Fantasy politics


"Over the last 30 years," says (Arizona state Sen. Al) Melvin, "mining, lumbering and grazing have come to a screeching halt, snuffed out by the so-called environmental practices of the Forest Service and BLM" (HCN, 5/14/12, "Sagebrush skirmish").

Is there any chance that reality could enter into this debate? The first 10 of those 30 years were during Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush's presidencies, hardly great slowdowns in resource use. How about some numbers, Sen. Melvin? For instance, from 1985 to 2005, Nevada alone yielded more than 130,000 ounces of gold -- more than three times that of the California Gold Rush and a huge increase over previous years. While copper mines face intense international competition, in 1980, Arizona produced 757,000 metric tons of copper. In 2010 it produced 797,000 tons. Overall lumber production in the West is down some, but there are multiple causes -- not least competition from the South's growing industry. Oil and gas drilling has been unleashed throughout the West. Even if grazing is down -- and it likely is -- you'd have to pick apart the causes.

Will we see a return of conservative voices connected to facts on the ground? We need dialogue to find solutions, but arguing about a fantasy world is pointless.

Craig Jones
Boulder, Colorado

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