Hinson: Weary of the Fighting

This essay from High Country News my help us here in the Western US see a new perspective on our seemingly endless fighting over natural resource issues. I’m a subscriber to HCN, but I think this essay is available without a subscription: http://www.hcn.org/wotr/the-sounds-of-silence-eastern-style.



The sounds of silence, Eastern style

 By Joe Hinson/Writers on the Range

I once read about a lock-tender who spent his life accompanied by the sound of rushing water going over the lock’s dam. Then, the dam was taken down, ending a lifetime of constant background noise, which, although perhaps a pleasant-enough sound, was still, well, constant. His greatest surprise was finally being able to hear the birds.

I now understand his perspective. A year ago, we moved from Idaho to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the oversized apostrophe of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. Our decision generated a lot of jaw-dropping, incredulous stares from our friends and endless questions of “Why?”

As we adjusted to our new home, it became clear that something was missing, but its absence was actually pleasing. Frankly, the West is consumed with noisy fights, mostly over land and resources. Now, we don’t hear it anymore. Like that lock-tender, the sound had become a constant context to our lives, and now, away from it, we, too, can finally hear the birds.

Westerners, listen to yourselves!  You’re each a part of a Tower of Babel — a discordant group arguing about sage grouse, water, fish, power, wilderness, old growth, bighorn sheep, forest health, wolves, mining, ATVs, wild horses, grazing, energy, Indians … the list is endless, the fighting never-ending.

Moreover, Westerners seem born to battle or at least driven to claim a predictable position by their profession or politics.  You’re born or become a rancher, a logger, wildlife biologist, Democrat, Republican, environmentalist, Indian, miner, recreationist or an agency manager. Each occupation or identity comes with a clear expectation of your behavior and opinions when it comes to any given issue. Your friends and social life are defined accordingly. Public lands may be great, but it seems their current biggest public value is to provide a large, conveniently located arena for a public brawl.  At least you’re brawling in a pretty place.

During my years in Idaho, I did my share of fighting.  Some of the conflicts were productive, like the one that inspired the rewrite of Idaho’s implementation of the Clean Water Act, a law that is still on the books and reportedly serving all interests well.

Other fights, in retrospect, were rather ridiculous, fighting over whether roadless land should be available for logging, for example. Now, there is very little left of the timber industry and an equally small amount of new wilderness designated in forested lands. Seems like kind of a wasted effort at this point. Other disagreements were gut wrenching, as we tried, for example, to find a solution to potential contacts between bighorn and domestic sheep that might carry disease. In the course of that fight, my wife’s family lost about half their forested sheep range.  The truly hard part was trying to explain “why” to the newly unemployed Peruvian herders, none of whom had ever even seen a bighorn sheep.

Our new Eastern friends are certainly curious about why we chose Maryland over Idaho, but our explanation seems to strike them as more boring than thought-provoking. To folks here, national forests are often confused with parks like Yellowstone or someplace similar that they’ve perhaps visited on vacation. Federal land-management agencies are largely unheard of, and locals don’t wring their hands over how many sockeye salmon returned to Redfish Lake. They’d rather discuss the Orioles’ game or the latest fishing reports. Frankly, Scarlett, they don’t give a damn — or a dam.

Sure, there are fights. Once, an environmental group sued a farmer here over alleged runoff from a pile of chicken manure; the environmentalists lost miserably. But fights here seem to lack the increasingly mean-spirited tone of some of those currently in the West. In contrast, the liberal state of Maryland was so embarrassed over the manure lawsuit that the Legislature offered to pay the farmer’s legal bills, and the University of Maryland set up extension courses to help the agricultural community cope with legal challenges. Imagine the fight that would have caused in the West.

