CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Community Voices

13 Sep 2018
It’s probably not a shock to Americans that Nebraska is a “livestock-friendly” state. Real-life cowboys in the mold of Robert Duvall’s Lonesome Dove character “Gus” McCrae and Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates in Rawhide drove cattle by the tens of thousands to and through Nebraska in the last third of the 19th century. None of that, however, has anything to do with being “livestock-friendly” in the 21st century. Nebraska’s Livestock Friendly County program, which the state’s Department of Agriculture says is unique nationwide, now has 46 members. That’s nearly half of the state’s 93 counties. Two or three more counties jump on board each year. But we’re not talking about contented cattle on green pastures. Think, instead, of factory farms: livestock confined, concentrated, caged and cooped up in close quarters, fed and fattened as quickly as possible to reach dinner tables and processed meat counters in grocery stores. Once a county…
12 Sep 2018
by  - 
The presidency of Donald Trump has made many Americans angry, frustrated, sad and fearful for the future. But in my case, the presidency of Donald Trump helped turned me from a staunch atheist into a Christian. Let me explain. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather was an Episcopalian, and my grandmother was a Catholic. My first exposure to religion came from my grandfather taking me to Episcopalian services in my hometown of Mentor, Ohio, whenever he was up early enough on Sundays. I remember those experiences fondly: I got to know the other kids in Sunday school, and enjoyed the fun arts and crafts that reflected the values of the Episcopalian Church. Then came a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was 9. The next morning, we all went to my friend’s Baptist church, where rather than being nice, the teachers told us fire-and-brimstone stories that frightened…
05 Sep 2018
As I clambered my way up the trail recently, I passed two languishing young women. One of them regarded her sandwich with distaste. “I am going to toss this. I know there is a squirrel who will appreciate it.” I cautioned, “We ask people not to feed the wildlife.” As I walked off, one of them opined: “What does she know? She’s hiking in a skirt!” My sartorial preferences in trail wear aside, there appears to be a prevalent attitude that “organic” litter is copacetic: It will either evaporate into biodegradable thin air or somehow be devoured. Does it vanish? At an outdoor education center, we set up a few experiments. We built a cage of chicken wire wide enough to allow small animals ingress and egress, but small enough to keep items secure from wind. Therein we placed an apple core, a banana peel, orange peels, chewing gum and…
29 Aug 2018
What if I told you that a multibillion-dollar company had decided to trademark the name of one of America’s most prized national parks? And that the company then sued the United States to defend its purported trademark? And that to top it all off, that company has been invited into the inner circle of government by a now-indicted member of Congress, meeting in private with a Cabinet secretary and also sitting on a government advisory panel? You’d probably reply that it all sounds outrageous, and that, if it’s true, it’s a genuinely shocking example of a corrupt presidential administration. Unfortunately, it’s true. This story begins in 2015, when Delaware North, a New York-based hospitality and concessions business, lost the contract to run Yosemite National Park’s hotels, restaurants and gift shops. The company had held the contract for more than two decades, during which time it quietly trademarked names and images…
16 Aug 2018
First came the bare human foot, somewhere in Africa. Then, in no particular order, came the moccasin, the shoe, the horse and saddle, boat and oar, the ski, the snowshoe—and so much more. All of these came to the backcountry and helped to enrich our travels there. Sure, there’s been some grumbling about how some of the more recent inventions make modern life too easy, but over time, those tools and technologies have become accepted parts of our adventures in even the most remote places. But … whoa! Along came the human-powered mountain bike, and although it’s quite similar to the contrivances that hardy souls have been pedaling and pushing through cities and the backcountry since the mid-19th century, some people now consider them to be so high-tech that they should be banned from wild landscapes. Critics complain that nothing seems to say, “I can’t truly get away,” like the…
09 Aug 2018
Like everyone else, I hate the smoke that has become a mainstay during the summer in the West. But as a naturalist, I know that many plants and animals in our region benefit from fire—mountain bluebirds and lodgepole pines, morel mushrooms and camas lilies, beargrass and huckleberries. Native peoples skillfully used fire as a management tool, maintaining oak savannas rich with acorns and deer. For all the damage fire does to the human world as presently organized, it is far from being an ecological catastrophe. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. To try to see the other side of smoke. Try to imagine the life of one of the most fire-dependent birds in the world, the black-backed woodpecker. Black-backed woodpeckers are found across the boreal forests of Canada and down the great mountain ranges of the Rockies, Cascades and Sierra Nevada. Within this huge range, they are almost always found…
02 Aug 2018
It is 11:30 at night on our farm in the West, in a part of Colorado I’d rather not identify, and we are trying to get our grain corn harvested before a storm hits us hard. I am running the combine, and Paco is in the tractor next to me, with his 3-year-old son sleeping on his lap. He has the boy this evening, because his wife, Lupe, is working the night shift, cleaning office buildings in town. It is slow-going because part of the corn was laid over by a strong wind. Paco looks up at the corn streaming into the cart and smiles as if to say, “Don’t worry; things are going pretty good.” Paco and Lupe are like many of the immigrants that people who work in agriculture have come to know over the years. Ask anyone who works the farms in the eastern Coachella Valley, and…
25 Jul 2018
When I hear someone say that “our food system is broken,” it stings. I think about my mom, who has farmed my whole life, and about my friends and the countless other farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to grow our food. The broken food-system narrative implicitly blames them for problems like environmental degradation, obesity, so-called “food deserts” and the gutting of rural communities. But the sad truth is that our food system is working exactly how it was designed to—and right now, Congress is reconfiguring it to become even worse. What’s broken is the 2018 House Farm Bill, which passed in June with little news coverage. This is only the second time in history that Congress has considered a farm bill while Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches. The result is a bill that serves Washington, D.C.’s fattest wallets and most powerful special interests. Its…
11 Jul 2018
I try to be diplomatic. I really do. When I was cleaning up graffiti deposited by an embarrassed-looking family, and the father muttered, “Writing your name on the rocks is an irresistible impulse,” I did not give into my own irresistible impulse and whap him alongside the head with my water bottle. I smiled and said something about how a national park belongs to everyone, and it is up to everyone to care for it properly. When someone drops a tissue on the trail, I do not snatch it up and stuff it into the litterer’s ear. I say sweetly, “Oh, miss, you seem to have dropped something.” Then I stand there holding it out until she shamefacedly turns around to claim it. However, the other day, I was hiking uphill at the end of a long day. I had (politely) mentioned to three other people that their loud external…
04 Jul 2018
A handful of our representatives in Congress are quietly preparing a multibillion-dollar rip-off of American families. Count yourself among the cheated if you value kids’ sports, good health and the Great Outdoors. If Congress does nothing—and Congress is very good at doing nothing—it will quietly smother the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The conservation fund has been one of the most successful programs for decades; it has preserved beloved landscapes and made lives healthier and happier across America. It has worked wonders for 50 years without costing taxpayers a cent. Who would want to kill it? His name is Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, and he is the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. His committee has jurisdiction over the fund, since it involves taking royalties from offshore oil drilling and distributing them toward outdoor access, wildlife habitat and urban parks and recreation projects. If you are…

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