When scary is a compliment

  Dear HCN,


In your issue devoted to the sadly divisive but, I fear, century-old conflict between conservationists and environmentalists - preservationist John Muir couldn't stand conservationist John Burroughs, and vice versa - Ted Williams quoted one of my cultural heroes, Roderick Haig-Brown, who described the faults of the outdoor press as timidity and conformity: "It dare not shock or extend its readers, it must not frighten them with abstract or deeply considered ideas' (HCN, 3/3/97). Writer David Peterson then characterized my conservation coverage as hostile to professional wildlife management and strenuous wildlife law enforcement; as "myopic, misguided, self-serving, and - well, scary."


In the light of Haig-Brown's call for deeply considered and frightening ideas, I'm flattered by Mr. Peterson's description of my work. If it's scary to write skeptically about the truly self-serving propaganda pumped out by state and federal resource agencies and their non-governmental allies, I'm glad to be scary. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lies consistently about the status of North American waterfowl and concocts management theories to justify the continued overshooting of ducks, I'll gladly plead guilty to hostility to "professional wildlife management." When the Service also gives free rein to its law enforcement division to run an illegal, multimillion-dollar entrapment of falconers whose only proven crime appears to have been sloppy bookkeeping, I'm proud to have exposed that truly frightening example of "strenuous wildlife law enforcement" to Field & Stream's readers.


The majority of my colleagues merely rewrite governmental press releases and call it journalism. However, when the emperor has no clothes - or is shabbily dressed, as in the case of the currently fashionable Conservation Reserve Program - I feel a duty to point that out, no matter how scary such exposure might be to timid and conformist minds. Finally, so far as some federal laws are concerned - e.g., Endangered Species Act - I have not just a journalistic right to point out their shortcomings, but an obligation since I either helped write those laws or get them passed. If human nature doesn't always live up to the high hopes we had in creating a law, it's more sensible to modify it so it works as intended rather than go on senselessly insisting that we modify human nature instead.


So, thank you, David Peterson, for describing my work as "scary." The scarier it is, the more effective my role will be as conservation's ombudsman.





George Reiger


Locustville, Virginia





The writer is conservation editor for Field & Stream magazine.


High Country News Classifieds
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OWN A THRIVING MOUNTAIN GUIDE SERVICE.
    Eastern Sierra guide service for sale to person with vision & expertise to take it onwards. Since 1995 with USFS & NPS permits. Ideal for...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...