Friday, October 15, 2010

The Guy Idaho Ranchers Love to Hate

There are two topics you don’t want to bring up with most Idaho ranchers: wolves and Jon Marvel, the white-haired, 63-year-old founder and executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. Exactly what is it about this guy who looks more like a college professor than an environmental activist worthy of nstant, visceral, angry reactions from ranchers, that include “he’s an asshole” to “I hate that bastard” to “he’s an abusive guy” and other not-suitable-for-work quotations? As it turns out, Marvel, a history graduate from the University of Chicago who founded WWP in 1993, is not at all mild-mannered unless it serves his purpose. In reality, he’s is an intense, combative man who does not believe in compromise. “You don’t influence change without directly taking on the people who oppose that change,” he says in a recent interview. “Collaboration simply gets you marginalized.” He’s also a man who harbors a long-standing grudge with roots in an incident many, many years ago at his family cabin in Stanley, Idaho. “One day I found this rancher cutting across my land without permission, taking salt blocks to his stock. I told him to go around, go back the same way he came in and you know what he said? ‘Where did you come from?’ It was like he felt he was somehow entitled to use my private property as he saw fit.” That initial contact led Marvel to take a closer look at what his ranching neighbors thought they were entitled to do on surrounding public land where they grazed their stock in the summer...more

1 comment:

Brett said...

Interesting article. There is much irony to Marvel's story. His jihad against ranching has origins in a property rights type conflict, and today he heads up a group dedicated to destroying the property rights of others. Surely a history major would know of several times in American history where one person or group of people felt justified attacking an entire group of people in the name of retribution for an act committed by one member, and what a horrible price is still being paid in some of those matters. Then there is this pot versus kettle business of "welfare" and "entitlements," where open range laws and public lands grazing are met with howls of outrage, but EAJA subsidies financing one's legal battles are met with deafening silence.

Marvel is right on one thing, though. If you all want things to change, you need to put those standing in your way on the defensive. The El Paso Gas affair is a great start, as is that ruling posted here yesterday.

It is a pity Ranch Radio bit the dust. A topical song for Jon here would be "Someone Needs to Go Back Home" by Dave Stamey.