Call me jaded or simply burnt-out; both are probably true. But after 30 years, in which much of my job was fighting for the timber industry while my wife fought to maintain a ranching livelihood, we came to realize that we had become mere gladiators, albeit without the physique for the task. Fighting had become the job. In a perverse sense, we had to leave the open spaces of the West to finally gain some peace and quiet. Besides sharing his first name, I find myself in sympathy with Chief Joseph’s poignantly expressed desire: “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever.”

So, here we sit on a small arm of the Bay, content to fish and to start contributing to society in a more constructive way.  For now, we can hear the silence and the birds — and both are golden.

Joe Hinson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He directed the Idaho Forest Industry Council for 15 years and recently retired as a natural resource consultant. He and his wife, Margaret, a third-generation rancher, now live near Salisbury, Maryland.

33 thoughts on “Hinson: Weary of the Fighting”

  1. Might as well post the entirety Chief Joseph’s 1877 surrender speech:

    “I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, “Yes” or “No.” He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

    And here’s some additional context from PBS:

    Chief Joseph’s fame did him little good. Although he had surrendered with the understanding that he would be allowed to return home, Joseph and his people were instead taken first to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) where many of them died of epidemic diseases. Although he was allowed to visit Washington, D.C., in 1879 to plead his case to U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, it was not until 1885 that Joseph and the other refugees were returned to the Pacific Northwest. Even then, half, including Joseph, were taken to a non-Nez Percé reservation in northern Washington, separated from the rest of their people in Idaho and their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.

    In his last years, Joseph spoke eloquently against the injustice of United States policy toward his people and held out the hope that America’s promise of freedom and equality might one day be fulfilled for Native Americans as well. An indomitable voice of conscience for the West, he died in 1904, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor “of a broken heart.”

    Ironically, when I just now ‘googled’ “Idaho Forest Industry Council” the first item that popped up was this 1983 article from the Spokesman Review featuring quotes from IFIC Director Joe Hinson and titled “Idaho Forest Industry Council Attacks Wilderness Plans.”

  2. It reminds me of the “paid gladiator” comment by Chief Thomas in 1992 (yes, over 20 years ago) that I quoted in this blog post.

    “But, the fighting goes on and accelerates infrequency and intensity. The people, our sense of community, and the forest are bruised and battered in the process. The gladiators never tire of the fight – it is what they do. The fight itself provides their sustenance. I detect, however, that many concerned about forests we collectively own have long since approached exhaustion.

    That may be good news, for with exhaustion, there may come a willingness to seek an answer to the statement made earlier, “There must be a better way.”

    That better way can be built on new knowledge and past experiences and on changes in personal and societal concepts. And, that better way can be embraced because the old way has led us to a place where we cannot stand for long.

    Shakespeare said (Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2) “…the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”

    If the fault lies within us, the solution also resides in us as well.”

    Here’s the link to the JWT piece.

    When I think about it, I think that all the places I’ve lived in the East have only had controversies like that when there are Federal lands.. and about how they are to be managed. Yes the deep South does not seem to have this. And Washington and Colorado tends to be more about “let’s all figure this out together” than it appears Montana, Idaho and Oregon are. It would be interesting to see if anyone academic has tried to look at this through a psychological or social lens.

  3. Mr. Hinson may consider it ridiculous to argue over whether roadless areas should be opened to extensive logging (which is on the USFS agenda), but a lot of us who plan to stay in Idaho and not retire to some Maryland beach feel differently. He misunderstands the chicken manure case(s) as well, though he seems to get a chuckle out of the subject (poultry litter contains a number of enteric bacterial pathogens including E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, not all that funny if you or your kids drink them). I wrote an article about one of those cases several years ago, read it here if you’re interested: http://gknudsenlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/knudsen-source-tracking-article-9-30-09.pdf The judge was completely out of his league with the science of the issue, which is why the “enviromentalists failed miserably”. Though if Mr. Hinson still finds that trivial or amusing, he might spend some time with folks in Walkerton, Ontario, where seven people died from (cattle) manure-contaminated drinking water. http://www.waterandhealth.org/drinkingwater/fiveyears.html Though, presumably they died without the discordant sounds of environmentalists in their ears.

