Time Warp

  • ALL HIT CAST: A sound track from Radio High Country News

    Diane Sylvain
  • And God created big cows

    Diane Sylvain
  • Unmonitored grazers

    Jim Maloney, Bureau of Land Management
  • A map of the state of Befuddlement

    Diane Sylvain

Shoot, the enviros haven't won the battle for the West's public lands after all

Back in the 1980s, the West was cut and dried. Ronald Reagan and James Watt were there to protect us from soft-on-Communism redwoods, while environmentalists climbed tripods and lay down on the statehouse steps in protest. There were good guys and bad guys.

Those were good times. Simple times.

Then came the gray years of the 1990s, when suddenly it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Consensus groups broke out like a pox. Ranchers, miners and enviros sat down together, formed potluck support groups and knitting circles, thanked each other for sharing and wished each other a nice day.

The age of dams - one of our favorites - had ended. The golden age of clear cutting was over, too. Out-of-work loggers planted trees and shrubberies with nice little paths running right down the middle. Bumper stickers cried, "Save an owl, eat a logger." It was enough to confuse the most astute Western journalist.

Quite frankly, all the hand-holding made for poor headlines: "Floyd Dominy apologizes, says he didn't know there was a canyon down there," "Maybe cows are good for desert after all," "Helen Chenoweth welcomes wolves, Hispanics to Idaho," "Wilderness activist busted in bed with bovine," "Logger marries Julia Butterfly in tree."

It was the age of dull environmental journalism about confusing collaboration, the age of enviro journalists wanting more interesting ages to write about.

But now, in an ironic twist, the good old days are back: Dick Cheney in the White House, Jim Watt's former hit-woman in charge of Interior. The public lands open for plunder, global warming not a problem, even the Cold War miraculously revived. It's the age of retro. This is the West that was.

It makes our job a whole lot easier. No more days of sitting through endless roundtable discussions while everyone tiptoes around being inordinately sensitive to each other. Never again will you have to read the same old story of consensus group formation: "At first it was hard, because we all look so different - they have short hair, we have long hair, we say potayto, they say potahto. But after a while, we started to see eye to eye. We even started to like each other. Then came the torrid affairs, the long passionate nights on the range, the break-ups, the breakdowns, the heartbreak. Now we're in counseling and on antidepressants. It's getting better all the time."

No, no. No more feel-good stuff here; no more "I'm OK, you're OK, and the West is pretty darn OK too." It's back to the days of fast-shootin' body-slammin' old-fashioned Western politics. And why not? The retro thing has worked for the fashion industry (how else would you explain the return of those horrible calf-length bloomers women are wearing these days?), it's worked for the music industry (Lenny Kravitz? Hello?), and from the looks of it, it's worked for Washington too. There's no reason it shouldn't work for HCN.

In fact, we've decided that we'll just reprint stories from the 1980s. No need to write original stories when we've seen it all before. Of course, the names will have to be changed * except for the president's, of course * and we may have to touch up some of the photos. But by and large, it's back to the classics! Here's hoping it hits you like an old tune from Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Let's do the time warp agaaaain ..."

see pg. 88 for more ...

Arts and insanities

This gorgeous fresco, And God created big cows, was just unveiled amid great fanfare in the bovine community. Created by the artist Milkelangelo, himself an American of Holstein descent, it is seen as a response to all the recent negative publicity over so-called "Mad Cow" disease. "Many Bovine-Americans feel that we are unfairly targeted by the media," a spokescow for the artist says. "We're not even that mad, really. Just a wee bit miffed sometimes, maybe." Milkelangelo's work is supported by a grant from the National Encowment for the Arts.

more on pg. 55 ...

Out with the old

The House Resources Committee, formerly the House Natural Resources Committee, has been renamed once again under the new administration, and is now the House Disposable Resources Committee.

more on pg. 26 ...

Unmonitored grazers

Many of the West's public lands are plagued by a new problem: feral computers. "Their owners tend to lose interest and abandon them when they get new ones," the BLM's Helena Handbasket explains. "But when they're in the wild, they can be dangerous; they form ferocious packs and roam everywhere, devouring and deleting data and downloading in once-pristine streams and ponds."

more on pg. 27 .....

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