Op-ed on “The Nation Possessed” Conference

Hmm.. some other folks are seeking to reach across the divide..Here’s a link to Patty’s op-ed in the Sunday Denver Post. Bolding mine. Good on the Center for the American West and the presenters.

More important, you will have the rare, almost exotic experience of hearing people of different partisan affiliations consider a national issue in a civil, thoughtful and lively conversation. As the conference title’s direct reference to “conflicting claims” makes clear, the conference organizers have made no effort to deny or suppress the reality of conflict. On the contrary, our goal — to use the phrasing of natural scientists — is to separate “signal” from “noise,” carefully and thoughtfully laying out areas of both agreement and disagreement.

Presenting at the conference will be former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, and former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Republican who lost office when challenged by a Tea Party candidate. Speaking at a session — on the challenge of making science-based decisions while being shouted at and litigated against by agitated constituents — will be Mike Dombeck, former chief forester and director of the Bureau of Land Management under Democratic presidential administrations; and Lynn Scarlett, former deputy secretary of the Interior in the George W. Bush administration. All of these individuals are people who have chosen forthright, substantive expression over the alternative of vilification, blame, and demonization.

After years of transforming public land into private property, the federal government’s land management underwent an enormous change. Fears and worries about unregulated extraction of resources led to the creation of new institutions: the Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the agency with the largest domain of all, the under-recognized Bureau of Land Management (the BLM). For years, the BLM carried the nickname, the Bureau of Livestock and Mining. Over two centuries, the BLM and its ancestor agency the General Land Office have served as a political and cultural seismograph, recording the nation’s changing attitudes toward and uses of land and resources.

There is no better focal point for a study of the paired and intertwined questions of how we live with nature and how we live with each other.

Over the last two decades, I have had the good fortune to occupy a prime seat on the 50- yard-line, watching the federal land management agencies as they navigate through times of dramatic change. Attending the “Nation Possessed” conference will position you in a comparably well-placed seat.

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