In mid-February, an independent counsel was to begin investigating whether Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt lied to Congress regarding the circumstances of his department's 1995 rejection of a gambling license for three Wisconsin Indian tribes. Babbitt responded to the news by saying: "There is a corrosive, antagonistic, bitter, embattled culture that has settled over this town. In this culture of this town ... the facts are not enough."
It's ironic that the Secretary would invoke the phrasing "... the facts are not enough." It's a lament more often heard from those impacted by his department's quest for land control, often at the expense of constitutional rights.
Take, for instance, Richard Benedick, a State Department employee working on assignment for the Conservation Foundation. He's quoted in his report "Who Needs Science?" as saying: "A global climate treaty must be implemented even if there is no scientific evidence to back up the greenhouse effect."
And, Jonathan Schell in his book "Our Fragile Earth," writes: "Now, in a widening sphere of decisions, the costs of error are so exorbitant that we need to act on theory alone, which is to say on prediction alone. It follows that the reputation of scientific prediction needs to be enhanced. But that can happen, paradoxically, only if scientists disavow the certainty and precision that they normally insist on."
Perception Vs. Fact The environmental faction isn't one particularly dependent on facts. Apparently, they don't really need them.
White House polls have shown that environmental protection is a concern to a majority of Americans. And, scary environmental news makes headlines.
A Wirthlin study last October found that 60% of respondents accepted media environmental claims without question. That's despite the fact, reports environmental writer Alston Chase, that nine of 10 scholars believe the press doesn't comprehend "the tentativeness of most scientific discovery and the complexities of the results."
Environmental activists have managed to foster the perception they occupy the moral high ground on the environmental issue. With public perception on their side, and the public in favor of environmental regulation, facts apparently aren't so important to the environmentalist case.
Meanwhile, the cattle industry and other private property owners are forced to present science and argue the merits of such "details" as the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that private property can't be taken without compensation.
Impressive Record What about the fact that a total of 83% of farms and ranches have been in the same family for 25 years or more, according to a 1996 Rockwood Research study. That same study found 70% of cattle producers intended to pass on their operations to their children. Why then would anything but sound stewardship methods be practiced?
Studies have shown that Western rangelands are in better condition today than they have been in the past 100 years. John Merrill, former director of Texas Christian University's Range Management Program, says that improving trend in range condition has allowed striking increases in wildlife numbers. In the last 30 years, elk have increased 800%, Bighorn sheep 435%, antelope 112%, moose 500% and deer by 33%.
Common sense has to be brought back into the discussion on environmental issues. Like it or not, people (property owners and users) are an integral part of this discussion and solution.
It's a different point of view than that presented by David Graber, a research biologist with the National Park Service, recently cited in The New American.
"Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth ... Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."