Whatever you say, the fight’s gone out of Western agitators
By Ralph Maughan On January 14, 2008 · 13 Comments · In Politics
Writers on the Range. Whatever you say: The fight’s gone out of Western agitators. By Todd Wilkinson
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
13 Responses to Whatever you say, the fight’s gone out of Western agitators
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perhaps it’s this perpetual presidential campaign, the war, or any number of other national issues which dilute, detach, and draw out the oxygen of the general awareness of the local plundering taking place right underneath our noses.
whatever it is ~ it ain’t good, and it needs rectified …
Actually, there’s a fair amount of research to suggest that our priorities shift during times of war and recession–both of which we are now faced with. I have no doubt that, to some extent, this is to blame.
I guess you could also argue that liberals in the West are tired of their shouts falling on deaf ears–apathy and cynicism being the end result.
yes, the “war” … enough to keep the next couple administrations mired, the media occupied and our minds off of domestic issues into the future. all while college kids are more interested in organizing their resumes than any meaningful civic exercise/engagement.
the research also suggests that social movements generally materialize/energize with economic upswings – surprisingly … so i guess we’ll have to wait ? no …
you don’t have to galvanize the entire country to keep a thorn lodged squarely in the side of any political bureaucrat and/or politician comfortable with this status quo. agitation affects positive change in a variety of environments, so long as the collaborate & consensus movement doesn’t file away the backbone and teeth we have left in its backslide to gain industrial favor.
One observation I’ve made is that the number of public hearings has been cut to almost zero in this administration. Under Clinton we had some huge issues (roadless rule, Yellowstone winter use, salmon etc..) that were accompanied by public hearings around the region. The decision-makers were careful to include public input during these processes, and we were able to rally folks to attend and weigh in on these in huge numbers.
Now, by comparison, there are fewer hearings and the administration has for all intents and purposes made it known that public input isn’t valued. So it’s harder to get folks to rally around issues. I think that’s may explain at least part of what Wilkinson is writing about.
It seems that most NGO’S are so concerned with funding that they consistantly take the “middle of the road” approach, so as not to alienate any potential donors.
There’s many brilliant people working for them that only speak their minds when it’s “off the record”. It used to be that many of those were the leaders of civil disobedience and social justice movements.
I also am convinced that new laws have frightened these individuals…and rightly so, with the broad definitions of domestic terrorism, the “patriot act, etc . People don’t want to do prison time for civil disobedience.
For an activist of any kind, life under the rule of Bush is far scarier than life under Nixon.
You’ve made your disdain for collaboration well known. As I’ve noted in previous posts, the success of collaboration is dependent upon a number of factors (e.g. extent of decision sharing, public/agency trust, whether a group feels it can get a better outcome in the courts).
Regarding wolves (in the West), a collaborative/consensus-based approach may not be appropriate because of (1) lack of agency trust, (2) limited decision space, and (3) the fact that both sides believe they can get a better outcome in the courts.
However, that doesn’t mean the collaboration can’t work. In fact, the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan, which many here have held up as a model for western states, was developed using a collaborative approach.
As I have said before, collaboration is not a panacea, it is simply one tool to be used under a given set of circumstances. The fact that collaboration does not work for all cases is not a valid reason to eliminate it from consideration. You would have us toss out the baby with the bath water.
It takes courage to fight.
I agree that collaboration is probably a much more effective tool in Minnesota and the other Great Lakes states than in Idaho and Wyoming.
I grew up in Idaho and Utah and went to the Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison for my graduate degrees, and the cultures are dissimilar.
Even though I was at Madison in a turbulent period majoring in political science, I didn’t engage in any political activity until I returned to Idaho. I certainly saw things differently than before! Within 3 months I was chair of the local Sierra Club group.
I had similar grad school experiences (in the Midwest and West), and was also shocked by the differences in culture–most notably at the agencies. I too found myself much more politically active in the West, where I felt the culture was stifling.
