Letters to the editor
A logical desert
Mike Spaniola’s letter of July 3 made a number of astonishing claims about last year’s wildfires. A casual reader might take them seriously. I hope none did.
For example, while he concedes that last year’s drought – which was by various accounts the worst in 150 to 300 years – had something to do with last year’s fires, he blames “single-minded environmentalists” with blocking new reservoirs and overturning legitimate decisions to create new dams. “In 1977,” he says, “President Jimmy Carter, acquiescing to the demands of environmentalists, slashed federal funding for Western water projects.”
First, I question whether any reservoirs anywhere have been created with the intent of irrigating the pinyon and juniper forests, ponderosa pine forests, sagebrush flats, and other such places where fires occurred last year.
If anybody anywhere has ever built such a dam, I hope to be corrected.
The hit-list did include eight water projects in Colorado: 1) Savery-Pothook, in the sagebrush country on the Colorado-Wyoming border north of Hayden; 2) Animas-La Plata, south of Durango; 3) Closed Basin Project, in the San Luis Valley; 4) West Divide project, west of Glenwood Springs; 5) Dallas Creek, near Ridgway; 5) Fruitland Mesa, near Grand Junction; 6) San Miguel, near Norwood; and 7) Narrows Dam, near Fort Morgan.
Of these, one is now built, and another is under construction. But for the life of me, I can’t see how any of these projects would have had any bearing on last year’s fires.
I grew up in Fort Morgan, 80 miles northeast of Denver, and Narrows Dam was a source of dispute for all of my growing-up years.
I had heard Narrows Dam vilified frequently by local farmers long before I ever heard the word “environmentalist.” Partly in dispute was the economics of the dam – whether there would be more lost than would be gained.
And that – economics, not environment – was the essential issue in Carter’s hit list. What Carter did was subject the Bureau of Reclamation’s dam-building program to a more rigorous accounting than had been used previously.
Essentially, the easy dams, the ones that made economic sense, had been built.
These new dams awaiting money were marginal, at best. Mostly, they looked to be gigantic subsidies for farmers who, in any event, were often further getting subsidies for growing crops.
Tellingly, when Ronald Reagan gained the White House, he made no effort to overturn Carter’s decision, and neither did George Bush.
As powerful as the Reagan “revolution” was, it wasn’t powerful enough to put logic into these dams that Mike thinks would have helped prevent forest fires last year.
The rest of Mike’s letter is similarly barren of facts, starved of logic, and roiling with name-calling. His topic of wildfires and management of public and private lands is a rich one. Unfortunately, his wild, angry denunciations add nothing to the conversation.
Just silly labels
I think that it would add to the civility of our country if we stopped employing terms like “liberal” or “conservative” to stigmatize a person, and then simply rely on that to dismiss his or her opinions.
I warrant that very few of us share a common definition of those words. They have become meaningless in the complex world that we live in and where few of us can be easily categorized.
I do remember when “right wing” or “conservative” primarily indicated belief in fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget and usually referred to a Republican. I remember also when a “left winger” or “liberal” was one who believed in social programs like Medicare and Social Security and was reserved for “far out” Democrats.
But now it’s obvious that Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans don’t give a hoot about a balanced budget and it’s equally obvious that many Republicans (especially the elderly ) believe in Medicare and Social Security.
They also generally believe in racial equality, and farm subsidies, and clean air and water – programs that were, originally, also part of the “liberal” agenda. So, what exactly do conservatives (Republicans) believe in that differentiates them from liberals (Democrats)?
Well, they don’t like Bill or Hillary, they do like guns, they don’t like black leaders like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, and they do like “warriors” like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
But those particular preferences aren’t related to the original meaning of “conservative.” So let’s just consider Republicans to be “liberals,” too, with a few unique likes and dislikes. And let’s stop dismissing opposing thoughts by simply placing the authors in some meaningless category.