Western wish list for Obama. The hopes and worries of 11 key Westerners

High Country News interviewed 11 “key” Westerners-

Western wish list for Obama. The hopes and worries of 11 key Westerners. High Country News. By Ray Ring.

Here is a pile of good and bad ideas to discuss.

I see the “radical” Jon Marvel argues for putting ombudsmen in all federal agencies, putting information on the Internet, and transparency in government policy-making.

“Genius” professor Patricia Limerick tells environmentalists not to go too far in repealing Bush’s anti-environmental rules changes lest anti-green rage be stirred up in rural communities.

My view is, how about stirring up some rage among the large majority of Westerners who have always been second class citizens subjects in the system of Western feudal oligarchy?





  1. Maska Avatar

    Transparency in goverment? What a concept!

    As far as Ms. Limerick’s comments are concerned, I agree with Ralph, although I’m not sure all that much stirring up will be necessary. Most of my conservation minded friends are already feeling a fair amount of rage at what’s been going on.

    I notice, too, that Dan Kemmis is touting some sort of “experimental” region 7, so nasty bureaucratic rigidity won’t get in the way of ranchers, loggers, miners, and conservationists sitting down to sing Kumbaya together. Sounds like a recipe for public lands giveaways a la DOI secretaries from Eisenhower’s “Give-away McKay” all the way down to Gale Norton and Dick Kempthorne. If any organization to which we contribute signs onto this nonsense, they’ll be off our donation list in the future. There’s no sense in sending money to folks with suicidal tendencies.

  2. Salle Avatar

    The more people figure out what’s going on, the more enraged they are becoming. Transparency can go a long way, especially among the educated. Fortunately, there are many more of those pesky educated folks these days…

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    In my view, conservation is akin to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in its politics. Our strategies and our tactics in dealing with entrenched western oligarchies should be similar as well.


  4. Maska Avatar

    Robert, your comment is interesting. Could you elaborate just a bit on it?

  5. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I sure hope your not advocating violence as a means to break the system?

  6. Salle Avatar

    Actually, the civil rights advocates were mostly peaceful but not invisible… it was those who opposed civil rights who were the openly violent ones. You know peaceful marches and protests at dining counters as riding buses but not int the back as opposed to lynchings, assassinations, firebombings and yanking people off buses and beating them, even at the polling places they were chastened openly and violently…

    If you lived through it like Robert and I did, you’d know the difference. (Protests really got violent when the Viet Nam war became a big national nightmare in the public eye.)

    I suspect that this is what Robert is more likely referring to.

  7. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I did not live in the south during that era, so did not see much of it first hand, however we did have marches and civil disobedience going on in the NW, I was simply asking a question as it could be taken several different ways, and those opposed to the environmental movement, I am sure would capitalize and take it the wrong way, I have seen it far to many times…and there were several fringe groups on the pro side, that did enough violent acts to have concern..

  8. Salle Avatar


    I saw plenty of it in the North Eastern states as well as the time when my family lived outside of Memphis, TN back in ’59. I was called the “N” word enough to notice that I was considered a nonwhite even though my ancestors are mostly German and Finnish, French… I do look kind of Native American and lots of folks ask if I am, the Native Americans ask me what tribe I’m from but African Americans suspect that I may be partly of their ethnic background. I call it being a chameleon because you never can tell and I use it to my advantage when necessary.

    As for the violence issue, I agree that it is misinterpreted but also I recall that an anti Iraq war protest, actually several, that were infiltrated by off-duty police who were planted in the crowds to start acting violent and were helping to remove and arrest nonviolent protesters…

    Some of those events were in Canada but some were in the US. I know because I saw original, uncut video footage and heard first-hand stories from some of those arrested. Kind of reminds me of the malady of Kent State…

  9. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Save bears

    Strange that an SF-trained soldier should think it necessary to ask that question. As anyone familiar with the history of resistance movements should know, the keynote of the American civil rights movement was non-violence, as influenced by Ghandi. As Salle notes, all the violence was on the part of the southern states in conjunction with the KKK and other segregationists. Clearly, the pursuit of violence by the government against civil rights activists was a bad strategy. More than anything, it was televised state instituted/supported violence–dogs, firehoses, billyclubs, firebombs, and burning crosses used on peaceful African-Americans by police and the KKK–often they were the same people–that turned the American people against segregation.

