Rocky Barker takes note :
This aggressive political posture in response to the prospect of change has been characteristic of livestock associations throughout the West since the beginning of their history. The survival of their influence, relative to the public’s interest at large, is stoked by their self-inflated sense of victimization – wolves, coyotes, even bighorn sheep and pygmy rabbits – i.e. the natural world, become a perceived threat to their ‘livelihood’ and exclusive political influence (a hyper-influence Ralph Maughan has aptly likened to a Western anomaly of political feudalism – a closed system of power practiced right here in these ‘democratic’ United States). The prospect of a president who stands behind a science objectively describing the natural world’s imperiled state is a threat.
If we’re to be honest about it – Livestock has been waging ‘War on the West’ for a very long time. Take a look at these photo galleries compiled by WWP monitors – documenting the condition of your public lands this year :
The rambunctious (dare I say ‘belligerent’) call to arms coming from the Idaho Cattleman’s Association (ICA) might be more rational than one might otherwise think – it works – it has worked to divert politicians’ perception of what constitutes a “problem” away from the actual condition of Western public landscapes, waters, and wildlife to the perception that the problem is a bunch of rambunctious cowboys. It’s a diversionary tactic that works.
In the past politicians and many conservation voices have outright folded (and continue to) – not wanting to confront and ‘deal with’ the struggle that is promised of them should they insist on a just and objective consideration for science and the greater public interest at large. ICA and others know this – and so they’ve gotten an early start.
One of my favorite authors among the first to describe and confront this was Bernard DeVoto – whose essay ‘Sacred Cows and Public Lands‘ appeared in Harper’s magazine in July of 1948 and gives some profound historical perspective on this more recent event. The struggle DeVoto describes (and documents more thoroughly than so many of our day) illustrates the political narrative Livestock employs, the theatre of it, and its unique ability to silence good well-meaning people who would otherwise not remain silent.
Will it work this time ?