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Know the West

'I was mocked and set up'


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Kathleen (Kathi) Simpson Myron, an artist from Canby, Ore., joined the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group members in 1988 as a representative of Oregon Trout. She left the group in 1994.

"I got along fine until I became what they called a pushy broad who was advocating for the fish and native plants.

"When it came time for them to listen respectfully to me, I was mocked and set up. The history of Oregon has been racist, sexist and ambush. I was really foolish not to foresee what could happen. That's why I'm out - because I won't subject myself to that kind of abuse. They told me loud and clear they weren't going to listen to me.

"The group had some very strong misunderstandings about where my group loyalties should be. I was there as an Oregon Trout representative and as a conservationist, as a fish and water and natural world advocate, a child of the land. I never made any bones about that. It became an abusive situation. I came home on occasion feeling pretty hammered.

"We spent hundreds of hours discussing cattle feed and water needs. We didn't spend a tenth of that time, or even a hundredth, on fish.

"I'm grateful for change that is occurring in the right direction. But my assessment of Willow and Whitehorse creeks - the Lahontan stream systems - is those systems are operating at risk. I've heard time and time again what great shape the uplands are in. But I have walked those uplands and there are miles of steep slopes with rill erosion running down and degraded springs that have been developed for cattle. There are head-cuts all over that country. I was disappointed in the process because it did not address the cumulative effects of those areas of concern. That is what got minimized into nothing.

"We don't have the right to destroy something or have it operate at risk. If a storm hits the Trout Creek mountains - and they are an area known for severe storms - you'll have a blow-out and there's nothing to stop it. It is basically a crime to abuse the earth this way.

"I am very skeptical of grazing. I think what we're doing with cattle on public lands - and juniper clearing - is very similar to things that have gone on hundreds and even thousands of years ago in China, Afghanistan and the Fertile Crescent.

"What is success to me? It will take a number of years to get grandfather willow and aspen growing along streams, and no more bonsai mountain mahogany. Now, we've got spots of improvement.

"We tend to pat ourselves on the back too soon."