The National Grasslands don’t often get the limelight in our Forest Service discussions. Sometimes I think the filter of the timber wars obscures a vision of our best mutual future. But listen to these words and see if you think they might be relevant to some of our other disputes. Especially the concept- there are no villains here, and a lot of common ground.
This is from an editorial here in the Bismarck Tribune entitled “Forest Service, ranchers need to reach common ground.
Divergent uses and demands upon the national grasslands periodically conflict, but the relationship between the ranchers who lease range and the Forest Service has become adversarial to the point it has crossed over the line of good sense. Huge amounts of time and energy are wasted on the verbal and political conflict. The running disputes between the grazing association and the Forest Service are an obstacle to thoughtful management of the grasslands.
It is not a conflict between a heroic ranching ethic and federal bureaucrats who don’t know one end of a cow from the other. Nor is it a dispute between noble naturalists and ill-educated cowboys more interested in a quick buck from the sales ring than they are in taking care of the grass. The two sides have a great deal in common. As in all things, the black and white issues are really gray, and it’s compounded by a third party – the public, the ultimate landlords.
The needs of the two – ranchers and Forest Service – are not mutually exclusive.
North Dakota’s experience with the Forest Service has been good. Its employees are skilled and dedicated. The ranchers in the Badlands are our fellow citizens. And we appreciate their difficult economic challenges and their role in forging the state’s identity.
It’s in the state’s best interests for ranchers and the Forest Service to develop a plausible working relationship based on mutual respect.