CVIndependent

Sat08182018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Community Voices

16 Aug 2018
First came the bare human foot, somewhere in Africa. Then, in no particular order, came the moccasin, the shoe, the horse and saddle, boat and oar, the ski, the snowshoe—and so much more. All of these came to the backcountry and helped to enrich our travels there. Sure, there’s been some grumbling about how some of the more recent inventions make modern life too easy, but over time, those tools and technologies have become accepted parts of our adventures in even the most remote places. But … whoa! Along came the human-powered mountain bike, and although it’s quite similar to the contrivances that hardy souls have been pedaling and pushing through cities and the backcountry since the mid-19th century, some people now consider them to be so high-tech that they should be banned from wild landscapes. Critics complain that nothing seems to say, “I can’t truly get away,” like the…
09 Aug 2018
Like everyone else, I hate the smoke that has become a mainstay during the summer in the West. But as a naturalist, I know that many plants and animals in our region benefit from fire—mountain bluebirds and lodgepole pines, morel mushrooms and camas lilies, beargrass and huckleberries. Native peoples skillfully used fire as a management tool, maintaining oak savannas rich with acorns and deer. For all the damage fire does to the human world as presently organized, it is far from being an ecological catastrophe. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. To try to see the other side of smoke. Try to imagine the life of one of the most fire-dependent birds in the world, the black-backed woodpecker. Black-backed woodpeckers are found across the boreal forests of Canada and down the great mountain ranges of the Rockies, Cascades and Sierra Nevada. Within this huge range, they are almost always found…
02 Aug 2018
It is 11:30 at night on our farm in the West, in a part of Colorado I’d rather not identify, and we are trying to get our grain corn harvested before a storm hits us hard. I am running the combine, and Paco is in the tractor next to me, with his 3-year-old son sleeping on his lap. He has the boy this evening, because his wife, Lupe, is working the night shift, cleaning office buildings in town. It is slow-going because part of the corn was laid over by a strong wind. Paco looks up at the corn streaming into the cart and smiles as if to say, “Don’t worry; things are going pretty good.” Paco and Lupe are like many of the immigrants that people who work in agriculture have come to know over the years. Ask anyone who works the farms in the eastern Coachella Valley, and…
25 Jul 2018
When I hear someone say that “our food system is broken,” it stings. I think about my mom, who has farmed my whole life, and about my friends and the countless other farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to grow our food. The broken food-system narrative implicitly blames them for problems like environmental degradation, obesity, so-called “food deserts” and the gutting of rural communities. But the sad truth is that our food system is working exactly how it was designed to—and right now, Congress is reconfiguring it to become even worse. What’s broken is the 2018 House Farm Bill, which passed in June with little news coverage. This is only the second time in history that Congress has considered a farm bill while Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches. The result is a bill that serves Washington, D.C.’s fattest wallets and most powerful special interests. Its…
11 Jul 2018
I try to be diplomatic. I really do. When I was cleaning up graffiti deposited by an embarrassed-looking family, and the father muttered, “Writing your name on the rocks is an irresistible impulse,” I did not give into my own irresistible impulse and whap him alongside the head with my water bottle. I smiled and said something about how a national park belongs to everyone, and it is up to everyone to care for it properly. When someone drops a tissue on the trail, I do not snatch it up and stuff it into the litterer’s ear. I say sweetly, “Oh, miss, you seem to have dropped something.” Then I stand there holding it out until she shamefacedly turns around to claim it. However, the other day, I was hiking uphill at the end of a long day. I had (politely) mentioned to three other people that their loud external…
04 Jul 2018
A handful of our representatives in Congress are quietly preparing a multibillion-dollar rip-off of American families. Count yourself among the cheated if you value kids’ sports, good health and the Great Outdoors. If Congress does nothing—and Congress is very good at doing nothing—it will quietly smother the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The conservation fund has been one of the most successful programs for decades; it has preserved beloved landscapes and made lives healthier and happier across America. It has worked wonders for 50 years without costing taxpayers a cent. Who would want to kill it? His name is Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, and he is the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. His committee has jurisdiction over the fund, since it involves taking royalties from offshore oil drilling and distributing them toward outdoor access, wildlife habitat and urban parks and recreation projects. If you are…
31 May 2018
These days, it’s impossible for an American citizen fortunate enough to have been born with a functioning mind not to worry about guns and the men who love them—and the innocent victims some of those gun-lovers kill. National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre, who tends to blame school shootings on rap music, has accused the government, aided by the press, of attempting to discredit firearms enthusiasts by issuing propaganda worthy of the Nazis. Then there’s Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theorist host of Infowars, ranting to his radio followers that the Sandy Hook school shooting of 26 people, 20 of them first-graders, was “a giant hoax. … The whole thing was fake.” Jones is now being sued by some of the bereaved families for claiming that the massacre was staged, using actors hired by the government—all part of a plot to set the stage for seizing our guns. LaPierre strikes me a…
10 May 2018
The third applicant was “no gentleman,” the U.S. Forest Service ranger wrote to his boss, but would still make a first-class fire lookout in the remote Klamath National Forest. He thought little of the first applicant’s abilities, and the second had poor eyesight, though that didn’t prevent him from frequently violating the local game laws. Yet the third candidate was so unusual, ranger M.H. McCarthy cautioned, “I hope your heart is strong enough to stand the shock.” For the shocking third applicant was a woman, Hallie Morse Daggett, though McCarthy added that she “is absolutely devoid of the timidity which is ordinarily associated with her sex.” McCarthy told his supervisor not to worry about being overrun by female applicants in the future, “since we can hardly expect these positions to ever become very popular with the Fair Sex.” What is telling in light of recent news about the systemic problem…
11 Apr 2018
You may never have heard of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, but it is a place of global importance. At the very southwestern tip of the mainland, it is vital to the survival of virtually the world’s entire population of emperor geese and Pacific black brant, as well as other bird species from multiple continents. It’s also important habitat for caribou, brown bears and marine mammals. But if the Trump administration gets its way, the roar of diesel engines will soon drift across this landscape as bulldozers scour a new road across the fragile tundra. Development here would set a terrible precedent for all the places across America that Congress has designated as wilderness areas—the highest level of protection for public lands. If a road is built through Izembek, what would prevent acts of future destruction in our Joshua Tree National Park, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or…
14 Mar 2018
When it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit out, even politically divided Americans can agree on one thing: It’s cold. But that’s where it ends. President Donald Trump used this winter’s frigid East Coast temperatures to Tweet: “We need more global warming!” Climate hawks fired back: “2017 was the second-hottest year on record.” But as much as we’d like to think political discourse is about ideas, it seems much more about defending your tribe. And on no issue is this more evident than climate change. Many Republicans simply can’t support climate action—not because they don’t believe the science, but because it would represent a breach of cultural identity, akin to wearing a Che Guevara tank top to the gun range. The left often ignores this dynamic—that climate is a proxy for an entire tribal worldview encompassing issues like abortion and the size of government. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Climate…

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