Comments on "The New Conservationists"

Hi Randal,

I just read Subsidies Anonymous (#27), your critique on the "new conservationists." I feel moved to write to you to object to your characterization of the zero cut movement, and of the effort to reform the Sierra Club, both of which I'm involved in.

Your blanket attack on the work of a large and growing number of activists is unjustified and off the mark. You make it seem as if we are ignorant of science, and conversely, that the management-oriented crowd has science entirely on its side. Furthermore, you conveniently ignore the whole question of the role of subsidies in management activities on public lands, a curious thing especially given the title of your essay series.

I haven't seen you at any Sierra Club meetings lately, so I wonder at your labelling it and ONRC as having "extreme views." As one who has been active in the Club for some years trying to move it away from its position kneeling down before politicans to one of advocacy for the environment, I am somewhat amused but also concerned that you seem to think I've succeeded spectacularly. Much as I would like it if the Club was taking stronger stands across the board, it is not the case. Except for zero cut, the Club is just about where it's been for several decades -- stuck in the kneeling position. What constitutes extremism in your world, Randal? Appealing a few timber sales? Endorsing Bill Clinton for re-election? Lobbying to weaken the Endangered Species Act? Publishing a million copies every two months of SIERRA magazine on virgin wood-pulp paper? Voting on an initiative to oppose immigration?

Your casual lumping of the Quincy Library Group into a broad category of "environmentalists" relying on SCIENCE for guidance is indicative of the intellectual poverty of your analysis. I can only infer from your article that you therefore think QLG is somehow based in scientific reality. What have you been smoking, Randal? Do you know about their "Defensible Fuel Profile Zones," i.e. the 1/4 mile-wide ridgetop hugging linear clearcuts and shelterwood cuts? If you call this science, I call you a patsy for the timber industry.

Your casual dismissal of zero cutters as anti-management fanatics with no understanding of science is both unfair and inaccurate. I don't recognize the zero cut movement in your description. But I do recognize in your simplistic, dichotomous presentation a convenient way of making zero cutters out as a fringe group while comfortably allowing a big tent for "people who care about natural resources," i.e. the timber industry, Wise Use movement, and the compulsive compromisers in the environmental mainstream.

Randal, I've seen some good work by you, and I've seen some stuff that I thought was off the mark. But this essay ranks with classic Wise Use demagoguery. In fact, if I had not known the author I would have expected it to have come from Chuck Cushman's shop. I think you need to reconsider what you're doing, and I hope you'll retract this mudslinging smear immediately.

You can play a helpful role in the environmental movement, Randal, as you have at times in the past, or you can be a destructive force. I hope you'll back off from the latter.


David Orr,


I just looked at your longer article on your website. Your insults against Hermach and your patronizing tone are really over the top.

You make much in your article about how the "preservationists" have derided those who compromise. Yet your piece is itself an attack on those who oppose compromise and giveaways. Is the pot calling the kettle black here?

Do you now believe that we should repeal all our environmental laws (central control) and instead live happily ever after with vague "incentives" programs (I'm still waiting to see what those would look like)? How much old growth do you think that would protect, Randal?

No, I think you have played your real hand and you are going to have to do a lot of explaining if you want to avoid being branded Wise Use. By quoting Patrick Moore, you have lost whatever credibility you might have had with those who are actively fighting the Wise Use movement. What is your point? Are you suggesting that everyone who is not a zero cutter should join forces with the BC Forest Alliance? And to attack the Greenpeace Guide, well, I wonder which "environmental" groups you refer to that are listed in that book? I was one of the people who produced that book and I would really like to know.

And you suggest that Pew Charitable Trusts is some sort of radical outfit. Who will believe you, besides Patrick Moore?

Your argument that "it is in the interest of conservatives and classical liberals to support (more compromise, more management, fewer laws, and more logging)" rings hollow. I guess if we want to return to the robber baron days, then it makes sense. But hey, why then don't we just privatize all the public lands, and be done with this?

Look at one of the name sponsors of HR 2789: Jim Leach, who I'm told is someone you once held up as being one of the great hopes of the Congress on natural resource policy. Are you saying that Rep. Leach is wrong to support shutting down the corrupt timber sales program? I would like to see that one in writing from you, Randal.

With this essay you have absolutely bought into the Alston Chase school of resource management theory. And I thought you despised that guy's ideas...

