A shock to the system

  • Paul Larmer

 

When Ray Rasker, director of the Sonoran Institute’s SocioEconomics program, traveled to Montana’s Flathead Valley recently to lead a training workshop for local environmentalists, he was pleasantly surprised. “I’d always remembered that the environmental community up there was very divided,” says Rasker, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., “but we had 50 enviros all in the same room, and they were getting along great. I asked them, ‘What’s going on here?’ ”

John Stokes was going on. Stokes is northwestern Montana’s right-wing shock jock, who, as HCN editor in the field Ray Ring reports, regularly bashes environmentalists, women, federal agencies and anyone else associated with a progressive cause.

Stokes’ show has developed a large following, and his rhetoric has sparked some nasty behavior among his more ardent followers: Since his show began in 2000, environmentalists have had their property vandalized and their answering machines filled with threatening messages.

Adversity, though, can be a catalyst for positive change. In the Flathead, Stokes’ attacks have caused environmentalists to seriously consider their reputation as elitist whiners, and to focus on building the local alliances it takes to actually get something done. In the past, different groups sometimes found themselves at cross-purposes, and getting in each other’s way. But over the past several years, the conservation community has patched up its internal differences. Conservationists have also joined hands with business and community leaders to stand up to Stokes, and to move forward on several conservation initiatives.

Today, conservatives and liberals in the Flathead are working together to control development on state lands, plan for growth around cities, improve water quality in Flathead Lake, and secure new hiking and biking trails for recreation. It’s not exactly headline-grabbing stuff, but it’s the kind of quiet, inclusive progress that may someday become the hallmark of the West’s environmental movement.

Rasker, who helps Western communities and federal agencies plan for the future, says he’s seeing signs of similar progress in other conservative hotspots. “People just get sick and tired of the fed-bashing, environmentalist-bashing rhetoric, says Rasker. “They ask, ‘What has it ever done for us?’ ” The same might be said of environmentalists who focus more on problems than solutions. As Rasker says, “Whining is only effective for so long.”

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIV
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • DEVELOMENT DIRECTOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness is seeking a qualified Development Director to manage the fundraising success of our growing organization, including the team-driven implementation of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • SAN JUAN BASIN ENERGY CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is seeking a full-time San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer located in Farmington, New Mexico. The San Juan Energy Campaign Organizer focuses...
  • WILDLIFE PROGRAM MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) is looking for a passionate, experienced, and motivated Wildlife Program Manager to lead campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife and...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes."- Billings Gazette Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, &...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR
    Western Colorado Alliance is hiring for 4 positions, 2 Full Time Community Organizers, 1 Part Time Community Organizer and a Part Time Membership Coordinator. For...
  • BUSINESS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Thorne Nature Experience is looking for a Business Operations Director who will work in partnership with the Executive Director and Thorne's Directors and Managers to...
  • WILDERNESS CONSERVATION CORPS - OREGON
    The Siskiyou Mountain Club is hiring interns for the 2020 Field Season. Interns utilize non-mechanized tools to complete trail restoration and maintenance while gaining job...