More Malheur

I really didn’t intend to let this blog detour off to Oregon, but must note that a local cowboy has joined the goat rodeo at Malheur. I don’t know the ranch, but seems he’s from Grant County, someplace down around Silver City. If I was still an ambitious and energetic reporter – and there are some good ones in that end of the state — I’d be looking to find more about him. I bet the local BLM or Forest Service guys and the county agent all know him well.
He doesn’t offer much of his story in his video, but if his allotment has really been cut from 600 AUM to 85, it’s no wonder he’s ready to throw in his contract. I sympathize with his plight, but don’t much favor his chances. We’re becoming an increasingly urban society, where rural values and lifestyles carry less and less weight. The West is changing again, as it has with each new generation; only the mountains endure forever. The ranchers, loggers and miners took the land away from the Indians with the help of the Army. Now, with the backing of the federal bureaucracy, the urban environmentalists are taking it away from them. Demographics, as always, is destiny.
Seems to me a rancher has just two arguments these days: hamburger and sentiment. I’m a big fan of hamburger, and I’m willing to share the land with beef on the hoof, but few city folk seem to make that connection anymore, or care. Where does all that cheap chicken come from and how does it get to your freezer? You don’t really want to know, and I believe the cattle business is already well along that road.
As far as sentiment goes, the wolves, coyotes, and prairie grouse seem to have it all on their side. As the generation that remembers Gene Autry, The Rifleman, Bonanza and the Marlboro Man  fades away, saving the family ranch loses its resonance.
I don’t favor selling the public lands, although a new Homestead Act might be fun to watch. But I believe we could and should move management of the land in the West down to the state and county level, where rural voices can be better heard and accommodated. We’ll hear from the bunny-huggers as well, but here at home is where we need to have that debate.

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