When you get past the Sturm und Drang over the Malheur “occupation” — fed by a media that feasts like a carrion bird on other people’s troubles and sexy visuals (which poseurs with rifles and load-bearing vests are happy to oblige) — there are real problems to be addressed on federal lands in the American West. You’d think that those problems are insurmountable, that we are doomed to everlasting conflict and/or the loss of the land or lifeways built in the sage and timber.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s plenty of folks who want both to see the landscape that feeds our souls AND the livelihoods of those who live on the land protected and preserved. Those goals are — despite our conflict-driven “discourse” — NOT incompatible. There are many people who are working toward a sustainable, natural approach to land management that works to accomplish a multiplicity of goals. They deserve recognition.
I have always deeply admired the Malpai Borderland Group, along the New Mexico/Arizona and Mexico line. What used to be Apacheria. To me, these folks perfectly embody the right mind-set and — more importantly — the right kind of action. Here’s their mission statement:
Our goal is to restore and maintain the natural processes that create and protect a healthy, unfragmented landscape to support a diverse, flourishing community of human, plant and animal life in our borderlands region.
Together, we will accomplish this by working to encourage profitable ranching and other traditional livelihoods, which will sustain the open space nature of our land for generations to come.
When I get pissed off, frustrated and despairing about the state of the world, folks like these give me hope and uplift the spirit.
• If you’re interested in this topic, here’s a blog by Dan Dagget, a feller who started out as an Earth First! radical protectionist and has since shifted his “environmental politics” based on — wait for it — evidence and experience. He makes a very strong case that “protecting” the land from grazing is doing more harm than good, and that grazing — done wisely — is beneficial.
• I’ve been reading a lot of High Country News the past couple of weeks and will likely subscribe.
• And, close to home, please read this column by a new freelancer with The Nugget Newspaper. Craig Rullman is writing “The Bunkhouse Chronicle” column for the paper and also maintains a blog of the same title. He’s got a working cowboy background, as well as former lives in the military and law enforcement. He also happens to be a damned fine writer and I’m more than pleased to have him aboard.
• And one more local — a HCN tribute to Doc Hatfield, who died last year here in Sisters, OR. He changed the nature of public lands ranching in the region.
We need to stop waving bloody shirts and start celebrating the people who are doing real work of true and lasting value to protect the iconic landscape of this part of America — the part that, for much of the world, is America.