By DENVER JOHNSTON
For the Capital Press
Environmentalism has lost its roots.
It has been pulled too far away from the conservation movement that preceded it, a movement which itself grew out of an intimate understanding of the land that farmers and other stewards had been building for generations.
It is like a wavering tree that was planted in shallow soil, at risk of falling and crushing whatever lies near.
Environmentalists have become disconnected from reality. Most of their leaders no longer understand what it takes to grow the food to feed a hungry nation and the world, and extract the minerals that are used in so many necessary and life-sustaining industries. They have become blind to what it takes to develop energy sources that fuel our economy and reduce our need to engage in foreign conflicts and put our young soldiers in harm's way.
They have little appreciation of how to conserve the land in a way that keeps it productive as well as healthy. Many of their leaders have an outright contempt for private property rights that are essential for driving the industry and innovation so necessary for a strong economy. They scoff at the liberty that so many of our ancestors paid for with their blood and lives to secure for us, and are willing to give it away in pursuit of their unbalanced goals.
Sadly, many environmental leaders simply no longer care about these essential priorities. Instead they cling to an ideology that puts the animal world first, regardless of the consequences to people and their needs.
I grew up in a rural agricultural area in the high desert of Southern California, working on farms and ranches, hunting and fishing in the nearby mountains. I then spent 20 years living and working in the Bay Area. In the cities and suburbs, the allure of the environmental message is strong. It has become a religion of sorts for many people. They believe whatever they are told, contribute money to environmental groups, vote accordingly and rest on the false assumption that they are "saving the environment."
Environmental leaders tell a one-sided story, and they can get away with it because there is so little exposure in suburban and urban areas to the destructive realities of their agendas.
I too was drawn by their seductive propaganda, because I so loved the rural area where I grew up, and secluded in the city for many years had no idea of the harm that was being done to rural communities. It wasn't until I moved to Siskiyou County a few years ago that I began to see just how destructive the agendas of these groups have been in this rural farming and ranching area.
Much has been written in the Capital Press about the struggle for water and private property rights in rural Siskiyou County. What hasn't been communicated well is just how widespread the assault has been on people who live and work in this area and on their property rights.
It is happening on many fronts: The proposal to remove the dams on the Klamath River, which would eliminate a renewable source of hydropower that currently supplies a clean source of energy for 70,000 households and increase flooding risks downriver; the push to establish the Siskiyou Crest National Monument, which would impact the property rights of landowners and restrict access to public land; the attempt to take away the water rights of property owners in Scott Valley and the Scott River watershed and restrict farming and ranching in the area; the closing down of gold dredging in California, which has been an important livelihood and recreation for many people and has never been proven to harm fish; and even the simple pleasure of catching a fish in the backcountry, where the stocking of fish in the mountain lakes of the Marble Mountains was stopped by an environmental lawsuit.
It is clear that most of these environmental groups have little regard for the impact their agendas have on people living in rural areas. They pursue their one-sided agendas with a religious zeal that in many ways is nothing less than nature worship.
All of us who live and own property in rural areas really need to understand the extent of these threats to our property rights and rural way of life. We should try to reach out to educate and inform those who are working against us only because they are ignorant. And we should be ready to fight against those others who know exactly what they are doing as they try to take away our livelihoods, property rights and liberty.
Eventually that wavering tree of environmentalism will fall, because it is not rooted in solid ground.
When it does, we should pick up what remains, get to work and turn it into something useful.
Denver Johnston works a small homestead in the mountains of northwestern California.