'Romantic piece of fluff'

  Dear HCN,


Your romantic piece of fluff about ranching in the San Luis Valley (HCN, 12/6/99) does a disservice to all of us who are trying to envision a positive future for the West. I have come to expect a much higher standard of journalism from you.


We must, I repeat MUST, move away from cowboy mythology. My family was uncomfortable when tourists put us on the cowboy pedestal when I was growing up on a ranch in the San Luis Valley; twenty years later, feminism taught me why. It demeans anyone to be mythologized and stereotyped, whether they are a woman, a Native American, or a rancher.


Yes, humans have a strong need to work out-of-doors with animals. Let's create jobs where people can do that without having to slaughter the animals and degrade the environment.


The San Luis Valley is not a sagebrush flat because of a lack of rainfall, as your heroine suggested. Buffalo were grazing there on waist-high grass when European settlers arrived. What happened? People plowed under the grass, planted wheat, and irrigated the soil. For a while that seemed successful. A hundred years ago, the area around Moffat produced a lot of wheat. Then the irrigation water pulled alkali salt out of the soil. Unknowingly, the settlers had turned the valley into a desert.


My parents had to sell out 25 years ago. Now the ranch I grew up on provides tax write-offs for the present owners. Is that a "higher purpose'?


Let's acknowledge that trying to raise livestock west of the rainfall line is a bust. Let's take the life support system off the dying industry, sell all the cattle and sheep one last time, have a huge feast, and then let wildlife flourish across the West again.


A West teeming with wildlife would make everyone happy, especially the people who want a job out-of-doors with animals. We could grow crops for wildlife, and veterinarians could treat their ailments. We could study them and photograph them and advertise them and protect them and hunt them and recreate among them. Who knows how many lucrative job niches they would provide?


I sure prefer that future to the pinched, defensive prospects of today's livestock ranchers.





Tori Woodard


Escalante, Utah





The writer was born and raised on the Woodard Land and Livestock Co. ranch near Saguache, Colorado.
High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Job Announcement: Executive Administrative Assistant (Part-Time) Announcement date: October 27, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: November...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job purpose The Executive Director is a proven leader with demonstrated and sustained experience managing people, budgets, fundraising, and contract compliance who guides a well-established...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a Communications Associate to support the advancement of GYC's mission by working closely with the Communications Coordinator and program staff...
  • MONTANA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure significant...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • 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,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...