On Malheur, The Peninsula and the real work needed to change things

I came across this article today, from the Salt Lake Tribune by Lesli Allison. It’s important, because it points out what is really happening away from the ego driven takeover by the Bundy’s, now nearing it’s inevitable deadly climax.

It’s relevant to us here as well, because the hard work to get a large number of stakeholders in environmental issues to make change, is not usually headline news. But it is happening all around us. And it is being successful.

If you want to see the good stuff happening in the West, look up one or more of the many rancher-led collaborative efforts such as the Malpai Borderlands Group, the Blackfoot Challenge, the Chama Peak Land Alliance, the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, the Diablo Trust and the California Rangelands Conservation Coalition. Look up the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award winners, the Sage Grouse Initiative and the Western Landowners Alliance.

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, collaboration between the Tribes, environmental restoration organizations like the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, and local stakeholders like the Dungeness River Management Team, continue to spend years in meetings to come up with innovative programs that get funded by agencies like the Puget Sound Partnership, EPA, and others. Many of us joke about the endless meetings, but we understand the importance of coming to agreement over the science of an issue, and usually those who attack us from the community, haven’t taken the time to get involved, learn the science and help build consensus.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to participate in a long rang planning meeting for the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee. The Committee, which advises the Jefferson County Commissioners on aquatic issues, is made up of a very active group of volunteers representing a wide range of local interests. From Taylor Shellfish, Washington State University Extension Program, marine scientists and researchers, the marine trades, recreational boating, representatives of the citizens of the various political districts, along with the Port of Port Townsend, the City of Port Townsend, and environmental activists, we do our best to better understand our shorelines. We try and come to consensus on sticky environmental issues,  involve ourselves in marine projects to expand the science based work we value, and educate the public, who we represent.  We don’t always agree on everything, and there are some intense debates on key issues. But we work things through, and either choose to agree or not.  There are a lot of meetings, often about educating our members and the public to an issue, but we try our best to make it fun and bring in knowledgeable speakers. We also  get to get out on the beach and waters a lot. That’s one of the payoffs.

So while there are a vocal minority in the American west that refuse to work cooperatively to solve problems, the Bundy’s of this world usually end up just hurting their own cause. What you might not have heard reported was that the community  around Burns had been working on a collaborative agreement with BLM for a number of years. It was coming to an end, public comment had been asked for, and community meetings had been planned for January, before the Bundy’s blundered in and got a lot of the locals upset. Now that the standoff is ending, the community will likely get back to the hard work of figuring out the right land management plan for all, given the legal constraints of science based management, which  the courts have almost always supported when challenged. Intimidating people with guns to get your way, is not the way of the west anymore. And most of the real positive work that has ever been done out here, when you read the histories, has been collaborative, with communities coming together, not being torn apart.

The unfortunate thing is that many people live behind their computers or TVs for most of their news, and get that news from outlets like Fox that manipulate it and highlight divisiveness for their own reasons. In many places it is getting harder and harder to get people to come out and participate in their democracy. Often boards don’t have full representation for months on end. Do yourself a favor and get involved if you aren’t already. Oh, and while you are at it, take time to vote.


3 Responses

  1. Good point. Along those lines I am beginning to work on a web series that will provide stories that are NOT headline stories, but the ordinary and important parts of our natural world that have their own worth even though the mainstream media doesn’t see headlines in them. The reason for doing this is to provide a more balanced picture to people who are increasingly relying on media for their view of the world.

    I’ll tell you more as it begins to take shape…

  2. Very well presented, Al

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