Up Front

A damn poor Democrat. By C.J. Hadley

I thought this was a conservative magazine," one irate reader in Montana fumed. "I guess I was wrong."

Yes, he is wrong.

He was disturbed by George Ochenski's story about Governor Brian Schweitzer in the Spring 2005 issue. He said, "Don't you know he writes for The Missoula Independent?"

Yes, I did. (Some of our other contributors have worked for The New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and Car & Driver.)

"He's a rabid environmentalist. Don't your researchers check the facts? He's the governor's unofficial front man, a PR guy, and that story is crap."

I asked the caller to send a letter for me to print and admitted we didn't have researchers checking facts. I told him that RANGE relies on honest and talented freelancers.

"How do you know I won't lie, too?" he said, then added, "I'm going to tell everyone in Montana not to subscribe to RANGE."

At about the same time, another northern rancher took exception to Ochenski's words. His articulate response is on page 10.

I've known this "environmental" writer for several years. A Montana rancher cooked dinner for us, believing we should meet. George would be considered pretty green by most rural RANGE readers, but our urban readers (about half) might consider him just about right.

I like George. He's easy to talk to; entertaining and considerate. He's also a serious fisherman and admitted that his favorite areas are usually on private property run by real ranchers. We have much in common: urban backgrounds; old-time Democrats; probably former hippies. I still want good-fishing-on-ranch stories from George in future, regardless of his affiliation with The Missoula Independent.

I got another letter from a disappointed reader (page 21)--this time from a former U.S. Forest Service ranger. He took exception to my defense of Jack Ward Thomas after a letter blaming the former Forest Service Chief for most of that agencyís ills.

Our timing was off. The offended ranger was taking care of the western forests in the United States when I was one of 800 awkward, short-haired kids in an English girls"' school in Birmingham, all wearing berets (like Basque sheepherders), blue shirts and ties (like corporate executives), gray knee socks, big bloomers, heavy black brogues and navy gymslips (like poor school kids were forced to do). It was the "'50s for God's sake! I wasnít complaining about his era! I was talking about the time when environmental sensitivity and political correctness took over federal agencies and productive use of our abundant natural resources were delegated to the latrine.

I was not blaming this old forester. No, sir. I was making a too-short point that paradise this is not, even if rich folks are flocking in, taking good ranches out of production, putting beautiful healthy places into nonuse and encumbering them with conservation easements so if a real rancher is lucky enough to get the place back heíll be hamstrung and hogtied. In the meantime, the New West owners and Hollywood displacements will get a few years"' pleasure looking at the view of what used to be a healthy ranch. When their land becomes decadent and stagnant theyíll blame global warming, not their own lack of management, and cough up another few million to waste another rancherís pretty place.

A few years back I lost my left-wing edge, much to the delight of hard-core RANGE fans. Iíve learned a few things since Iíve lived in Nevada and traveled the rural West. Since the birth of RANGE in "'89, I have listened to rural people and asked biologists and range scientists to help me understand critters and country. After I was on a coast-to-coast broadcast on National Public Radio a liberal friend (who despises G.W. and things Republican) told me she was surprised that I sounded "intelligent, articulate, moderate...."

What she didn't know is that I wasnít faking anything. I believe this stuff. I believe in RANGE and her mission to support the basic goodness and talent of Americaís food and fiber producers--especially cowboys and sheepherders. I know we need them more than anyone else and figure the nonbelievers in town will regret the moment we become a food-importing, un-self-sustaining and dependent nation. Sadly, that may be soon.

I'm sorry if I offend anyone but I admit it: I am not a moderate; I am not an appeaser; and I am not worried that Iím at times unpopular. I also admit to being a damn poor Democrat.

Summer 2005 Contents

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