    I remember this as though it were yesterday.

    On the other hand, Martin Luther King and his compatriots pursued non-violence, civil disobedience, and the courts to achieve their goals. Obviously, they didn’t sit down and break bread with George Wallace or Lester Maddox to achieve “consensus” over civil rights. There was no compromise possible with Jim Crow; the values of segregation were incompatible with the values of civil rights.

    The politics of civil rights was definitely win-lose. Civil rights had to win and segregation had to lose. No win-win there.

    The above brief discussion sets the context for my call on conservationists to consider what they are doing as something akin to the civil rights movement. Aside from the ecological damage done by the western oligarchies through their various practices, thus affecting our physical survival as well as the survival of the species with which we share this land, we have to consider as equally egregious the political, social, and economic damage done by the western oligarchies. For example, can any one truthfully claim that the western states are democracies, or even republics? Not at all. They are oligarchies, government by the few for the few maintained by their control over political and economic institutions. That’s why I describe the western states as oligarchies masquerading as republics.

    The United States Constitution promises the citizens of the several states a republican form of government. But when have we ever had it? Study the constitutional conventions of any of the western states. Who wrote the state constitutions? Largely, the livestock industry. Then look at who wrote the original statutes? Once again, the livestock industry. By the 1920s in Wyoming, the minerals industry supplanted the livestock industry as the dominant oligarchy, and state laws then were written to benefit that industry. Nevertheless, the minerals industry let the ranchers have what they wanted, unless what the ranchers wanted conflicted with what the minerals industry wanted.

    What ranchers mostly wanted were financial subsidies and political power. They gave themselves both. They still have it. Look at the slaughter of bison in Montana or Wyoming’s disease-ridden elk feedgrounds as examples of oligarchy in action.

    That’s what we asked to compromise with with collaboration and consensus?

    The situation we now face in the west is that anyone of progressive color is disenfranchised. Totally disenfranchised. We have no voice whatsoever in how we as citizens are governed or how land and wildlife are managed. Consequently, I see no improvement possible except by us taking the civil rights movement as a strategic, operational, and tactical guide to thought and action. First, we have to change the politics.

    It goes without saying that violence is stupid, either on our part or the part of the government. Unfortunately, while we discipline ourselves to sustain non-violence, there is not much we can to do to prevent government from using violence except making the truth and the facts known. This is something the Buffalo Field Campaign is very good at, for example, in giving a public face to the violence used by the State of Montana and the federal government against wild animals, bison.

    I hope that makes sense.


  10. Salle Avatar

    Another way the BFC gives a public face to the bison issue is that they are also abused when arrested and they document that as well. There are two ways in which they do this.

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    My training as a SF solder has nothing to do with what I asked, I have seen both sides during my service.

    My question was in response to the way your statement read.

    Thank you for the clarification..and I can tell you, even as a trained soldier, I didn’t enjoy the violent part of the job, and I still am not fond of violence

  12. brian ertz Avatar

    It seems like there’d be a lot more/better natural world if half of the folk that proclaim to protect it were half as scared of losing it as they seem to be afraid of what the people destroying it will think if they’re too succesful at protecting it.

  13. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Save Bears

    Here’s my statement:

    “In my view, conservation is akin to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in its politics. Our strategies and our tactics in dealing with entrenched western oligarchies should be similar as well.”

    It is beyond me how anyone could conclude I was calling for violence based on this statement, knowing that the unequivocal basis of the civil rights movement was non-violence.

