« Return to this article

Know the West



Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently took a swipe at environmentalists while hanging out with hunters in Washington, D.C. Speaking to the American Wildlife Conservation Partners — a coalition of 35 hunting groups ranging from the Boone and Crockett Club to the National Rifle Association — Norton accused environmental groups of using lawsuits over endangered species to rake in the dough (HCN, 6/23/03: Who needs critical habitat?). "I am concerned about the polarization and politicizing of conservation. Instead of cooperation and consensus, we often see conflict," she said. "This conflict frequently is spurred more by the desire to do fund raising than out of genuine concern for the resource."

In May, farmworkers in Bakersfield, Calif., were blasted with a shot of pesticides. The 23 women were working in a vineyard when helicopters sprayed an adjacent orchard only 50 feet away (HCN, 9/29/03: Harvesting Poison). Emergency crews responded by stripping, decontaminating and outfitting the women in clean jumpsuits at the scene before transporting them to the hospital for treatment of respiratory problems and nausea. Three ambulance employees reported feeling queasy and having a metallic taste in their mouths; they were also taken to the hospital. Asked about the frequency of such problems, Louis Cox, operations manager of Hall Ambulance Services, says, "It’s not like having breakfast every morning. But it’s all agriculture and oil in Kern County, so obviously we have more opportunity for incidents such as these."

All ranchers will have to keep forking over money for those "Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner" advertisements. The Supreme Court has sided with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the cattle industry against some ranchers who objected to paying the mandatory $1 per head "checkoff" fee used to promote beef (HCN, 9/30/02: Independent ranchers fight corporate control). Ranchers opposed to the program say their payments help promote meat from foreign competitors or from corporate-controlled, non-organic producers. Although they claimed their First Amendment rights protected them from having to pay the fee, the justices disagreed by a decision of 6-to-3.