We who look to Chronicles for some cogent commentary on our environmental dilemmas aren’t getting enough from Chilton Williamson, Jr. Not that those campfire meditations, gut-wrenching elk hunts, and encounters with the West’s fast-vanishing anarchists aren’t worthy stuff; sometimes we can hear an echo of Ed Abbey.

But we need some Real Truth about resources in the West, and neither the welfare ranchers nor the land-grab mining companies, or any other mislabeled “Wise Use” faction has the courage to fess up and tell it like it is. We do not need a piece of obfuscation by Jim Christie, who invents something that doesn’t exist, “The New Conservation Movement” (December 1995), and who somehow tries to make arch (environmental) villain Ron Arnold look respectable. As to the war of words between recreational apologist Ed Marston of High Country News, and rancher apologist Chilton Williamson over the true environmental situation in Catron County, New Mexico, and by inference to the situation in ten other Western states, we learn, again, that even good men often see just what they want to see.

Let us never forget that the West is dry, always will be dry, and even ought to be dry. This is one of J.N. “Ding” Darling’s “Laws of Nature.” Its federal portions appear to have been mismanaged by several somewhat compromised and corrupted land management bureaucracies (BLM, U.S. Park and Forest Service, Bureau of Mines, Bonneville Power, etc.) who have maintained a century-old tilt toward the old-time extractive industries and more recently caved in to the hedonistic recreational and “industrial” tourism industries.

Some of the high country locals appear to feel that those of us who live east of the Hundredth Meridian are not entitled to think of “their” federal lands as “our” federal lands. We to the east have already seen what cut-and-run logging can do, what Big Materialism can do, what big electricity liberals (TVA socialism) has done, and we suspect that the Cowboy Economy is as much of a dead-end as Kenneth Boulding said it was.

The rock upon which we must stand to do what is right in the West is not the shifting sand of hedonism, meism, and the self-aggrandizement of the “Wise Use” movement, but rather the self-denying and resource-saving philosophy of duty, honor, and country.

        —David Tillotson
Lakemills, WI