    In response to Brian’s above statement, just follow the money. The ones who quiver in their boots at what our opponents would think if we were too successful in protecting land and wildlife are those who stand to lose their funding if conservation were successful. That’s why collaboration and consensus are so popular. One can pretend to be a conservationist without actually having to conserve anything except the funding.


  14. vickif Avatar

    A lot has been said lately about the “Middle Road” mentality taking form in the Obama team. I can and do very openly admit that I am a bit peeved by the backing off that seems to have occured. I took a step away from things for a bit, and just thought about it.

    I was disgusted (am disgusted) by Obama’s Interior pick. I fail to see what major change Salazar has to offer, except that he is a more flexible puppet of the administration he follows. He may offer sway that previous DOI sec’s did not.

    I do see though, where there will be room for and the possibility of progress.

    There is this to say about middle ground….it is a heck of a lot closer to the ground we seek than where we would be if Obama were not elected. (Whine away McCain supporters-it holds no power over the truth.) Obama may be placing up in the mean of things, but we had been on the extreme lower end of the spectrum previously. This move toward the middlewill cause us to be far closer to where we should ultimately be. It also frees up a lot of efforts to fight for issues not as clearly a public priority.

    If we are at the middle without great effort, due to the administration we will soon have, imagine how much less their resistence than we had rpeviously.

    I tend to be very passionate and vocal about issues I hold near and dear to my heart, and mind. But I agree that we need to play careful ball with being outwardly confrontational for a bit. We need to continue to the grassroots movement….base things around your immediate location and support the efforts being made in the national sector.

    As gfar as being passive about conservation, you can be physically passive while being politically aggressive. That isn’t such a fine line to walk. It is pretty clear. Don’t blow things up, don’t shoot folks….lay down for what you believe in -literally. And stand up for what you believe in politically. Vote, write, campaign, and mostly become educated and educate others. The more you help people understand what cost they really pay for what the consume, the more you will effect what they consume and condemn.

    Know your enemy, know your allies…and know the other 90 percent of people in the world who are influencable.

    Middle of the road is a mighty number of people…let’s not piss them all off right out of the gate.

  15. vickif Avatar

    just so we all know, we have to pass the middle in order to get to the end….this is a journey, we pass one inch at atime to get to the final destination, no one is beeming us to the finish line….did we really expect to get to the end in the ‘blink of an eye’?

    I like what these 11 suggestions say, if they are taken seriously and acted upon, we can count on big things.

  16. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Alls I can say is “What Ever” people interpret statements in many different ways..

    I simply asked for clarification…

    If you can’t fathom it, then perhaps you are mis-interpreting my reason or my simple question.

    The methods behind and practiced by most in the civil rights movement was indeed non-violent, but I can assure you that the people you are dealing with will indeed remember the violence and not the non-violent protests, these are the majority of the images that have been broadcast by the news media for the last 50+ years..

    Remember you and I are on the same side of this issue….

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Sometimes I wonder.


  18. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Just because we don’t agree in method, does not mean we disagree on motive, the goal is still the same…

    Of course, I at times guess you don’t like to be questioned by ANYONE!

  19. kim kaiser Avatar
    kim kaiser

    “The situation we now face in the west is that anyone of progressive color is disenfranchised. Totally disenfranchised. We have no voice whatsoever in how we as citizens are governed or how land and wildlife are managed. ”

    I see the above as simply using Jesse and Al Sharptons attempts to use big words (disenfranchised) All I see is there simply arent enough people who give a rats ass about 1)Bison,wolves, bears, 2)wild lands) 3)public lands or there management, or any other of the projects that get gone over here everyday; OR, the grass roots organizations, sit-ins or what every you chose to call civil disobediance just arent important enough to enough people to begin to make the finanicial effort or personal effort to make any change. I hardly see it as being disenfranchised. The public education of the situation is simply not being conveyed to the voting public. If it had, montana, idaho and wyoming would have changed there state govts, but they didnt. Its just that simple,,and as someone said earlier, people vote with the wallet, and this hasnt had a visible effect on there wallet..(i.e. offshore drilling) first they hated it, then they liked it, because it affected their wallet. If you have a opportunity to vote, you are not disenfranchised, you simply dont have enough people with the same goal to practise the type of governing you would like.

