PUBLIC LANDS -- My most recent Outdoors Blog post on the Malheur militants is being twisted by Internet spinmeisters as suggesting that I'm anti-ranching and anti-farming. That's B.S. -- a term that's clear from the town to the country.
I'm best friends with many ranchers and farmers. I greatly respect the industries. I married a farmer's daughter.
I used the term "thugs" in the blog headline, rather than "ranchers," to separate my differences with the Malheur militants and their purported connection to ranching. The militants are using guns and intimidation to break the law and illegally occupy public property to further their campaign to transfer federal land to local control. I join a lot of sportsmen and other Americans in opposing that cause. Enough about them.
Salt-of-the-earth farmers and ranchers, meanwhile, are out taking care of their stock and equipment to feed the world.
I stand firm for the public interest in public lands, but I also stand tall for the contribution rancher and farmers make to wildlife and society.
Most of the country's best wildlife habitat, especially wintering ground, is on private land managed by operators who host huge numbers of game from wild turkeys to elk while the rest of us are looking for fresh powder to ski or making plans for the next hunting season.
Ranchers get a lot of flack for raising the cattle that most Americans eventually find to be delicious.
On the other hand, ranchers are the reason we can drive through vast landscapes of open spaces that might otherwise be dotted with scattered homes -- the bane of wildlife habitat connectivity.
There's always room for improvement in every industry that impacts the land on our ever-more-crowded planet.
But looking for better practices and legal solutions should never be equated with being hateful or disrespectful.