The Environment & Environmentalists I – Thanks for nothing

Note from November 2007: This was originally posted on a blog of mine that was hosted on Blogger. I’ve since imported that blog over here to C Good’s Things on WordPress. is a link to “Death of a Sawmill”, an article by Jim Petersen that appeared in December 29th’s OpinionJournal (OpinionJournal is a website for articles from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page)

The article’s about a sawmill in Eureka, Montana that closed because environmentalist lawsuits have the national parks so tied up that the sawmill owner, Jim Hurst, couldn’t get any wood from the park, even though he was right next to the park and even though the wood he wanted was already dead. Jim Hurst was importing wood from Alberta, Canada, because it was easier & cheaper that way than dealing with the U.S. government.

The article is a very good article, and also very sad because the sawmill that closed was the main business in Eureka, Montana. Its loss will affect the town greatly.

Here are some pertinent quotes from the story:

Three years ago, [Jim Petersen] called nearly 100 sawmill owners scattered across the West and asked them if they would invest $40 million in a new small-log sawmill on the government’s promise of a timber supply sufficient to amortize the investment. The verdict was a unanimous “No.”

The never-reported truth is that the family-owned sawmills that survived the decade-long collapse of the federal timber sale program no longer have much interest in doing business with a government they no longer trust.

You would think environmentalists who campaigned against harvesting in the West’s national forests for 30-some years would be dancing in the streets. And, in fact, some of them are. But many aren’t. Railing against giant faceless corporations is easy, but facing the news cameras after small family-owned mills fold has turned out to be very difficult. Everyone loves the underdog, and across much of the West there is a gnawing sense that environmentalists have hurt a lot of underdogs in their lust for power.

Fifteen years ago, not long after the release of “Playing God in Yellowstone,” his seminal work on environmentalism’s philosophical underpinnings, I asked philosopher and environmentalist Alston Chase what he thought about this situation. I leave you to ponder his answer: “Environmentalism increasingly reflects urban perspectives. As people move to cities, they become infatuated with fantasies about land untouched by humans. This demographic shift is revealed through ongoing debates about endangered species, grazing, water rights, private property, mining and logging. And it is partly a healthy trend. But this urbanization of environmental values also signals the loss of a rural way of life and the disappearance of hands-on experience with nature. So the irony: As popular concern for preservation increases, public understanding about how to achieve it declines.”

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