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for people who care about the West

Extractive industries are not dead yet

  Dear HCN,


Ed Marston writes that the war between extractive interests and the environmental movement is drawing to a close and the enviro movement won (HCN, 4/10/00: Beyond the Revolution). Like the person who reads about his death in the paper, reports of the demise of extractive interests are greatly exaggerated. We will always have extractive industries in the West because our survival depends on them. The only question is, what balance will be struck between extractive uses and preservation interests? This is a pendulum thing. At times the pendulum swings toward extraction and at other times toward preservation. Since Clinton took office, the pendulum has swung back toward preservation. We are presently in a holding pattern because, while Congress can easily summon a majority against Clinton's War on the West, they do not have enough votes to override a veto. And the president does not have the votes to push his agenda through.


The president does have the advantage because of the Antiquities Act, but that can change. And a new president can undo the executive orders of a previous president, so the illusion of a win may be short-lived. I do agree with Mr. Marston on one point. There are strong arguments for local control over public-land policies. Therein lies the rub for environmentalists because they do not have grassroot support in local communities. Enviros are mostly intruders paid by wealthy foundations. They are good at filing lawsuits, but have failed to win the hearts and souls of Westerners. When the time comes to make decisions at the local/regional level, environmentalists will be on the outside looking in, having put themselves there by their own words and deeds. We will see then which way the pendulum swings.


Jim Gerber
Anthony, Idaho