Don't you have anything better to do than slam those of us who are working to save some trees? Or maybe this is merely a funding strategy? Some of those big, conservative and classical liberal foundations that like incentives and eschew central control are handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars nowadays for "collaborative efforts" and "solutions!" I'm sure you could cash in on that gravy train. But I really hope you don't go there. It was a much better arrangement in the past with you working for the environment and against the timber industry...

David Orr,

Dear Randal,

Take a gander at Wallace Kaufman's book, "No Turning Back," with a similar thesis.

As for me, I view the 1970s schism as a break away from the traditional protectors of resources: land owners, hunters, fishers, to a view that a bigger stronger government can do all these things better and more efficiently. . . . A view responsible for alorisms, Fidel Castro being the keynote speaker at the Earth Summit, and Gorbachev being the president of the International Green Cross in spite of the fact that he was the architect of the poisoned rivers of eastern Europe and the fact that he was at the helm when half of Russia began glowing in the dark.

[By "1970s schism"] I meant that "about 1970," traditional patrons of wildlife: landowners, hunters, fishermen and the like, who were traditional guardians of our resources, were supplanted by government entities under the proviso that "we the people united" could do more than a mere individual or conservation club. . .little did we know that "we the people" have very little to do with the government we ostensibly control.

I view of the "fragmentation" [of environmentalists into "new preservationists" and "new conservationists"] as a mere rejection of the detour we took in the '70s and a return to what worked since time began.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion; everyone is entitled to be wrong. [Those who say "nature knows best"] are wrong. They were wrong in the Kaibab in the '20s and they are wrong in the Kaibab today. California's lions are eating up California's sheep, 23,000 dead elk in Yellowstone, overpopulated pinniped populations have ruined the Atlantic cod fishery and are ruining the Pacific's salmon and steelhead fishery. Nature does not know best. If nature knows best, why pass a single law? Why interfere? 99 percent of everything that ever walked crawled or swam on this earth is now extinct. Are we to accept extinction as natural if we can do something to avoid it? Mother Nature is a bitch.

Again, the return to the old way is because more and more people realize that government solutions are made to benefit governent bureaucracies. The Endangered Species Act hasn't saved a friggin thing, despite the fat that is has cost gazillions. If it was effective, the results would be gauged by how many critters came off the list. How many? Until recently, 16--10 by extinction, three birds on the island of Palau B

Michael Pottorff,


I agree 100 percent with your analysis of the environmental movement. As a Masters candidate in the UC Davis Community Develop[ment Graduate Group, I have been studying the history of public land management in America--as background for my thesis topic titled: "Land Use Issues and the Home Rule Movement in Rural California: A View From the Counties". The focus of this study is local participation in national land-use issues.

I have sent your email to several of my colleagues and faculty--your comments mirror much of the discourse we have engaged in for several years now. One comment so far was:

>From Cathy Lemp:

"Wow, Larry, this is scary -- has this guy been listening in on our conversations? (and even anticipating us by a couple of months ...) I agree with *every word* of this thing.

Well, that's that. He's said everything that needed saying. Now there's nothing for you and me to talk about.

Incidentally, I got a notice from the Sierra Club asking me to return as a member. I used their postage-paid return envelope to send them back their request, together with my reasons for not joining them. God, I was a member of the Sierra Club for about 20 years.

Thanks for sending me O'Toole's piece. What's his background again? Where does he publish his stuff?"

Talk to you soon --


Incidentally, I was the first logger to walk into Michael Jackson's office in 1993 to try and open up lines of communication. Being an El Dorado County forestry activist and grassroots leader, I followed the QLG since inception. The principals are all friends of mine and I admire their tenacity and perseverance--especially Linda Blum and Michael for all the hits they have taken. Of course, the timber lobby is often just as vindictive as the national enviros--they dumped me as soon as I began tp participate in the local consensus process in my community. It was a favor, as now I am working for *solutions*--as you are--at the academic and policy level. Too bad environmental politics is so divisive and polarized--and celebrated by the media. But I have every confidence that your "new conservation" will prevail. (How ironic that one chapter of my thesis is titled "New Conservation.")

If you have time, would you like to review my manuscript?


Larry Lloyd,

I find your historical outline of the two groups interesting and fairly accurate. A few thoughts:

1. Did they ever really join forces? Merge into one group? If not is it accurate to describe a new schism? It seems to me that they have always been present, sometimes coexisting, sometimes on the same page, and other times at odds.

