Let's get rational

  Dear HCN,


The issue of grazing on federal lands apparently is no longer a civil debate but, according to Andy Kerr (HCN, 6/13/94), a call to arms, the newest cause of ideological tribalism. The "greens' versus the "grazers." Eco-terrorists engaging in actual battle with People For The West. "Us' against "them," whoever they are.


Polarizing an issue may force action more quickly in order to avoid the threat of violence, but it is a dangerous, antisocial strategy, reflective of both urban decay and international dysfunction.


Not every rancher is a renegade and not every conservationist believes in the exclusion of human influence on the landscape. This newest rationalization for tribal violence fails even to define the boundaries of the conflict; it is reminiscent of other borderless wars, jihads, and assorted ethnic struggles, and it has little if any place in a democracy, let alone a courtroom.


Without rational debate, violence will indeed infect the West, as it has in the past, as it does now in our cities, and not only will the landscape suffer but also the social fabric of the communities that are under attack. However, if sensible minds can cull through the admittedly laborious process of democratic debate, then there is a chance that a commitment from our chosen, if not sometimes negligent, stewards of the land, the Forest Service and the BLM, may yet be achieved to enforce the spirit as well as the letter of the law.


While the current grazing proposals do not impose strict enough penalties on abusers, and may be too quick to reward average users, the Colorado model is on the right track. The real question is whether we should plan on monitored peace-keepers, patrolling for eco-terrorists and vigilante range-riders, or find a method for good science to be applied more evenly on the ground. We should not underestimate the force of mere "social approbation," as Aldo Leopold called it, when applied to land ethic issues.


The grazing issue is about the future of the West, not only its natural qualities but its communities. Save the rhetoric for fundraisers, Andy. What we need is a healthier Western perspective, one in which tolerance replaces brute force; a concept much better said by Wallace Stegner than I when he wrote of a time when the West "finally learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the pattern that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery."





Peter F. Michaelson


Denver, Colorado





The writer has been a district attorney for 10 years and serves as volunteer chairman of the board of the Colorado Wildlife Federation.





High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation is searching for a driven and creative leader to build a movement, conserving and restoring America's rivers by helping customers find...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Deputy Director/COO who will have the overall responsibilities of general program management, staff management, financial & budget management,...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • 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,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...