    • Guy, can you please provide some more information to substantiate your claim that Idaho roadless areas are on the FS agenda for “extensive” logging?

    • As soon as I read Hinson mock the lawsuit on chicken manure, I could see he knew little about the issue. Guy describes the potential for pathogens but of more interest to me is the tremendous amount of phosphorus from the chicken farms in that area, Such non point pollution is now the largest contaminant source in the Chesapeake and elsewhere, Even with the best practices, reducing P and N outputs from farms can be extremely difficult to achieve. Those huge chicken farms in Hinsons area seem impossible to manage effectively, there is simply too much manure to dispose of without hauling it off the farms.

      If Hinson thought a lawsuit on that was frivolous, it just shows how little he knows on the details of some of our more intractable environmental problems.

      I am surprised that HVN published this sorry opinion, I need to read the barrage of comments replying to it on their web site.

      Hinson is a great example of exactly why people like me and Guy need to keep fighting against ignorants like him.

      • greg: The part that got me is when he wrote: “Westerners, listen to yourselves! You’re each a part of a Tower of Babel . . . etc.” I thought, great — just what I need — spend my time being scolded by some retired guy on the flats of the east coast telling me I babble too much. Maybe I should have suggested “arrogant,” rather than smug, as an adjective. In any case, it sounds like he’s just rationalizing his choice of career options to a reading public that is still involved in the issues of the day. If he made such a great choice for himself, why is he having to write publicly about it — and have the nerve to criticize those of us that wouldn’t live in Maryland for all the pay and/or retirement benefits in the world? True babble, in my book, and from a man that is insecure in his choice. And for good reason, from my perspective.

        How about a synopsis of the HVN Letters, greg? I let my subscription expire (again).

        PS It’s not important to bother fighting “ignorants” that have retired. He’s trying to tell us he doesn’t have any fight left — and it’s our fault. Why beat up on someone that doesn’t matter?

        • It’s interesting how everyone perceived this.. I didn’t know the guy, but didn’t take offense at all! And I argue as much as anyone else but try not to be uncharitable. That’s what I heard him saying is ” it’s important to care deeply, but why does caring deeply in this case go along with mean behaviors.. what’s up with that?” I think it’s a good question..
          Bob, I still have my subscription but don’t have time to read it.. if you want I’ll transfer it to you..

          • Thanks, Sharon: I recently stopped my subscriptions to all three magazines I was receiving because I didn’t have time to read any of them. Still have a couple of back issues of HCN I need to get to at some point. I’m guessing there are mean people in Maryland, too, they must just “care deeply” about other things. I do know from massive experience that blunt comments — often meant to be helpful — can be considered “mean” by more sensitive types. My feelings were more along the lines of disappointment in his moral superiority perspective (based on geography), than offended.

  4. Sharon: Jack Ward didn’t say “paid gladiators” — such as Mr. Hinson, I’m guessing — he just said “gladiators,” which doesn’t seem to really apply to Hinson given Thomas’ own definition of “never tiring.” Hinson has apparently turned himself out to pasture and thinks he has made the right decision. From his essay, I would guess he has, at least for himself and possibly his family — but I am certainly not envious of his choice. Not so much for the “quitter” label his former Idaho associates and employer may have bequeathed to him, but because he has to live on the east coast.

    In the words of Thoreau (since we’re doing quotes today): “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Maryland is certainly a long ways away from the western US.

    • I think I heard him say, or read “paid gladiators” somewhere..but when I tried to look it up in Google all I found was my saying I thought he had said it.. oh, well.

      Also, I think people can get tired of fighting without “quitting.” That’s how peace comes to pass.

      • Well, I asked Chief Thomas and he doesn’t remember either.. here’s what he said..