2. Has the emergence of global issues (such as ozone, climate change) effected this structure?

3. Might it not be interesting to look at when there was cooperation and from that take hints at what environment creates cooperative action.

4. I think there will always be both. I myself often am one way on a particular issue, and another way on others.

Just a few thoughts from an ex-PhD candidate in Poli Sci now studying forestry.

Matt Cooksey,

[Responding to "Born in the late 1960s, the environmental movement. . ."]

Folks like John Muir and Aldo Leopold might be surprised to find that the environmental movement developed, sui generis, in the late '60s. Isn't it more accurate to say that the movement coalesced then, pulliing together a system of thought and even a core set of priorities from earlier activists and environmentalists?

[Responding to "Scientific research in many fields supported the notion that natural resources benefitted from human management."]

Well, I would say that "there was a widespread assumption that human management would improve the overall health of natural resources (remember: "rain follows the plow?"); even when such assumptions had little or no scientific backing, deeply held religious beliefs strongly encouraged this type of thinking."

This wasn't science, it was an expression of the religious notion that god gave the earth to humans, to care for and tame. I am sure a scholar better versed in the religious studies literature could give a plethora of citations to support the prevalence of this belief structure, and even its prevalence today.

[Responding to "At the same time, a smaller preservation movement was sometimes an ally and sometimes an antagonist to the conservationists. Their slogan was "nature knows best" and they tended to believe that human management was generally harmful to natural resources."]

Well, in their own words they might argue that there was an inherent beauty and balance in the natural context that way worthy in and of itself of protection. They were also skeptical of the values of "human management" after seeing things like the deforestation of the upper Midwest and the Olympic penninsula.

[Responding to "Many conservation allies, including fish and wildlife groups, younger foresters and other professionals, and many scientists, defected to the preservationist view."]

Rather than a defection, I would characterise this as a fundamental paradigm shift (using Khun's term precisely here). Quite suddenly, work like Carson's on DDT destabilized the whole rationalist approach to resource management. When the question of: "do we understand the consequences of what we are doing?" was asked and the answer came back: "not necessarily," the terms of the debate shifted to new terrain.

This left the old-line conservationists with little, if any, ground to stand on. Borne of positivist trends in thought, once they were shown to be unaware of huge unintended side effects to their chosen forms of management, the movement fell apart.

This is more than a shift in power between two opposing camps.

[Responding to "The strengthened preservationists convinced Congress to set aside large >areas of public lands as wilderness in the 1970s and early 1980s."]

Woah! "Large areas?" In whose book? Last time I checked, the total wilderness afforded protection in those times amounted to substantially less than 1% of all the land mass of the US. Large if one were to hike every square mile of them, but tiny compared to the total available.

Further, we know that the majority of these set asides were (and are) "rock and ice," with little if any marketable timber. The amount of uncut, old growth Doug fir protected in that first wave of wilderness legislation was negligible. As a percentage of total Doug fir-bearing, publically-owned lands, those wilderness set asides were, at best, token sites to remind folks of how things once were.

[Responding to "Meanwhile, once highly respected conservation agencies such as the Forest Service were villified as land despoilers and seemed to lose their focus."]

And what was their focus? Cutting trees. A more accurate statement might be that the core, historical focus of the USFS came into question from the American public, the majority of which had not know that the real job of the *Forest* service was systematic deforestation.

They lost their 'credibility' because their actions were no longer approved by the public.

[Responding to "Researchers increasingly recognize that North American land has been managed for 10,000 years by Native Americans who set fires, hunted wildlife, and used other practices."]

There is a big leap from the way Native Americans *affected* the environment, and the wholesale destruction of the natural world by European settlers. Further, there are enormous belief-system differences between the two approaches to land management. European settlers (Per Mowat's work), either believed they could destroy the environment and local wildlife without fear of side-effects or extinction, or they were actively seeking to remove any non-human inhabitants (apart from cultivated plants and livestock) from the picture altogether.

[Responding to "Activities by Europeans settlers, including fire suppression, elimination of predators, and management of lands outside wilderness have so changed even the largest parks and wilderness areas that management activities such as prescribed burning and control of wildlife populations are needed to maintain healthy ecosystems."]

So, what you are trying to say is that we have so destabilized the natural communities of our country that a "hands-off" approach needs to be supplemented with more activist technologies to prevent the total collapse of our natural ecosystems? This is a far cry from the rejection of a "nature knows best" approach.

