By J. Zane Walley
The Paragon Foundation
Daniel Patterson, a young burly desert ecologist with the Center for
Biological Diversity, towered over me by a good six inches as he screamed in
my face, " I'll break that #*#* camera over your #*&#*# head if you try to
take my picture! Who the #*#* do you think you are?"
It was the second day of the Rangenet 2001 conference, at Arizona State
University in Phoenix, Arizona and the second time that environmentalists,
attending the conference, had made physical threats. On the first day, a
similar scene had occurred as Range magazine Journalist, Tim Findley
attempted to photograph the confirmed, Earth First! Eco-terrorists.
Rangenet is a coalition of environmental organizations devoted to ending
grazing on all public lands. They met in Reno, Nevada last year at Rangenet
2000. Representatives from about a hundred green groups showed up to vent
their anti-cow spleen and hatch plans to push ranchers off their allotments.
The 2001 bovine bashing did not fare so well.
Fifty-nine people were at the conference and about 20 of those were ranchers
or supporters of ranching. Another dozen or so were bored and slumbering
students. Thirteen speakers and the Rangenet webmaster, Larry Walker was
present, leaving only about a dozen aging greens and militant Earth
Firsters, to support the serious business of ending public land ranching.
The conference was uninspired and speakers were obviously mouthing the same
worn words that they had said hundreds of times before. Rangenet organizer,
Joe Powers attempted to spark life into the lethargic spectators by asking
for a standing ovation for The Forest Guardians and Center for Biological
Diversity. No one stood up and no one clapped. Powers' jaw dropped. Then he
tried, "Just think! Once we get these cows off the land you can sit with
your Grandson and tell him that he is a third-generation grazing activist!"
The listeners were still unmoved and the loudest sound was from a college
student tearing a bag of candy open. Powers gave up.
Andy Kerr, of Klamath Falls infamy and Senior Councilor with the Oregon
Natural Resources Council (ONRC), was candid in his strategy to remove
ranchers from public lands, "We will focus on education, to make the public
aware that more damage has been done by livestock than by chainsaws or
bulldozers combined. At the same time, ONRC will keep pressure on public
land ranchers through litigation, administrative appeals, and listing more
species under the Endangered Species Act."
Kerr said that ONRC and other conservationist groups would be lobbying the
U.S. Congress on legislation for a federal "buyout" of public land grazing
permits from "willing" sellers. Kerr provided a white paper, "National
Public Lands Grazing Campaign: Goals and Plan." The dissertation contains a
graph, which he believes will prove to elected officials, how this "buyout"
will ultimately save taxpayer dollars.
The high point of the meeting was Allison Jones of the Wild Utah Project.
She presented an incomprehensible talk on the "New Methodology for
Riparian/Stream Health Assessment." It was only interesting because Allison
is a well turned out Jennifer Lopez look-alike. It seems that the greens
have discovered that a smartly, groomed and attractive, pitch-person can
reach the masses with more ease than a bearded freak with greasy dreadlocks.
Allison's speech was flawless until someone asked her a question; and, that
was the end of her superficial credibility.
The Earth Firsters! did not make a presentation from the podium. A juvenile
bunch, they contented themselves swaggering about in SWAT hats, camouflage
pants, and tee shirts that proclaimed "Earth First! No *#+*# Compromise!"
I engaged a couple of them in conversation.
Walley: So, you are against ranching?
Walley: So what about the ranching families that you want to push off the
EF: We don't care what happens to them. We just want them gone.
Walley: How are you going to do that?
EF: Well.we know lots of ranchers.
Walley: I see you fellows like to wear cammos. What do you think about the
EF: You mean, defending your rights with guns?
Walley: Something like that...
EF: We are for it!
Patterson quickly cooled down and didn't break my camera over my head, and
Range's Tim Findley left the meeting in one piece. I left a bit smarter--the
capacity for violence by the greens is real and lurking very close to the
surface. As environmentalists are increasingly politically disenfranchised,
the incitement for destructive actions by green militias exponentially