  5. Andy: It probably isn’t. So far as I know, I never met the guy. He does sound a bit smug in his new digs, though, I will say that. I was going off the Jack Ward definition: “The gladiators never tire of the fight – it is what they do” and Sharon’s reference to “paid gladiators.” Then Hinson’s own words: “Our decision generated a lot of jaw-dropping, incredulous stares from our friends and endless questions of “Why?””

    So far as “harshness” is concerned, my speculation as to what judgments his former Idaho associates might hold for his moving to the other side of the continent in order to enjoy (and gloat about?) his apparently conflict-free retirement is based more on Hinson’s current take on you and me and our associates: “Westerners, listen to yourselves! You’re each a part of a Tower of Babel — a discordant group arguing about . . . etc.” Joseph Hinson — just listen to Yourself! is my reaction to that kind of self-righteous babble.

  6. Well, I have noticed that since I don’t get paid to be in the adversarial environment, my desires to be in that environment have also fallen off greatly. Not to get inappropriately introspective here, but we only have so much time on this planet and so much good we can do for others. We can spend that time working together, dare I say, collaboratively, or taking potshots and accusing others of being bad folk, and seeing issues in the context of winning or losing (which seems to be common in Legal World). But I am not sure that it is so much that (legal) culture, but that the True Believer personality has chosen the legal path, and that, to some extent, has conflated the unpleasantness of being targeted by them.

    Anyway, I have gotten a bit off the topic, but when you are not paid to fight, fighting loses its desirability to many of us. If I were an academic, I would hypothesize that the virulence is tied up with money and hired folk… and that could be tested empirically.

    • Sharon, lots of issues in the world don’t lend themselves very well to collaboration, for example (a short list): abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, religious persecution, female circumcision, speed limits, search and seizure, genocide, gay marriage, child abuse, freedom of the press, cruel and unusual punishment, etc. etc. These are issues that frequently end up in the courts, not because they are somehow “legal world”, but because they are very much real world, and there usually are winners and losers. Whether forests, wildlife, environmental degradation, and similar issues fit into this category may be debatable, but I don’t think terms like “potshots”, “True Believers”, “hired folk”, constructively inform that debate.

      • Whoa.. Guy.. “don’t lend themselves to collaboration”. The political process that determined the Constitution was collaborative, I’m assuming. I’m sure every word was debated and discussed. Is the Supreme Court “collaborative”? I think they discuss things with each other and then decide stuff. They can still dissent but.. weren’t the Founders and Congress and courts groups of people making decisions? And I guess they can do that collaboratively, or what is the alternative, with antipathy?

        I just watched a movie about the Dalai Lama.. he was talking about Tibet and said something along the lines of “we are all connected, I can’t win if you lose.” He also talked about peace in the Middle East and religious groups and said that people get each other riled up and then emotion leads you to believe you are right and the other person needs to be demolished.

        I think slavery abolition was accomplished by an Executive Order and by Congress..
        Wasn’t there an 1857 opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dred Scott Case that Congress was powerless to regulate slavery in U.S. territories?

        We could go through each of the ones you mentioned. Some are moral issues. Some are policy issues. Should they be decided in courts, as opposed to through elected officials? Supposedly courts interpret laws passed by elected officials..

        I used the term “potshots” because I have worked in arenas where the opposing side has openly said things that are not true, that they know not to be true. I actually thought “potshots” was a pretty charitable way of expressing it. The ends do not justify the means in my book.

        True believers was actually taken from a lawyer member of my family. He had helped sort out some family issues, and I said “thank you so much, you are really good at finding the path that both sides can agree on.” He said “that’s what lawyers do.” I said.. “well the ones I work with who litigate the FS not so much.” and he said ” oh.. those guys.. they tend to be “true believers” or he might have said “ideologues.” What my relative helped me understand is that it’s not the training that makes ideologues, it’s the fact that some ideologues go into that business to help manifest their policy preferences.

        And “hired folk”- hey there’s nothing wrong with that… I was one!

