."

High Country News Classifieds
  • YELLOWSTONE TREASURES: THE TRAVELER'S COMPANION TO THE NATIONAL PARK
    Dreaming of a trip to Yellowstone Park? This book makes you the tour guide for your group! Janet Chapple shares plenty of history anecdotes and...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • SAGE GROUSE CCAA COORDINATOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, headquartered in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a full-time Sage Grouse CCAA Coordinator. This position is part of a collaborative effort...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST
    Executive Director, Okanogan Land Trust Position Announcement Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, family farms, challenging politics, and big conservation opportunities? Do you have...
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Organize with Northern Plains Resource Council to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Starts $35.5k. Apply now- northernplains.org/careers
  • BEAUTIFUL, AUTHENTIC LIVE YULE LOG CENTERPIECE
    - beautiful 12" yule log made from holly wood, live fragrant firs, rich green and white holly, pinecones and red berries. $78 includes shipping. Our...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA
    Crazy Horse Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is currently accepting applications and nominations for the Director of Programs for The Indian University...
  • CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL® MANAGER OF RESIDENCE LIFE FOR THE INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA®
    Crazy Horse Memorial is currently accepting applications for the Manager of Residence Life for The Indian University of North America. This position is responsible for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Are you an art lover who dreams of living in the mountains? Is fundraising second nature to you? Do you have experience managing creative people?...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Public Lands Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the multiple-use management of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, seeks an experienced leader...
  • COLD WEATHER CRAFTS
    Unique handmade gifts from the Gunnison Valley. Soy lotion candles, jewelry, art, custom photo mandalas and more. Check out the website and buy Christmas locally...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    North Cascades Institute seeks their next Executive Director to lead the organization, manage $4 million operating budget, and oversee 60 staff. Send resume/cover letter to...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.