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Know the West

Dump the meaningless labels

  Please don’t label me as one of "our more conservative readers," but I agree that the paper seems to be exhibiting more of that old-fashioned enviro bias and heading in a more polarizing direction than the HCN of old. By "polarizing" I mean spinning stories in terms of those archaic categories of conservative vs. liberal, environmentalist vs. rancher or logger (or all those other dastardly users of the land), owls vs. jobs, fish vs. farmers, etc. Those labels are quickly becoming meaningless and the lines between are blurring. As they should.

I am a dedicated environmentalist. I love wild places and spend lots of time in the backcountry, backpack and mountaineer and ski and all that stuff; I recycle, reuse and reduce, buy local and organic, grow my own, drive fuel-efficient cars and ride my bike, live in a solar-heated house, support rewilding and habitat protection, want to leave behind a healthy and safe world for my children; I even do conservation work for a living. But I also support sustainable local ranching and forestry, local water use for organic agriculture as a "highest and best use." I’d be happy to give up a rafting trip for a local farm to produce more healthy food, or a ski trip to allow more irrigation water into the centuries-old acequias in my valley, or even a piece of our national forest to make right historic land grant injustices. And I believe social and economic equity are essential for a sustainable world. So what category is that?

There are enough other strident rags out there to fan the flames. HCN ought to stick to that solid ground it has established over the years, and continue to be a credible, reasoned, unbiased voice for the West — including all the people who live in it. That doesn’t mean you lose your passion or tiptoe around the controversial issues, but you’ve got to stop spinning everything with environmentalist editorializing. Just write the real story, and it speaks for itself.

The us-vs.-them approach just doesn’t work anymore. That’s not a way to create a broad-based populist social movement, which is what environmentalism needs to be if we want it to succeed.

Ernie Atencio
Taos, New Mexico