        • thanks Sharon, I think we’re talking about different things. Certainly the political process that created laws about, for example, slavery, was collaborative. No argument, but not relevant. The issue (the term I used) of whether people should be allowed to keep other people as slaves seems, to me anyway, as not amenable to compromise. Others may disagree. Your relative’s contention that lawyers “find the path that both sides can agree on” or else are “ideologues” is, frankly, silly. Every lawyer in every state, your relative included, is bound by a code of ethics that includes language requiring “zealous representation of the client’s interests” (or comparable phrase, depending on the state). There is no comparable language about “compromise”, because compromise often is not in the best interests of the client. The most obvious example would be criminal defense. In the civil arena, if for example I interact with opposing counsel representing FS, FWS, I don’t expect them to look for compromise (except on procedural matters) unless their client asks them to do so, because that would be unethical of them. They generally are good lawyers, and often very effective, and I respect them and certainly would never consider them “ideologues”. Anyway, I guess we’re getting off topic…

          • But at the end of the day..doesn’t the criminal system involve deals many times instead of going to court, which are in fact , compromises? And aren’t settlement agreements compromises ? And if we are to believe Chief Thomas, sometimes he felt that DOJ was doing settlements that he did not agree with as he described in his journals. So the agency was not really the client. Anyway I agree with you that agency attorneys and DOJ are generally not ideologues.

  7. Like Bob, I thought Mr. Hinson’s post had “smug” written all over it, but I also don’t personally know the guy. And the attempt to align his beach retirement philosophy with Chief Joseph’s persecution and exile is extremely tone-deaf, maybe he just doesn’t express himself very well. But what’s the bottom line, that these are things not worth fighting for? That the future of Western forests and wildlife involves “ridiculous” (his word) and chickenshit (his analogy) issues that less enlightened folk are still arguing over? I expect that many folks here, on whatever side(s) of the issue(s), might find that both condescending and irrelevant. I do like HCN though, and their willingness to put a diversity of viewpoints out there.

    • I agree with Bob RE: “Smug” and also agree with Guy about “the attempt to align his beach retirement philosophy with Chief Joseph’s persecution and exile is extremely tone-deaf”….that’s why I posted the entire Chief Joseph surrender speech and some additional contextual info about that whole sorry situation in US History. Furthermore, I thought Guy provided some good context and info which showed Mr. Hinson wasn’t being completely honest when he decided to take ‘pot shots’ at environmentalists over the manure situation. But, sure, Mr. Hinson will “fight no more forever.”

  8. An observation from afar – from the tone of the comments it sounds like like Joe Hinson touched a nerve. ” self-righteous”, “smug”, “quitter” . Whoa, guys. Back off. Joe may have it exactly right.

    “Westerners, listen to yourselves!” and read again USFS Chief Thomas’ 1992 comments on this very subject, quoted in Sharon’s blog.

  9. I can understand Hinson’s attitude. Even though he probably made a pretty good living (good enough to retire across the country, in MARYLAND fagawsakes), the fact is, his efforts were unsuccessful. Spending 30 years in a losing fight (thanks to rotten federal laws) and watching an economy disappear has to get a little old.
    He also nails a crux point, that of Easterners knowing the West in only the shallowest, most peripheral way, something to be considered on weekends or vacations if at all.
    I think Ben Franklin said justice is never served until those not affected are just as outraged as those who are — and since you’d probably have to pick through 100 Marylanders to find even one who might have heard of, say, Corvallis (which one?) — justice, or a west to match the scenery, is still far away.
    Still, I’m going to keep “fighting” if only because I know that capitulation is wrong.

    • I just heard from an old back-East high school classmate (Hanover, NH) yesterday, she asked how things are out here in the “midwest” (I’m in Idaho, about a mile from the WA border). A number of my in-laws in Vermont and Quebec think we live in Iowa. When I lived in the aforementioned Corvallis about a quarter century ago, it always bugged me when my Mom called the state “O-ra-gone”.