Having done so much damage that we can't just let things heal on their own should, in no way, be taken as vindication of the old-style "slash and burn" management philosophy.

[Responding to "Endangered species specialists realized that parks and wilderness areas are simply not large enough to recover diminishing species."]

Again, this is true *only* because we've done such a superb job of gutting the core elements of the continent's incumbent, natural systems, *and* because the amount of protected wilderness in the US is so pitifully small, and in many cases biologically insignificant, as to offer little help for endangered ecosystems in and of themselves.

[Responding to "Environmentalists with an extreme preservationist view suddenly became intolerance of any dissension from that view."]

No, people realized that the destruction of some natural ecosystems was still going on in public, non-protected lands and they rose up to demand it stop. Remember the '90s, when Regean-lead USFS was cutting old growth Doug fir as fast as they could build roads?

Debating how to protect endangered species using a hybird approach (say, the Spotted Owl), while the very habitat on which those species are dependent is being systematically destroyed is simply fiddling while Rome burns. Now that, for the most part, the logging of old growth, West side ecosystems has been halted, we can start worrying about how to stabilize and assist in the recovery of the species decmiated by this all-out, government-subsidized destruction of our public lands.

This had nothing to do with "PC;" it was simply reality. Ten more years of 80s-level cutting our our PNW forests, and there woudn't have been a single damned old growth grove left to fight over, much less species to worry about recovering.

Incidentally, the Tongass is about 15 years behind that cycle. Some folks are of the opinion that it is more logical to not break the ecosystem in the first place, versus creating a huge mess and then going in and figuring out how to make things right. If it ain't broke, don't break it.

[Responding to "One group, for example, promoted the idea of ending all timber cutting in >the national forests--the 'zero-cut option.' "]

In times of crisis, radical agendas take root. The "no cut" policy of the Sierra club scared the shit out of the extraction industries, who then finally started to get realistic about how to work with the rest of the world moving forward.

[Responding to "Such groups more or less excommunicated environmentalists who dared to negotiate with industry or managers, including Michael Bean of the Environmental Defense Fund and members of the Quincy Library Group."]

The long-term success of the QLC is far from certain. Further, a QLC-like approach hardly would have been able to slow down the unsustainable 80s logging levels. I dare say a QLC like approach could not have been used to defeat the salvage rider any sooner than it was.

[Responding to "The movement is once again fragmenting into its pre-1970 form of conservationists and preservationists."]

I agree that there is fragmentation taking place, or more accurately "reconfiguration." This is not inherently bad; a shake-up every 25 or 30 years seems a reasonable timeframe.

[Responding to "The nature-knows-best preservationists demand federal control and central planning because any concession to local control increases the likelihood of management and greater commodity extraction from public lands."]

In an ideal world, incentive structures are the ideal solution. In *our* world, incentive structures are often "rigged" to favor extraction industries due to their funding/ownership of the legislative process. A few bad apples in the incentive picture, and those who care about wilderness fow wilderness' sake are going to throw their hands up in disgust and aim for a far more concrete goal: get the logginc companies out of our national forests and the welfare-ranched cows off our public lands.

The core assumption that the primary use of our publically-owned natural resources should be resource extraction is under attack, and may in fact be dead and buried. Alot of people got very rich cutting cheap timber off National Forests, or grazing large herds at far below market prices on delicate rangeland.

Some people are tired of the bullshit surrounding compromise solutions to these corporate welfare issues-nowhere in the constitution does it say the US government must ensure a steady stream of subsidies to the extraction industries.

[Responding to "new conservationists']

Are the "new conservationists" just wise-users in another uniform? Problem with that "movement" was that it was so painfully obvious that their only motivating interest was simple, personal gain: I want to have more cutting on the National Forests because I personally stand to gain financially from it.

I think, to augment your paper, you could cite real-life examples of these "new conservationists" and what real, tangible benefits they have gained to date in slowing the rate of ecosystem destruction in our country. Until then, it strikes me that this "movement" has agreed to some academic principles related to incentive-structured social policy management, but has not been able to put any of these pratices into use to see whether they really can hold up after being put through the ringer of the political process.

Thanks for seeking our input,

Douglas B. Spink,


Nice think piece. I'd like to give you some other food for thought here, stuff that I've noted or that worries me.

1) Back in the late 60's, right up through to Earth Day in 1970, the environmental movement was closely tied in with other movements associated with the left, in particular the anti-war and civil rights activism of the time. For some reason, the early 70's seemed to have been a time for those in the left to be made to choose where they wanted to go.

