By Baxter Black
How do you put your mind around oppression for the common good and eminent domain? The explanation most times is “follow the money.”
I lived in Colorado for many years. I have watched it grow from 2.9 million to 5.1 million, most of it on the suburban front range. Colorado has unparalleled beauty, an eco-sensitive majority and an under-the-radar abundant productive agricultural industry.
The clash between country vs. city grows with each new tourist who comes to visit and stays. What used to be a principled debate between ‘conservationists’ and ranchers and farmers has become a crass, closed-door battle between The Government-Conservation-Realtor-Construction Complex and isolated bands of native defenders of private property rights. To wit, southeastern Colorado ranching communities vow to allow “Not One More Acre!” to be condemned, co-opted, coerced, seized or bamboozled by the government to expand Ft. Carson Military base’s Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site at the expense of their homes and livelihood.
We’ve all watched family residences condemned to allow shopping malls to be built. We’ve seen towns nationwide moved wholesale by dam construction or highways. Not to mention feedlots or dairies sued by cities that grew out around them. Colorado, our grand Colorado, has become the poster child for blatant efforts to beg, buy or steal water rights and land to supply the Front Range’s voracious growth.
What are these Not-One-More-Acre ranchers’ chances of succeeding? If they were Eskimos or baby seals being routed from their habitat, I’d say a good chance. If they were Snail Darters, Spotted Owls, or Dolphins there would be a hue and cry in their defense. It is ironic that there are probably fewer ranchers than there are Blue Whales. Why not, “SAVE the RANCHERS!” They are the truly endangered species. But to understand what is at stake you must put yourself in their position. Imagine you are a painter and the government decrees you must offer up all your life’s work to be destroyed.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Russell,” they say, “Here’s some money, you can paint more.”
How can they do that, you ask? “I’m sorry,” says the general, the politician, the real estate developer, the dozer driver, the lawyer, the wheeler dealer and the executioner, “It’s the way it is. It’s not personal.” IT’S NOT PERSONAL. Somehow they must think that absolves their conscience for taking their Judas 10%.
But that may be the reason the ranchers will win. Because for them IT’S ALL PERSONAL. Their lives and livelihood and those of their children, their neighbors and their communities are in unexaggerated grave danger. Their determination should not be taken lightly. Someone once learned the hard way that if you back a mama bear in the corner, you better have your ducks in a row. And I don’t hear a lot of quacking.
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet and ex-veterinarian raised in New Mexico and now lives in Benson, Ariz. He has written 12 books and recorded more than a dozen audio and video tapes, and is a syndicated columnist and radio commentator. Books, videos, CDs and tapes by Baxter Black can be purchased through www.baxterblack. com.