  10. Not everyone is as thick skinned as those still in the fight. I wonder if Hinson is merely displaying some sort of expected long term reaction to a never ending personal attack on him, his whole life’s work, good intentions, his very being. I am assuming he worked in the “for profit” side of the land use equation. Hard to be engaged with tax forgiven trust and foundation money, charitable giving driven by extensive advertising. That he took the steps needed to regain some sort of dignity and calm in his life, which he would not have had if he retired in the festering stew of never ending litigation and challenge to every public or private land decision that is life in the public lands dominated West, to me is understandable.

    It isn’t just on public land, either. Private land owners are beset by the Nanny State and True Believers about what they might exercise as dominion over their own fee simple land holdings. I refer to it as the “tyranny of the urban majority.” That was the fight he was in daily.

    It would appear Hinson and wife took steps to disengage upon retirement. Long steps, to the East. They can’t go much further East. Distance from the well traveled road is a measure of security, or so you would learn in planning. Fortress Retirement is theirs. Until the next hurricane, their sitting on a spit between the Atlantic and The Bay.

    The “environmental wars” are personal. The whole of demeaning of the “enemy” to generate sympathy to your views has been in play from the “git-go.” Dirty amoral hippies versus the beer swilling red neck rapers of the wilderness heritage, all mediated by a do-nothing Congress, and a faceless bureaucracy constantly on the move to another District, another Forest, another Region, in a personal journey to an early and nice retirement. That has not changed that I have been able to observe.

    Perhaps “smug” is a victory lap in one’s own world. A last shot fired over the shoulder in retreat. HIs disengagement from the Sisyphus-like life between the now hugely political USFS Chief’s Office and the realm of the 9th Circuit Court and the judge shoppers parsing words and phrases to no foreseeable end, is very understandable. Now he has to quit reading the newspapers, and go fishing. Eternity will come.

    • John Thomas Jr ,
      Thanks for your comments…I was getting pretty fired up as I read thru everyone else’s comments above and ready to respond (ignoring the comment considerations again) in my impetuous style, but you said it better than I could have. Thanks.

      I read Hinson’s piece at 5:45 this AM before heading out to yet another meeting about the “fight” (revisting the timber wars, in my situation). I was pretty moved, to be honest. Set a good tone and put me in a good frame of mind for the day’s meeting.

      Maybe I didn’t read enough into it though (which is possible, I will admit I quit coffee over a month ago…and I’m not a morning person), however, I would offer that everyone who took offense to his piece or thought he was “smug” might examine thier own convictions and motivations. I won’t try to offer anything more as I think J.T. Jr. said it perfectly above.

      • This is an interesting view of “smug” and “self-righteous”. I have noticed many documents, not the least of which are appeals and legal complaints, that strike me as smug and self-righteous. In fact, it’s possible that after reading so many, I can’t even detect it any more.

        Perhaps we should rate all op-eds we post on this blog according to a SASR (Smug and Self-Righteous) Index..

        • Sharon, I think the difference here is that (in the opinion of some people) Mr. Hinson’s oped attempted to rail against smug, self-righteous verbal fighting by coming across (in the opinion of some people) as smug and self-righteous. Perhaps if people in Maryland had more public lands old-growth, roadless areas or Wilderness they too would be vocal in their opinions about it.

          It also would be interesting if it were possible to get Chief Joseph to comment on the current ecological state of his ancestral homelands and see if he approved of the management advocated and conducted by the Idaho Forest Industry Council.