My family chose to stick with civil rights, but maintained some contacts in the local environmental scene. But, it did seem then that the environmental movement abandoned the civil rights movement. I used to wonder if this was some sort of way for them to feel good about stuff without having to put themselves on the line.

We see a resurgence of this today, I think in the current environmental movement, or perhaps it is more of a class struggle kind of thing. The Southwest is experiencing battles for locals hispanics to continue to cut wood on traditional lands. There has been some noise related to brownfields issues that the green groups are working on, but many of these appear to be tokenism, taking on the point of view that being green is civil rights. In fact, there is a lot of confusion in all this.

Back in the late 80's and early 90's, whti timber mills shutting down back and forth, and with many other rural job outlets with decent wages just plain disappearing, it appeared that a few branches of the so-called wise use umbrella were touting the same things as the old civil rights groups; jobs, equality and quality of life. Several folks I knew were actively trying to make connections between the rural and urban poor communities, to tie this civil rights orientation together. This hasn't worked all that well, perhaps because most of the wise users are pretty much republicans, but this week sees the National Black Chamber of Commerce railing against what the main green groups are hoping to accomplish in Kyoto.

2) You mentioned the back and forth deamonization. Working with trail bike and ATV riders as I do, I think that I may have seen more of this, or at least have been more sensitive to it. My favorite was an old Earth First banner depicting an ATV rider as some sort of snowling beast, ripping through the trees and chewing on a spotted owl as he went. Damage caused by the activity is blamed on the machines, not the riders. I've lost several good national forest trail plan programs because the opposition to trail management literally went to the communities and told the locals that the "Hells Angels were coming to the woods, they were going to rape your dogs and eat your daughters."

3) I have to wonder if we're really talking about the environment any more when we get into these issues, or are we talking about political power? The Appalachian National Forest Forest Watch group openly brags on their website that their opposition has led to the forest having to hire another 1.5 staff positions just to respond to them. When the major green groups refuse to acknowledge that you can have protection of public lands without a Wilderness designation, I think that we're into a power mode.

The Wilderness Society et al really went to town a couple of years ago when Secretary Babbit and Governor Romer reached consensus on rangeland reform with ranchers and local environmental groups. The full-page newspaper ads out the same day as the agreements bummed out a lot of the local green leadership, and when the feds finally finished the BLMs rangeland reform planning, the green representatives on the group could be picked from national environmental groups, while all other representatives of ranchers, timber, recreation, etc. were to have been local.

4) Some of what we're hearing from the leaders in the environmental movement are really scary! The headlines and the smaller articles (as well as the editorial on NPRs living on Earth Saturday) this week allude to having to change "how people are governed." Now, what in the hell does that mean? Now, it may be benign, but it certainly could be frightening.

Some are scared about what good old Dave Foreman is up to in the Wildlands project. I must admit that I truely thought that he was out of his gourd a couple of years back in his first article on the subject in backpacking magazine. However, you look at the projects out there wanting vast acerages for wildlife corridors, and then look at where folks live today, I think that we have to ask ourselves what in the world is our vision of the future of the world? How will we live? Where will I live and where will you live? How many of us will there be? How long do you expect this to take? Will I still be able to get out in the woods, or will I have to live it vicariously on the Discover channel?

If the green movement wants the nation to buy into their agenda, it has to be honest enough to try to get it to buy in on their vision of the future (unless they don't care). The Wilderness Education Association threatened to put me onto a panel with Dave last spring at their annual conference, I could have asked him then, but the invite never came through.

5) Enough of the rant. I think that what we're seeing is a serious lack of integrity, a bad case of machiavellian philosophy, folks whose dogmatism has gotten in the way of their common sense all combined with a good dose of neopuritinism (no having fun now, boys). I don't think that we're just seeing it in the green movement, it looks to be pretty pervasive in society right now. Woody Guthrie used rto have a sticker on his Guitar that said, "this machine fights fascism." I was going to put one on my dulcimer that says, "this machine rails against utter idiots," but I doubt that most folks would understand what I was trying to say.

Take care of yourself, happy holidays.

Eric J. Lundquist, Esq.,


I always enjoy reading your stuff and am refreshed that there are a few of us libertarians who are looking to solve environmental problems. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Gordon LaBedz, a member of the Libertarian Party since 1979. I have just been elected to the Board of the largest chapter of the Sierra Club (48,000 members in Southern California).

