GLORIETA, N.M. - About 500 members of People For the West, a Pueblo, Colo., group that supports traditional multiple use of public lands, concluded a three-day conference with vows to become more organized and politically active.
Bill Grannell, the executive director and
former Washington, D.C., lobbyist for the National Association of
Counties, said the goal for the group, which has nearly doubled in
size in a year - from 60 chapters in 14 Western states to 112
chapters - is to become a major political
Grannell said the group, which boasts a $1
million budget, is adopting the successful tactics of the
environmental movement. One is to keep track of congressional votes
and assemble a scorecard and rating system on how elected officials
vote on public-lands issues.
conference, the first ever for the four-year-old organization, was
bypassed by New Mexico Gov. Bruce King because of criticism from
area environmental groups, it was addressed by political supporters
either in person or by video.
Rep. Scott McInnis,
R-Colo., urged people to educate the public about how environmental
controls hurt communities and industries. He said environmentalists
use the Endangered Species Act mainly to halt
Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., likened
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to a communist for his support of
stricter environmental controls over grazing, mining and timber
cutting on public lands. Wallop also accused Babbitt and federal
agencies of being "environmental storm troopers' who attempt to
subvert the rights of private property owners in the
"Real environmentalism is not about taking
people's property," Wallop said. "It is about good stewardship. If
we acquiesce, the West we know will not be there. It will become an
urban theme park where people come to watch the sunset and the last
round-up performed by paid actors."
conference, titled "Head'em Off at the Pass," was designed to teach
members "how to hold politicians' feet to the fire," Grannell
Grannell said the nearly 20,000-member
group feels threatened by what he called the "New West" philosophy
that would restrict the public land to recreational use only. The
conferees sported buttons that read "New West B.S."
Grannell denied that People For the West was a
front for large mining, timber and ranching companies. He said he
formed the organization in 1990, then approached industries for
their support. He said the group now receives 75 percent of its
funding from mining, timber and ranching interests and 25 percent
from members and contributors.
People For the
West can be reached at Box 4345, Pueblo, CO
The writer lives in
Santa Fe, New Mexico. His book, If You Poison Us, about uranium
mining on Native American lands, will be published this