          • Matthew

            Re: “Perhaps if people in Maryland had more public lands old-growth, roadless areas or Wilderness they too would be vocal in their opinions about it.”
            –> We’ve been down this road before. From Maine to Minnesota to Texas and to Florida we have all of the federal public lands we need. The 29 million acres of federal timberlands are in close proximity (2 to 3 hour drive) to virtually every large population area and we have another 33 million of other public timberlands available to the public and another 306 million acres of private timberlands. The private timberlands including commercial timberlands satisfy the the recreational needs of a great many people. The trees we have are old and tall enough to satisfy even those of us who have seen the three and more hundred foot tall doug firs, sequoias, redwoods and etc. Besides, after seeing Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada’s in the mid 70’s and after working in the Shasta Trinity in the mid 60’s I would only be heart broken to see 300 thousand acre fire scars and overgrown stands ripe and ready for catastrophic beetle and fire outbreaks that were healthy when I last saw them. At least those healthy PNW forests live on in my memory.

            So, back east we are just fine and content with what we have, thank you. Different strokes for different folks. People like the Hinson’s on the DelMarVa peninsula are quite happy with their mix of timberland, farmland, coastal and Chesapeake Bay estuaries. it is an idyllic place to live and a hunting and fishing paradise. It really is a beautiful place in spite of being flatlands. Perhaps you should come and see for yourself.

  11. It seems to me that some here can’t recognize the difference between smugness and contentment. I pray that you all live long enough to discover that you no longer have the physical capacity to be an every day, front line warrior. There comes a time in your life that you realize that your constant vigilance has taken a toll and you have to decide whether the fight is worth dying for. You either learn to pick your battles, burn out, quit to save your own life and truly live or maybe do a little of all three.

    Mr. Hinson, somewhat like myself, has come to the realization that he was burning out and he had to get away to keep his nerves from constantly being jangled by the daily beating of the drums and the sounding of trumpets. As he says, as King Solomon became and as I am, he is a bit jaded. That jadedness comes when you discover what King Solomon described thusly: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. … That which has been is that which will be, and … all is striving after wind”. The tools and weapons may change but life is still all about striving to dominate others in order to live a longer and richer life and the injustice goes on. It doesn’t matter whether it is a corrupt banker sucking the life out of ordinary people with predatory lending practices, a robber baron, or a Greenie putting the forest ecosystem at risk in order to maintain his viewshed or someone who has learned to fake a disability in order to live reasonably well by taking the money of those whose morals require that they work for their living.

    We start out thinking that the old people are so foolish, the solutions to all of the problems are obvious. Yet, when we become the old people we realize, from observing our parents, that in spite of all of the improvements in medicines, the protracted process of dying is very unpleasant. In spite of all of the government aid there is more poverty than ever before. In spite of all of the laws, murder, sexual assault, white collar crime, abuse, drunken drivers, drug addicts and etc. still destroy lives all too frequently. We learn that all of that smugness of youth was foolish striving after the wind and in the striving we somehow missed a lot of living. http://www.lyricsdepot.com/harry-chapin/cats-in-the-cradle.html

    I think that Hinson made the right decision. I don’t think he has quit, he is probably just regrouping and gathering what wits and strength he has left in order to figure out if there is a more effective way to serve after all of the years of battle. Those of us who truly understand forest ecosystems have taken a pretty bad beating. Our best tools such as logic, validated science and experience have been pretty much useless against those who do not value such truths. Eventually, a simple, easy to remember phrase will be found and used to strike an emotional response based on the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then the foolishness of emotionally driven policy which is counter to significant fundamental truths will be exposed and rejected by an informed populace. Until then, some of us will continue to pick our battles and limit our weapons to truths.

  12. I will call it burn-out, for which each of us is responsible for out own struggles with burn-out. Hinson writes of a place where “land-management agencies are largely unheard of”. I work for the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch – Compliance. Our jurisdiction extends beyond federal lands. For some reason, a person who grew up in the desert “heard” about the Clean Water Act in high school. Almost 50 years later, private property owners in western Oregon are appalled that where water is involved, they are regulated! Being a public servant is tough. No one likes you including your own Congress. It is best to get out when you are just to tired to fight. Hopefully, you get out before you are too tired to care. Caring is what leaves parts of the West (and East) beautiful, functional and alive.


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