I totally agree that collaboration won’t work under the current climate, where distrust is pervasive and the agencies are “captured” by ranching and hunting interests.
Yet, its one thing to say that collaboration won’t work in a particular situation, it’s another to disregard the approach altogether.
RH says, “It takes courage to fight.”
The implication being that those who choose to collaborate lack courage? Please; now you’re just trying to pick a fight… I suppose that makes you the courageous one?
Personally, I’ve always found I get farther with reason than fists, but to each his/her own.
I think agitation, when met with stonewalling (as in the current political climate) can easily transform into violence, or at least threats of it. Talk to the BLM employees in Nevada, and parts of Wyoming about that. I like it when people stir the pot, but I think the people who have the mentality to attempt that sometimes are also the ones that can be persuaded over to the “dark side” of political activism. I’m not trying to make this a “national security” thing, or anything like that… I just remember my supervisor telling us not to wear our uniforms anymore, because we were too visible. To me, that’s scary.
On the flip side, I admire the courage and fortitude it takes to lay down in front of a drill rig, or bulldozer, or logging truck. I hope I am willing to risk as much when the time comes.
“in a particular situation”
ok – “the current climate” is and has been the general climate … unless you can demonstrate to us a period of history in the West where this is not true between these actors:
because if it is true JB ~ then you must agree that collaboration is generally not appropriate – NOT “particularly” inappropriate as you suggest – in the West with these actors. that’s all anyone has been saying.
Also, respectfully JB – you have discounted an argument for confrontation/adversarial approach without ever using the paramount “reason” that you cite as critical. You’ve labeled me ‘ideological” and ‘disdainful’ – is that enough to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a critique of collaboration/consensus ? or is it the same rhetorical device that have been laced across this conversation and everyone skeptical about feel-good solutions since its inception ?
if you would like JB – i would be happy to make a concise (well – that’s a relative term) argument in objective terms using citation (i know you appreciate citation) to describe the inadequacies of collaborative bodies in developing effective management/oversight/regulatory-compliance … how it can even implicate advocacy w/ regard to policy-making. etc. etc. using organizational structures which do not include livestock nor the right-wing political environment that we live in today – and reason, i’ll use that too. even though my feeling that the posture is unwise must reasonably indicate a wild-eyed and generally ideological predisposition.
Cowboy the Cat:
i agree that “direct action” as one might put it, is a dicey proposition in this country at this time and that violence ought always be off-limits — it’s just stupid & indicative of hypocrisy.
but agitation comes in many forms – including the completely lawful act of attempting to enforce already existing law – or bringing attention to a particularly absurd lawlessness – or just arranging a protocol in such a way that folk are forced to confront the choice that they are making when they make it rather than allowing the weight of a choice to be externalized throughout an organization or even outside of it.
agitating lawless conduct is simply an act of compelling lawful conduct.
on the flip side as well, i have been fairly certain that i could get a priest friend of mine to lay down in front of a livestock truck ~ it’d make for some great pictures … but the idea was dashed by some far wiser than i considering the likelihood that with this mentality in the West – we’d probably have a dead or injured priest to deal with – and then with some obscure laws still on the books (the old West) the likelihood of prison or being hung for obstructing the ability of a stockman to freely release his stock was another concern. 😉
No No … Getting a judge to stop the truck is a lot more effective – see the thing is, it’s this administration – and the political bureaucrats all the way down, that are breaking the law – you just gotta get a lawyer to demonstrate that. but the kicker is – it’s getting harder and harder to do that because
1) an environmental lawyer in court generates more fuss than a dead priest on a dirt road – and
2) it’s harder and harder for those willing to confront to compete for grants & philanthropists resources to hire lawyers to uphold the already existing law ~ with JB’s enticing pillow-talk concerning compromise, collaboration, & consensus promising to avoid the controversy of upholding the rule of law – results be-damned..
