The Poppers tell a biased story

  Dear HCN,


In the opinion of Frank and Deborah Popper, their Buffalo Commons idea is accurate, but your headline tells the real story: "The bison are coming' - not the "Commons' (HCN, 2/2/98).


If the Poppers had said 10 years ago that bison (note they still get the animals' name wrong) should become more numerous on the Great Plains, or even should replace cattle, I doubt they would have drawn much attention. It was the "commons' idea that caused all the controversy, because it said to the people of the Plains: You've failed, you can't make it without subsidies, and your land should become public land for eco-tourism. For the Poppers to leave the commons idea all but unmentioned now, while uncritically congratulating themselves for anticipating the increase in bison herds - that's revision, not retrospect.


You could point to any rural area in the United States and show where farming has been subsidized and people have been leaving the land. People of the Plains know this; no wonder the Poppers met resistance for singling them out for criticism. Subsidized, depopulated rural areas anywhere could just as well be proposed for eco-tourists' commons. For that matter, the next time a building falls to earthquakes, mudslides or hurricanes ...


I know firsthand the problems of agriculture and rural economies, but I say that to portray out-migration as failure is shading the truth. My father is a typical farmer, working hard to raise four kids who went on to off-farm work, even professions. I've yet to hear the Poppers admit the truth of my father's life, and that of thousands of other Plains farmers: successful, laudable, exemplary. No wonder they met resistance.


It is inaccurate to say the Forest Service "may allow" ranchers to graze bison on national grasslands in the Great Plains. The Poppers may have said that out of ignorance, or maybe because it suits them. If it's the latter, I'm calling their bluff: The agency already allows ranchers to graze bison; a rancher in my Zip code does so now. Some grazing associations prohibit using bison, but that is another story.


What is new is that the Forest Service will discuss bison as the agency revises its management plans for the national grasslands of the northern Great Plains. (See "Revision Reporter," November 1997, from USFS, 125 N. Main St., Chadron, NE 69337.) But you'd have to be naive, wishfully thinking, to assert that this means the agency will somehow "allow" or even encourage bison grazing on public lands.


All in all, the Poppers' article mainly serves to lessen their credibility. How else can we respond to a generalization like "noticeable numbers' of ranchers have switched to bison? Well, what are the numbers? Show us the numbers, and let us decide if they indicate a real trend. The Poppers say the market for bison is strong, especially compared with cattle and sheep, but they left unsaid the fact that the demand for breeding, not slaughtering, bison is what keeps that market strong. Next time you publish such an uncritical opinion piece, with so many half-truths, I hope you will print a countering opinion right alongside.





Michael Melius


Hermosa, South Dakota


High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...