RANGE magazine[an error occurred while processing this directive]
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Up Front

Last man standing. By C.J. Hadley.

An old New Mexico rancher sits in a block of Arizona concrete and steel, guilty of working hard on the land for decades and trying to claim his constitutional rights. He’s a cowboy, laborer, husband and grandfather, and he’s locked up in the penitentiary, living with felons, no visitors allowed.

Wally Klump phoned a few days ago. "I’m fighting for liberty and freedom—yours and mine," he says. "Unfortunately, there is no formula for liberty and freedom."

Part of the Klump saga is told by Jay Walley in "Political Prisoner" (page 76). At first we knew nothing of the Klump family’s ordeal and didn’t connect the dots. It is by fluke—not my brilliance—that it appears with our investigation into The Wildlands Project.

Tim Findley’s "This Land is Our Land," and "Return to Eden" (starting page 36), seem to be linked, and the link goes even further than the Arizona pen and Earth First!—to our own government, poor Mexican officials, and the world’s most famous NGO (non-government organization), The Nature Conservancy. See "Battle of the Sierra Madre" (page 72).

"The only way you can have liberty and freedom is with private ownership by individuals who do the work," says Klump. "That doesn’t mean Ted Turner" (page 50).

Klump is vehement about the fact that no feds can own land—according to the Constitution. "The BLM shouldn’t be trying to take land like mine. They couldn’t manage land any more poorly than they do now even if they tried. More than 300 homes have already burned in Southern Arizona this summer. Millions of acres have gone up in smoke in the past few years and most of that is due to bad federal management of land."

The old cowboy believes, as we do, that this is a real war for the West, with livelihoods and communities at stake. No one feels it more keenly than Klump. He’s standing up to be counted. The opposition is well-funded and well-connected. Preservationists and conservationists are running in packs, intimidating, demoralizing and ridiculing. They promote non-use. They tell the national media that "the West is being destroyed" by cows and sheep. We can help Klump and the West by telling the truth.

It’s time for ranchers to form a posse behind a charismatic leader who can speak in sound bites, who knows the facts, and understands what will happen to this country without resource providers. It is unfortunate that ranchers see everything as personal. My ranch. My cows. My heritage. Radical environmentalists know that no single ranch family can survive alone and are picking them off one at a time, starting with the most vulnerable. When they take ranchers out by encouraging them to accept conservation easements or become "willing sellers," their neighbors are placed in jeopardy. This is a national agenda to remove all resource providers. It is not personal.

The forest wars and the spotted owl fiasco started small. Radicals picked off one mill town after another, one small logging outfit at a time. They didn’t care that the owl wasn’t really endangered ("Seeing Spots," page 8). None of the large logging companies backed the family outfits. Instead, they sent money to major green groups to try to save themselves.

We need to do something radical to draw media attention. Take the initiative in the battle. Hold a major annual conference. Teach people how to resist the terrorists trying to destroy our neighborhoods. Pressure Congress to rewrite the Endangered Species Act ("Monkey Wrenches in the Mist," page 60).

Cowboys don’t want anybody to speak for them, but long-winded, whining ranchers don’t cut it. Neither will silent ranchers who put their heads in the sand hoping nothing will change. Change will happen. Ranchers need to stand together, stop internal bickering, lose the egos and baseball caps, put on white hats, and eliminate turf war. The enemy is larger, has more practice and is better prepared.

This fight has to be won. The general public doesn’t give a damn about the issues that are destroying ranching. Food is easy to get. We need to show that the mythical hero (John Wayne) is not hurting the West, he’s saving it.

Even amidst the turmoil, Range continues to celebrate ranchers in their habitat. "The Romance and Reality of Ranching," an honest and beautiful book, shows the cowboy spirit of individuality, strength and integrity. From this book, ready in November (call 1-800-RANGE-4-U to order), folks outside the West will understand what’s in ranching for them—affordable meat, open space, healthy resources, abundant wildlife, and the amazing people who care for them.

Just like Wally Klump. He writes letters, a recent one to President George W. Bush. "Bush is fighting for liberty and freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan," he says. "I told him he ought to look to Arizona and the American West and help us regain our freedom."

Thanks to the BLM, the old cowboy continues to languish in prison. He will not give up his fight for liberty and freedom. "Ninety percent of inmates are in for illegal entry or drugs," he says. "Most wouldn’t be here if they had freedom in Mexico. We need to clean our own house. Take state land and give it to people who are working to improve the resource. We need to do something radical."

Is Wally Klump standing for us? Does he have to be the last man standing?

Fall 2003 Contents

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