Sunday, January 24, 2016

America's urban rural divide - Talking past each other

Good examples of the urban rural mentality gap here as well as the kind of expectations of city-country dialogue the Bundy rebellion has stirred up. I estimate that the current wave is going to die out without leaving much in terms of practical results. But next time another Hammond goes to jail or another Bundy Ranch has its cattle rounded up, the city dwellers may be surprised to discover that by now the US countryside is teeming with Bundy style rural terrorists. It may happen within the next couple of years, if not this year.

By Eric Mortenson (Capital Press) {

Date = January 21, 2016
Source = Standoff exposes urban, rural divide

Rural residents, farming and ranching groups and elected officials have criticized the occupiers’ actions. But they say the underlying anger about lost economic opportunity in the rural West is very real.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Eastern Oregon in Congress, said the thread tying the Hammond family’s case with the occupiers’ demands is “decades of frustration, arrogance and betrayal that has contributed to the mistrust of the federal government.”

In Portland and other urban centers, that connection isn’t so clear.

“Because it’s not on their radar,” said John Morgan, an economic development, civic and leadership planner and consultant who works with rural communities.

Harney County, where federal and state agencies manage about 75 percent of the land, has 1,200 fewer people and 10 percent fewer jobs than it did in the late 1970s. The number of logging and mill jobs in the county went from 768 in 1978 to just 6 in 2014, according to state figures.

“The resource economy is intrinsically tied to the prosperity of the rest of the state,” he said. “You couldn’t have urban prosperity without the fact that Oregon is still a resource economy. Intel can only take us so far.”

Many people living in Portland and other urban centers mock the occupiers as “Y’all Qaeda” and ridicule their beliefs. They rail about “welfare cowboys” receiving “subsidized” grazing fees on federal land.

“They’re more than happy to try and regulate what happens to the Columbia River Gorge because they see it as their playground, without stopping to understand the (economic) impact,” Morgan said.


Paul Schwennesen, a Harvard-educated Air Force veteran who raises grass-fed beef in Arizona, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he described Western reaction to the Harney County situation as “deeply American.”

He said “urban elites” at both ends of the political spectrum have dismissed the standoff as ridiculous, and miss the point of it.

“Like good Tories haughtily renouncing tea dumping in Boston ‘Harbour,’ we may be shocked to find that the ragamuffins are not only saying something important, but that their message is striking a chord, Schwennesen wrote.

“What they are saying is that the federal government is too bloated, too heavy-handed, and too corrupt, and that it is most spectacularly evident on the rugged rangelands of the West.”

If Cargill or Monsanto owned the majority of the land and people were denied opportunity to make a living, all hell would break loose, he said.

He said the ground level issue is federal management of the overwhelming majority of the resource base in the West. Bureaucratic paralysis is the inevitable result when “one decision maker gets to make the decisions over a gigantic public resource,” he said.

In a phone interview, Schwennesen said reaction to his piece “split along the urban-rural divide.”


But the Hammond case — they were ordered to serve additional prison time for burning BLM land — and the wildlife refuge occupation may have opened the conversation. Walden made an impassioned speech in Congress about “federal overreach in the West” that was well-received and widely shared on social media.

Rancher Keith Nantz, manager and partner of the Dillon Land and Cattle Co. south of The Dalles, Ore., wrote an opinion piece on the issue for the Washington Post that received more than 4,200 reader comments.

In his piece, Nantz said management decisions are being made by people “four to five generations removed from food production” and who “don’t quite understand our industry.”

Nantz said online comments ranged from “absolute opposite ends of the spectrum.” The issue now has the national stage, he said, and producers should not let the conversation die off. Farmers and ranchers are getting better at networking, he said, and must continue to engage the public and explain what they do without being combative.

“We need to utilize the momentum we have right now,” Nantz said. “We need to capitalize on this movement.” }