Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Conserve Your Own Backyard, Please

The round table discussion started off rough today. News of the President's proposal to establish new national monuments had everyone bristled up. I had to admit, this unsettled me as well.

It seems that urban folk or those who do not make a living off the land have little compassion, understanding, or desire to keep economies thriving in rural America. They seem (and mind you, I've lived in Boston and Moscow, Russia, so I know the urban life) to think that developing their opportunities are fine, but "whoa" to the the west if they try to make a living, a life, and a future of their own choosing.

After reading through the nationwide proposals, I felt that I could not remain silent on this matter. Conserving land directly affects me: my job, my neighbors and my community. It affects our tax base, our schools, health care, and viability of even being in existence as a beautiful community on the Rocky Mountain Front.

I posted the following on a proponent's blog because I feel that rural America is either too often silent or too small to be heard. It can be found on the New West blog:

"Speaking as a native Montanan, I have to express that this idea is a poor one for Montanans. Our number one tax base is agricultural lands and products.

When land is taken out of production, as it has been for programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, (CRP) it compromises our economies by eliminating the tax base that we so desperately need to run all of our public services: schools, health and family services, higher education, protective services, natural resource management and the like.

Some may argue that we take land out of production for the "future". What this has done to communities such as the one I returned to, is provide a shaky and uncertain future. For example, before CRP programs went into effect, we had 4 grocery stores, 3 implement dealers, 2 car dealerships, 7 restaurants, and 5 bars.

Today, we have 1 grocery store, 1 implement dealer, 1 car dealership, 4 restaurants, and 3 bars. Our county-wide working young have been leaving at a rate of 6% a year. We have lost a large part of our economy due to land being out of production. Railroad companies now pick up grain at better prices elsewhere. And, contrary to urban predictions that tourism or eco-tourism would make up the balance, that the rest of America would thank us for our sacrifice, it makes up a mere 2% of our tax receipts.

Others argue, it's for the long-haul, the soil bank. Well, CRP contracts come out every 10 years, so really, in less than 30 years, a generation, the program is coming to a slow close. We saved soil, but we grew abundant noxious and invasive weeds that threaten the native species ranchers worked so hard to manage. We didn't cure saline seeps (only better water management did that on PRODUCTIVE land, with PRECISION agricultural equipment and management practices.)

If you lived on this land, if you had to make your living from this land and the tax dollars it provides, you would not wish it to be locked up for future generations. Rather, you would continue to work, improving its value and place so that your grandchildren actually HAD a place to return to."

No comments:

Post a Comment