I think your article needs a bit of re working. First, conservation and preservation are very similar concepts and fail to distinguish your two "wings" of the environmental movement.

I think of the "environmental movement" as the movement concerned with pollution impacts on humans and the "conservation, preservation and restoration" movement (CPR for the planet) as the movement to protect wilderness.

Another point which needs clarification is the centralized/local dichotomy. We may disagree on this one?

We are talking about land owned by the federal government. All the taxpayers everywhere supposedly own this land. Opinion polls say two thirds of them support no logging on public lands.

Thus, democracy says, local resource extracters are out of luck. This is not a local protection vs. centralized protection issue. The locals don't own this land, the U.S. taxpayers "own" it. You and agree that it would be better managed if privately owned by conservation groups, but right now, that is a moot point.

Thanx for all the good work that you do!

Gordon LaBedz :-),

Dear Randal:

One aspect of the preservation vs. conservation debate that you might consider addressing is the erosion of public trust in federal agencies like the Forest Service. I argue that political pressures have so eroded the public's faith in the FS, that many ecologically justified projects (so badly needed) will be extremely difficult to implement.

Of course trust depends on the ability of managers to respond to local concerns (à la Dick Behan), which in turn depends on new institutional arrangements.....

Hope this is helpful.

Pete Geddes,

Hi --

Thanks for your courtesy in responding to the questions I asked Larry (which obviously I would have phrased much more elegantly had I any clue he would be forwarding you my burst of delight at your writing and thinking -- in fact, the whole reaction would have been much more scholarly and temperate if I'd known what he was going to do with it).

A few years ago, when I was urban, I wrote an environmental column and articles for 3-1/2 years for a local paper, belonged to every environmental group that ever sent out a sky-is-falling-squashed-cat mailing, and definitely would have called myself an environmentalist. Truculently. But as time went on, I came back to UCD for a Master's, and moved to Tuolumne County, and got tired of being expected to spring to my feet and whip out my checkbook every time the clarion call to Save the [Whatever] arrived. I was even beginning to wonder whether timber people were as intrinsically evil as I'd been told.

Then I met Larry, also back for a Master's. He was starting to question the intractable position adopted by the timber industry (after a solid 20 years or so as a flaming activist). We met in the middle and started talking. We've been saying what you said in that piece I was exclaiming over, only not so well.

A year and a half ago, some people in Tuolumne County put together a committee called Our Back Yard that set out to find an accord between the County's environmentalists and and the people trying to survive in extractive industries there. I was really lucky to be on what turned out to be the planning committee for a future search conference. The planning committee (now the steering committee, post-conference) is something like the QLG but more consciously assembled: the future search concept insists that as many perspectives as possible on a given issue be gathered in the room, so we deliberately sought out as diverse a group of interests and individuals as we could find -- including members of the Forest Service. The point was to find some common ground -- however slight -- that we could use as a community to effect some positive change in our relationships. It actually does seem to be working.

I'm capable of droning on about the future search model ad nauseum but I'll spare you that -- perhaps you're already familiar with the concept.

Anyway, thank you again for acknowledging my interest in you and your work. I haven't been able to break into your URL as yet -- I keep getting hostile messages about it being the wrong time or something -- but that's probably operator error. I'll keep trying.

I do certainly look forward to learning more about what you're doing.

Cathy Lemp,

This is an interesting piece, although I think it is a little too anecdotal. I believe that there are some pretty interesting changes going on politically that contribute to the split that you've identified, as well as issues more directly related to fundraising challenges. Dependence on direct mail and foundation donors makes the competition for funds intense. A thoughtful assessment of these two issues is needed, and not explored in the following. Finally, the international experience is relevent here.

Outside the US, the trend was away from parks and protected areas as a strategy for conservation. That trend is now coming under question as some, particularly international conservation organizations question appropriate measures of success. The result is, I think, a growing split among international conservation organizations. How that will impact conservation is unclear.

Jeffrey Olson,


Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your piece on "The Environmental Movement". As usual, you have your finger right on the pulse of what's happening in, as I like to call it, "the conservation movement". My comments are as follows. I am also sending, via fax, an article written by Dr. Eugene Odum which appeared in our publication the Chattooga Quarterly. Dr. Odum outlines why we need to incorporate both local collaboration and strong federal standards. There is no better vehicle for this than conservation biology, which recognizes the fact that each ecosystem is different on a local scale but that their functions must be linked to overarching national issues such as clean water and air, and maintenance of biological diversity. Without this federal protection for a holistic perspective, the inevitable result is the tragedy of the commons. Without recognizing that local sectors must be given the latitude to meet national standards by incorporating management for cultural, geographic and ecological differences, we will remain in gridlock.

