Working the land back to health

  • Central Ariz.'s ponderosa pine forest in 1926

    American Lumberman Magazine
 

Note: this front-page essay introduces this issue's two feature stories.

The two major stories here open long after crushing environmental defeats occurred. The magnificent ponderosa pine forests around Flagstaff, Ariz., were heavily logged during the past century, and the cut-over land has now sprouted into fire-prone thickets. To the west and north, the once-healthy grasslands of the Trout Creek Mountains in eastern Oregon were long ago grazed almost bare, degrading the land and the streams that depend on it.

Can those two very different landscapes be restored to health, or are the defeats permanent? The first story, by staff writer Michelle Nijhuis, examines a consensus effort to thin the ponderosa trees and bring back fire. The second, by freelance writer Tom Knudson, reports on efforts to restore the watershed and save the Lahontan cutthroat trout by improved methods of grazing. Here, too, consensus is at the center of the effort.

But why should we pursue restoration by involving the very industries and often the same individuals that damaged the land in the first place? The best answer is that in a time of tight public money, restoration depends on creating economies that can produce healthy land and profits, and creating economies is not something environmentalists are very good at.

Environmentalism is a big-picture movement, valuable when it comes to imagining a different kind of world than the one we live in, but usually incapable of implementing that vision. Implementation takes people who work the land, who can invent machinery and logging and grazing techniques, and who can put together capital and labor and markets to restore the land. Environmentalists need to be at the table because we understand what the land should look like. But others must translate that vision into concrete achievements.

Those environmentalists who participate in consensus efforts aren't doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they are foolish and overly trusting. They do it because they need help to get their way.

The same enlightened but selfish reasoning brings ranchers, loggers and federal land managers to the table. They join consensus efforts because it is the most efficient way for them to do business today. Even with a hostile Congress and a pale-green president in power, environmentalists have so changed the laws and society's values that we have a veto over much of what happens in the West.

The challenge is to accept the reality of our power, and to turn from a total concentration on opposition to some problem-solving. This issue of NewTowncarShare News paints a picture of people who are doing that.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • We are hiring a Wyoming Conservation Associate Full time, competitive pay and benefits. Location: Cody, WY (preferred), Jackson, WY, or Lander, WY Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/careers for...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • The Foundation NoVo Foundation acts from the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of humanity. The Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a global social transformation...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Tanner Humanities Center and the Environmental Humanities Program of the University of Utah seek an environmental writer to offer classes in Utahs Environmental Humanities...
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) seeks an individual to lead this 45-year-old organization as executive director, to carry on ICLs work as Idahos leading voice...
  • 2+ acres, 400+ feet on Snake River, 2800 sf residence, NWF-certified wildlife habitat, excellent hunting, fishing, birdwatching, stargazing, sunsets & panoramic views. In the heart...
  • Guardians is expanding and looking for a few great people to join us in protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Ouray County, Colorado, a popular tourist destination, has dramatic mountains and amazing winter ice climbing. Challenging terrain and high altitude can push visitors to their...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Coordinator-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Manager-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Southern CA. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...