  20. frank Avatar

    The violence that most remember from the civil rights movement, should be that local govts. abused power and used violence. The protesters preached Gandhi-like civil disobedience. If people think of those protesters as violent, they are looking at the wrong side. I think what Robert said was a perfect way to look at the environmentalist movement. Peacefully tell everyone that will listen what the problem is.

  21. vickif Avatar

    Okay, I am sitting here reading through the above statements and see that they are the single biggest opposition we have to over coming great hurdles.

    I know many of you who post here have experience and age that I don’t have. (I am quite thankful for the later, and envious of the previous.)

    There is no other blog that I am aware of as full of diverse and formidable insights and knowledge. This blog is unique because it combines the views of many into inspired thought and attempts to problem solve.

    That is important because as I read the above comments, what I hear is wisdom and concern. I can easily recognize that those of you who lived through the era of the civil rights movement see it as a lesson on how things have and can continue to change. You view it from different angles examining all of it’s complexities and sides. You are all seeing what is there, you just see it from the perspective of where you have personally experienced and learned about it. For some of you, it was a history text, others a personal involvement, and still others a cautious observation made from safe territory or not so safe. Either way, it is no less real to you than anyone else, and the only difference in what you are saying is personal perception.

    That is what rings so true in the problems we face now. It isn’t the road we take to get there, or if there is a ligitimate comparison between the civil rights fight, or if from your perception that change happened because of passive disobedience tactics….it is that we have to combat the lack of education and bridging the gap that is here and keeping us from coming together.

    I am certain that in history there were men (Malcolm X and MLK Jr.) who disagreed on how to overcome and become equalized. (Isn’t that what we are seeking? Equality in representation and a heard voice in government decisions effecting the environment?) The point is, if any of those people would have seen the problem with the same perception, we would not have effectively dealt with the issue and would have failed to change the big picture. We would have fixed one small part of the problem-the part seen by one person. To this day there are still parts of civil rights that are desperately in need of an over-haul, but if we all stopped seeing it from our own point of view, those things will always be over-looked and never be resolved.

    All of these similarities apply to the conservation (Or publicly known as ‘green’ movement) movement. Without many angles being covered, many apporoaches being taken and many views being voices…..we never accomplish a darn things.

    What eventually resulted in the successes we have had is the one common tie we need to keep in mind when we deal with one another here—–educate and persuade people, earn their trust and their sympathy and you will motivate them. That is what all true achievers have in common.

    Rosa Parks wasn’t powerful because she was a forceful presence, she was powerful because she did with dignity what so many others wanted to do. MLK Jr. didn’t move people to act because he forced his views on them, he moved them because his words spoke to their personal experiences and pulled at their heart strings enough to inspire them to act. Malcolm didn’t raise a small army because he was trained or educated in military tactics, it was because he confidently taught people to stand up.

    There were numerous people of various ethnicities who worked tirelessly under threat of being politically ostracized or physically harmed or killed. If you take away any one part of this picture, you would not have had any signifigant victory.

    It is the very same thing we need to grasp and embrace here. We are all smart enough to not only do that, but to imporve on it. Come on guys!

  22. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    What you’re leaving out, Vicki, is that the strategy of the civil rights movement worked. Its analysis of the nature of the struggle was correct, and its awareness of timing was also correct. There were many African-Americans associated with the civil rights movement who disagreed and cautioned going slow, not rocking the boat, and waiting for southern political culture to catch up to its constitutional duties. On the other side, moderate whites said the same thing–wait, we’ll change, eventually. Funny thing is, the more successful the civil rights strategy and tactics were going into the mid-60s, the winds of caution from moderate blacks and whites blew even more, because it was a messy time and people were scared.

