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Know the West

'This is not a radical notion...'


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

Dave Foreman: "Earth First!, as far as I'm concerned, died in 1988. All the urban anarchist children - the monkey-wrenching types - started the modern Earth First! (after I left). It is not even a descendent of the original. All they wanted was stories and pictures of their direct actions. They didn't want to hear about science.

"There has been no change of thinking (for me). We started doing articles on conservation biology in the Earth First! Journal in 1982.

"We've gotten way beyond theory in the last couple of years. We're blending what I hope is poetry with what I hope is science. Aldo Leopold wrote that the penalty of having an ecological education is knowing that you live alone in a world of wounds. We are trying to heal the wounds.

"All native species should be restored where habitat exists or can be restored. People have been talking about reintroducing grizzlies to the Southwest for 30 years. This is not a radical notion.

"I don't have any romance about cultures in the West. My family came here and helped create the dust bowl. There's nothing romantic about that. There's the myth of the democratic, friendly small town, when we all know that there's nothing more intolerant and repressive. There's a lot of stupidity and unwillingness to try something new.

"But we're here and we need to figure out how to work together. Who wants to create even more hostility in rural areas where people will shoot wolves just out of spite?

"There's an awful lot of support out there, just not among the loudmouths who run those (rural) counties. A 1996 poll in Catron County (N.M.) showed that 52 percent of the public supported wolf reintroduction. But if you have different ideas than the founding fathers, you keep your mouth shut.

"Grazing on federal lands is not a right, it's a privilege. Nonetheless, a lot of people have put their entire lives into it, and you don't just kick them off. Bad ranchers are going to go belly up because of their own stupidity. We've got to get clever if we're going to maintain some of the old traditions in the rural West. (But) that's not our specialty. We are not going to become a group that works on sustainable agriculture.

"I've always been a rural New Mexico redneck. I just happen to like mountain lions and wilderness. I've always been socially more similar to the people I fight than I am to the people I work with. Maybe (the more inclusive strategy) is a way to reconcile the two parts of me."