Once again we are, as you say, in gridlock. It's a damn shame especially when the answer is so simple: it isn't all or nothing, it's both local and national considerations. My original proposal incorporated a mechanism for doing both. The fact that it got axed (no pun intended) is testimony to the fact that people and their organizations are still more interested in their own agendas than real solutions. By the way, we just bought a timber sale (on the national forest) in an area we have classified in our own conservation plan as a highly sensitive area in the headwaters of the Chattooga River watershed. A system road is already there, and we convinced the Forest Service to remark the sale to promote restoration of a native forest type using single tree selection, and we plan to log it with horses. Some day it may be prudent to leave it alone after it has been restored to a natural condition. We might even see the system road abandoned and restored to the native forest. In the meantime, we might learn how to supply our forest-product-dependent-neighbors with jobs in areas where timber harvesting is more appropriate in the matrix of a system of core natural areas. In other words we are now practicing what we preach by example, and to hell with the rhetoric.

Thanks for your good work in bringing out the real issues.

Buzz Williams,


thanks for sending this! It is a useful conceptual framework. I think that you might enrich the summary by presenting the strengths of the arguments of the preservationists more forcefully and thoroughly before criticizing them. but you'll generate some good thinking and discussion (probably not in that order!) with this.

Frank Dukes,

Randal --

No, I had not seen your piece on the new/old rift between the conservationists and preservationists. I haven't been thinking much along these lines myself, but as I read your piece, I found myself beginning to think about community-based conservation along the lines you're presenting. I have just a few thought that may or may not be helpful to you. May make the argument a little more complex . . . .

First, it seems to me that preservationism as applied to federal public lands has seldom had a longstanding local basis, and that has been a weakness more or less built into the preservationist movement from the beginning. The earliest western preserves -- Yellowstone and Yosemite -- had pretty weak local constituencies. Yellowstone had practically none; Yosemite's was probably limited to a following in San Francisco who somehow managed to create, first, a state park there, then later an expanded national park. I think the other large, early preserve -- the Adirondacks -- was different. As I recall, a number of powerful New York brahmins favored the preserve there, mostly for watershed protection. My point is that local westerners were not terribly fond of preservation. If you read historians such as Fox, you get a pretty strong impression that western preserves got made behind the scenes in Congress, sometimes with some true shenanigans going on. True, there were local western characters like Enos Mills, father of Rocky Mtn National Park, but they seem to have been pretty rare. Preservationists tended always to be a small, hyperactive, and often hyper-successful group who learned to take every crumb they were given and end up somehow with a loaf. In the case of the early national parks, the railroads, of course, helped them a lot. Quietly and behind the scenes.

Later, around the time of the wilderness act, there may have been more local activism and stronger western constituencies for wilderness areas, for in the beginning, those areas were designated one at a time. And for an area to get designated, it needed local support to run cover for the delegation. My belief for a long time now was that when Congress decided to force the issue of statewide wilderness bills, the preservation movement took a real blow to the chops. Places like MT, ID, and UT (the BLM wildlands) were never -- still aren't -- able to amass the kind of public support needed to overcome the recalcitrant delegations, who tend to hate wilderness but could sometimes capituate to "local interests" who made a good case for roadless area X. Making a similarly good case, later, for an entire slate of wilderness areas through an omnibus bill became an impossibility in strongly conservative states.

I think one can thus build the argument that preservationism has always lacked a very strong, local western constituency. Areas got designated first through behind the scenes machinations and some great good luck, later area- by-area, but in the end the preservation movement sort of stalled out -- and turned some of their subsequent frustration toward the management question. If we couldn't, finally, get a another huge chuck of the federal domain into wilderness protection, at least, by god, we could push the idea of "pristine management." Ipso: "natural regulation," and the eventual rise of hyper- purity among the preservation hardcore.

