HCN is a sop to the cowboys

  I just read "Riding the middle path" (HCN, 12/8/03: Riding the middle path). As a writer and photographer, I am acutely aware of how word and photo choice influences perception. And once again HCN proves that it is incapable of writing about the livestock industry without being a sop to the industry.

When I read articles in the paper about coalbed methane, oil and gas, logging or sprawl, there is a vastly different tone — with these industries and those associated with it described in either neutral or often negative terms. But the author of this story notes that Owyhee Country has been in the "care" of ranchers for "generations." These "caring" ranchers created a situation where it is noted that nearly all of the rangeland was deemed to be in poor or fair condition and all the streams were in unsatisfactory condition. Given the above information, it would be more accurate to say that rancher Black and his family have been "vandalizing" public lands for multiple generations.

The photo choice also demonstrates this bias. We are treated to rancher Chris Black riding a horse (always on a horse) with his daughter instead of an image of Black’s cows trashing a riparian area. This is a not-so-subtle way of saying ranchers are "family" people. Using a personal portrait to humanize a story is a good hook and journalistic style. However, HCN does not use the same techniques with other natural resource exploiters. We don’t see a family portrait of the roughneck playing with his kids by the rigs or the logger out showing his son how to sharpen a chainsaw or run a bulldozer.

Furthermore, HCN gives legitimacy to the ranchers by suggesting the Owyhee proposal is a great compromise — i.e. "riding the middle path" where equal interest groups are coming together to forge a compromise. Yet ranchers are given four votes in the group among 10 at the table. Four votes by industry representatives is considered OK when it’s ranchers, but I suspect that if this were some kind of meeting between environmentalists and, say, oil and gas companies, we would read a different story in HCN — about how the public process was stacked in favor of industry representatives.

George Wuerthner
Richmond, Vermont
High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation is searching for a driven and creative leader to build a movement, conserving and restoring America's rivers by helping customers find...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Deputy Director/COO who will have the overall responsibilities of general program management, staff management, financial & budget management,...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • 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,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...