    Yet despite the fear, Martin Luther King and his colleagues didn’t wait. And history has demonstrated them to be correct, while the moderates were proven to be wrong.

    That’s not a matter of personal perception.


  23. vickif Avatar

    What you say is true, however-many people considered MLK Jr’s approach was ‘moderate’. If you would have asked the big Malcolm followers- far more radical by most accounts- MLK took too much crap and was too soft handed.

    I agree that we can’t sit back and do nothing, but if you don’t consider what others are doing, how can we get far?

    I agree that the strategy worked- all of them did- when they were used in a full on assault against the wrong that was being commited.

    It takes all kinds-maybe.

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    After almost 16 years on this issue, I am sorry to say, I am starting to believe what Kim is saying, there does not seem to be enough people that gives a rats ass about this!

    But that will not deter me from continuing to fight for wildlife and wild lands!

  25. Salle Avatar

    Perhaps Kim’s comment only makes sense because the media isn’t doing its job. I am willing to bet a dollar that there are far more interested persons and groups than one might imagine simply because they have been silenced by the corporate media entities in favor of the big bucks corporations that own them. Makes it hard for we the people to be informed about our world and those who are in agreement with certain concepts that get no coverage or belittling coverage by corporate media. (Perhaps because someone decided that it’s just not sexy, and as we all know, sex is what sells.)

    The sooner the republic is returned to citizen ownership, the sooner we as a people, can be heard and actually acknowledged.

    When the media is absorbed by dysfunctional reporting with only the corporate view driving their berating attitudes on the issues at hand… We end up with what we now have, smarmy reporters with an attitude against anything that isn’t sexy and sensationally entertaining.

  26. jburnham Avatar

    I agree with kim’s assessment above and would just add that apathy permeates our political culture. Too many people think their civic responsibilities begin and end with voting and that answers to our problems will come from some politician. How many times during the elections did we hear the argument that ‘politician X got us into this mess, now the only way out is to elect politician Y’. We’re always willing to place blame somewhere else and look to someone else to fix things.

    Salle, I certainly won’t defend the corporate media, but this is the ‘Information Age’. If we can’t get our message out to interested people, then we are doing something wrong.

  27. IzabelaM Avatar

    I fully agree with what you are saying about :
    not enough people who give a rats ass about Bison,wolves, bears, 2)wild lands) 3)public lands.
    BUT in order for people to give rats ass, people need to be informed and also care.
    How many times did I hear from people: ..my voice does not count. Why vote? I live in Utah which is Republican state and heard that ‘my vote’ does not count zillion times.

    Maybe our wonderful disfunctional press can help us.
    Maybe we need to write to celebrities who claim to care about animals. Donna Karan promissed to stop using rabbit’s fur after PETA and people started to petitions to stop buying her designers clothing. Joachim Phoenix sponsored PETA ads, maybe someone here knows how to reach to celebrities.
    maybe we can get more people who give rats ass about our cause.

  28. vickif Avatar

    I agree we need to use all types of media resources, but PETA is one group that is not just seen as too extreme, but most people I know actually say things like :You aren’t one of those crazy animal rights people are you? or “You are not going to try to sell me that ‘PETA” crap are you?”

    PETA is against hunting. Hunters are a huge population we should be aligning ourselves with and finding allies to help in the fight for land and wildlife conservation.

    That is why these issues become so hard, not just because we battle corporate and government entities, but because there are so many groups we have to wade through before we can choose who would be a productive or non-productive resource.

    PETA does many good works, but they also have a tendency to alienate people. They have that “You are a freakin’ nut case” stereotype attatched to them.

    There are a lot of smaller grassroots groups who are making a big impact right now…WWP, DOW. We should move to be heard by them and then have them heard by government.

    The wish list mentioned gives these groups some weight and shows there is an effort being made to include sceintific and conservation voices in the mix of policy and decision making.


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.

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