Second, conservation: It seems to me that conservation, on the other hand, has always enjoyed a broader, and more local, following. Conservation in the original sense -- the wise use of resources, with the emphasis on use, not preservation -- has always held great appeal for local westerners, who generally profess a strong love for the land. Conservation appeals to the sense of pride in place, to westerners' sense of themselves as stewards, to their feeling that they had and still have stong connections to nature and an important role in nature. Conservation implies responsible engagement; preservation implies original sin. Westerners have always sided with engagement. They still do, which is why the wise use movement can still ring those old bells, and down home folks can still hear the music.

I don't think time and the ingress of the "environmentally enlightened" into rural western places has much altered these fundamental attitudes. If anything, the sense that newcomers may be greener than thou has deepened native westerners' grip on old time conservation -- and the sense that they are the ones who really understand nature, because of their preference for engagement over leaving-it-alone.

One thing I notice about the movement for community-based conservation is that it's leaving a lot of preservation-oriented enviros out in the cold, and at the same time restoring a sense of local stewardship. And I think you have it right: the battle lines drawn as a result really do resemble the old split between Muir and Pinchot, preservation and conservation -- as if we need to choose one over the other in every case.

I'll be curious to see what you do with this piece. Whatever you do, you're bound to catch hell. I'm sure that's never happened to you before . . . .

Thanks for the chance to comment.

Don Snow,


After reading SA#27 twice I have concluded that you are pretty much on target. We at the Biological Resources Research Center here have been finding the extreme enviros much harder to deal with than the Cattleman's Association with regard to the Nevada Biodiversity Initiative (fortunately there are very few enviros in the state). Science to the enviros is pretty much worthless since they know what needs to be done. Happy New Year.

Pete Brussard, brussard@Biodiversity.UNR.EDU

Dear Randal,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your request for comment on your assessment of divisions within the 'environmental' community (which is actually limited in your discussion to the forest protection movement). I must state at the outset that I find it grossly simplistic and deeply disturbing, not so much for what it says about our movement, but for what it says about your own state of mind, and perhaps even more so, for the uses to which it will be put by those antithetical to any meaningful forest protection (the only people I know of contending for the right to refer to themselves as "environmentalists").

There are many different roads we travel and many life experiences that bring us to them. Many of the people you would characterize as "preservationists" would also qualify as "conservationists" under your definition (including Republican House Banking Committee Chair, Jim Leach, for example), if the subject at hand were private forest land rather than public. Yet you make no such distinction, painting instead all of those of us who oppose public lands logging with a broad brush. To postulate as you do that all such citizens seek greater command and control authority for the Forest Service and the federal government reveals a tendency to gross oversimplification in your thinking. You seem more interested in describing a state of affairs that matches your preconceived notions and personal prejudices than one that accurately reflects the diversity and complexity of the world in which you find yourself.

Though you would no doubt pigeonhole me as a "preservationist," I too, "care about the land and people (and) believe that central planning and federal micromanagement are inefficient and counterproductive."

And while I do not wish to speculate about your motives, I am deeply troubled that you might be in such desperate financial straits as to seek funding from those who would like nothing better than to find and exploit differences, no matter how superficial or transient, within the forest protection movement, in order to maintain unfettered access to tax-subsidized timber from public lands.

I hope you will reconsider.

in friendship,

Andy Mahler,

Dear Randal,

I obviously responded with a broad brush of my own to your essay, and I apologize--it is my frustration with the notion that there are only two options available to us, government or markets, and that one is good and the other is bad. We are all in your debt for your compelling work in demonstrating how bureaucracies tend to act collectively to maximize budgets. I do not believe that government can offer solutions except to the extent that government truly represents people agreeing amongst themselves how they will conduct their affairs.

At the same time, I have little faith in the (global) marketplace's ability to do anything other than to commodify the earth and its people, and to concentrate wealth in the hands of those most willing and able to use force or guile to privatize profit and socialize costs. When you combine the two, what you get is government for sale to the highest bidder.

I am a nationalist in the sense that I believe a nation is defined not by its political structure or its economic system, but rather by the relationship between a people and the land that sustains them. A third way (aside from govts or mkts) is a code of ethics or belief that unifies the people of a nation.

What this means to me is that while I recognize and try to utilize the power of both markets and government to protect forests, both are really just means of buying time while we go about the much more difficult work of nation building.

And with respect to Quincy, it is true that I am not familiar with what has been proposed or the mechanism by which the agreement was reached. I do believe in local control, but only with the following understanding: that local people have no greater rights in the use of public land--only a greater responsibility to see that these lands are honored and protected.

Andy Mahler,

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