After the ranchers go, sprawl comes

  Dear HCN,

Your front page story on Jon Marvel points to the fact that you seem to have no clear vision of how to save the West from inappropriate development and urban sprawl (HCN, 8/2/99). I got the same feeling when I read your feature story on Wyoming a while back. You and your bright, young, intellectual staff seem to have it in for cattle and cattlemen without having thought out what such a vendetta, if successful, would bring about.

All open space can't be contained in parks, forest preserves and BLM holdings. But the many ranches that provide the majority of open space in the West need public lands for grazing. Depriving them of their leases will put them out of business and subject their deeded land to development. Once development sets in, it's too late. Ranching and farming are unique in this way: Ranchers and farmers can cash in on failure by selling their land for more than they can ever make working it. All they need is a little push in the wrong direction. And if you open up all grazing leases to the highest bidder, as the Idaho Supreme Court has recently done in response to the irresponsible lawsuit brought by Marvel and Laird, the wealthy will out-bid the small operator, with the same result.

Michael Whitt

Point Reyes Station, California

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