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Know the West

Churlish review


At its core, Carl Segerstrom’s churlish review of Chris Ketcham’s This Land (“The West is more than heroes and villains HCN, 11/11/19) provides perfect testimony to why the book is so needed at this time. The writing shatters the myths and illusions that ranchers are the salt of the earth, the very fabric that holds the West together. In reality, it is the chokehold of public-lands ranchers and the livestock industry’s no-holds-barred domination of public-lands policy and its brutality towards the natural world that is at the heart of why so many of the West’s wildlife species are on a trajectory towards extinction. No matter how many trees are senselessly destroyed in projects like those described in This Land, sage grouse populations continue to slide towards extinction in places with little energy development and no large fires that are plagued by ubiquitous hordes of cattle. Gullied streams and trampled springs incrementally dry up with year after year of chronic grazing abuse. Livestock-caused weeds doom native landscapes as they fuel fire after fire. If there’s going to be a West worth living in, a West not overrun with cheatgrass and weeds, and a West where functioning native ecosystems and beauty still exist, then divorcing how we treat the land, its wildlife and wild places from the desires and management myths of the public-lands livestock industry is paramount.

Katie Fite
Boise, Idaho