Be says: “because if it is true JB ~ then you must agree that collaboration is generally not appropriate – NOT “particularly” inappropriate as you suggest – in the West with these actors. that’s all anyone has been saying.”
I do agree collaboration is inappropriate AT THIS TIME, with this set of actors. However, that is not “all anyone has been saying.” You and Robert in particular, have made clear your contempt and disdain for collaborative approaches. For example: “as the collaborate & consensus movement doesn’t file away the backbone and teeth we have left.”
And you have never provided any context for these arguments–that is, you’ve never (in my recollection) attempted to limit them to a particular case, but have made sweeping generalizations about “collaborative and consensus approaches.” All I have done is point out that these generalizations do not always hold–in fact, I know many social scientists that would disagree with your basic proposition.
BE says: “Also, respectfully JB – you have discounted an argument for confrontation/adversarial approach without ever using the paramount “reason” that you cite as critical. You’ve labeled me ‘ideological” and ‘disdainful’ – is that enough to demonstrate the illegitimacy of a critique of collaboration/consensus?”
Sorry, you lost me here. I do not believe that I “discounted” confrontation altogether, but simply pointed out that collaboration can be effective under certain conditions (I think I list these above). The courts work too, though they serve a different purpose.
As for labeling you ideological and disdainful: I freely admit to labeling you as ideological, but somehow I don’t think that’s a label you wish to contest? My comments above do not refer to you, generally, as “disdainful”; rather, I suggest that you have disdain for collaborative/consensus-building approaches…am I wrong?
BE says: “if you would like JB – i would be happy to make a concise (well – that’s a relative term) argument in objective terms using citation (i know you appreciate citation) to describe the inadequacies of collaborative bodies in developing effective management…”
Please do! The point of this forum is…as I understand it…is to foster healthy debate about the management of wildlife in the West. I don’t have time to layout a complete argument as to when collaborative approaches are appropriate (too busy working on a confrontational approach at the moment), but I would suggest the following (see references at end), as sources for the conditions under which collaboration can work.
BE says: “it’s harder and harder for those willing to confront to compete for grants & philanthropists resources to hire lawyers to uphold the already existing law ~ with JB’s enticing pillow-talk concerning compromise, collaboration, & consensus promising to avoid the controversy of upholding the rule of law – results be-damned..”
Now this statement I take exception with. First of all, grants are always hard to come by, but I don’t think my (or anyone else’s) support of collaborative approaches is affecting your ability to hire an attorney. If you’re having trouble in this arena, I know several with experience I could suggest? Second, I believe I’ve made it clear that I support collaborative approaches when the conditions are appropriate. I don’t think anything I’ve said undermines the rule of law. In fact, I’ve spent a fair portion of time pointing out (quite specifically) how the Bush administration has failed to enforce, or in some cases, actively attempted to undermine the rule of law.
If you would like to see the world as “black & white,” as I might add, the Bush administration seems to, that is your prerogative–I choose not to disregard tools that have proven effective in the past simply because they will not work in ever conceivable situation. As I have already stated, that is tossing out the baby with the bathwater. Finally, I’m happy to admit to “enticing pillow-talk,” though its never involved ranchers, hunters, or agencies. 😉
Here you go:
Daniels, S. E., & Walker, G. B. (2001). Working through environmental conflict. Westport: Praeger.
Keough, H. L., & Blahna, D. J. (2006). Achieving Integrative, Collaborative Ecosystem Management. Conservation Biology, 20(5), 1373-1382.
Yaffee, S. L., Wondolleck, J. M., & Lippman, S. (1997). Factors that Promote and Constrain Bridging: A Summary and Analysis of the Literature (No. #PNW 95-0728). Ann Arbor, MI: Report Submitted to the USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Bouwen, R., & Taillieu, T. (2004). Multi-party collaboration as social learning for interdependence: developing relational knowing for sustainable natural resource management. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 14(3), 137.