AAA Dagget PeaksI’ve presented a lot of evidence here on Dan (and in plenty of other places including my other blogsite – The Right Way To Be Green) that grazing livestock on grasslands here in the West, especially when that grazing is done in a way that mimics natural herds of bison, bighorns, or other hoofed critters, can be beneficial to those ecosystem.

I’ve also given literally hundreds of presentations on that topic to environmentalists and others, and when I give those presentations a majority of people in the audience are usually surprised and impressed by the photos comparing the positive effects of grazing versus the negative effects of protection.

“ I had no idea.” Some comment. “I changed my mind tonight,” said another at a recent presentation.

The problem is, although plenty of enviros appear to get the message, the connection doesn’t seem to last very long nor does it go much of anywhere.

“That’s nice. So what? Now what?”

A few are impressed in an even less connected way.

“What about overgrazing!?” They sputter. “You can’t convince me there isn’t overgrazing! Those ranchers are in it to make money not to help the environment! Your information is anecdotal! It’s not science!”

That is usually followed by some form of…

“Those places grazed by livestock might look healthy, but they’re not natural. They would be just as healthy, actually healthier, if they were protected and, therefore, truly natural.”

Recently, when my wife, Trish, heard me wondering out loud about this two-sided response, the lack of connection it made clear, and how to deal with it, she offered…

“You’ve got to remember, those people think of themselves as environmentalists. You’ve got to give them some way to make sense of, and to make use of, the information you’re giving them. You’ve got to give them the right frame of reference.”

Frame of reference, I wondered? What is the “frame of reference” of people who call themselves “environmentalists,”

The first thing that came to mind was the definition of “nature.” Environmentalism, of course, is about “nature,” specifically about protecting it and restoring it.

Cambridge Dictionaries defines “nature” as:  all the ​animals and ​plants in the ​world and all the ​features, ​forces, and ​processes that ​exist or ​happen ​independently of ​people.

From the Merriam Webster definition “nature”  is (T)he physical world and everything in it (such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc.) that is not made by people.

All of my presentations are about humans having a positive impact on the ecosystem, about making it more natural, more healthy, more functional.

Could it be that all the problems people have with the positive examples of humans effecting the environment I present and, beyond that, the endless list of contemporary environmental issues that have to do with protecting the land from humans, are nothing more than this — merely a matter of semantics? Merely about definitions?!

In a very significant way it seems to me the answer is, “Yes.” What we call “environmentalism” maintains that the health of any collection of living things and their surroundings is determined by the degree to which that “ecosystem” conforms to the above definition — to the degree to which it “​exists or ​happens ​independently of ​people.”

I’ve had a number of experiences that verify that conclusion. One of the most notable was an encounter in one of the “collaborative” groups in which I have participated over the last 30 years. At a gathering of environmentalists, ranchers, agency people and neighbors on a cattle ranch in the grasslands southeast of Tucson, Arizona, the rancher who was our host made an offer to a number of people who had expressed their opposition to cattle ranching in the “desert Southwest” several times during the day.

“Tell me what you would like for this place to be,” he said, “and I’ll set that as my goal and work toward it. Then we can be allies instead of adversaries.”

“There’s only one thing you can do to make this place better,” replied one fellow who had identified himself as a “radical environmentalist.”

“You can leave.”

“Because if you stay, no matter what you do to the land, no matter how good you make it look, it will be unnatural and, therefore, bad. And if you leave, whatever happens to this place, even if it ends up being as bare as a parking lot, will be natural and, therefore, good.”

In other words, if a piece of the planet conforms to the definition of “nature” it is healthy and good no matter what its condition.

A statement like that deserves an illustration (or two).

Here’s an illustration that will be familiar to visitors of this website or readers of one or both of my two books Beyond the Rangeland Conflict, Toward a West That Works and Gardeners of Eden, Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature


This is the Drake Exclosure, a U. S. Forest Service study plot near Prescott, Arizona. It is very nearly as bare as a parking lot. However, since it is protected from human use (and has been since 1946) it conforms to the definition of “natural.” For that reason, according to the contemporary environmental frame of reference, it is healthy and good.

The land in the picture below is just outside the Drake Exclosure. (See the sign on the fence.) It has been grazed by livestock since the 1800s. For that reason, it is does not conform the the contemporary environmentalist definition of “natural” and, therefore, in need of healing (removing the impacts of humans). Does that mean the goal of contemporary environmentaism is to make it look like the land in the previous picture?Drake_Outside_2014

Here’s more…


This land, along the Verde River in Arizona, had been protected for 9 years when this photo was taken. During those 9 years it had existed as “independently of human activities” as possible. According to the contemporary environmentalist frame of reference that means it is “natural” and “healed” or at least on its way to being so. One environmental group involved in the protection of this land states: “We’ve protected more than 119 million acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide,” That, the group claims, qualifies as a “tremendous record of success” The land in the photo is a portion of those “thousands of miles of rivers” part of that “tremendous record of success” because it conforms to a definition.


On the other hand… This land, also along the Verde River in Arizona, is grazed by livestock. (Photos taken roughly at the same time. Yes, most of those plants are natives.) Within the contemporary environmentalist frame of reference that means it is “unnatural” and in need of being “restored to nature” or “healed,” The only way to achieve that, according to the definition of “nature” is to protect the land from human activity, turning this “failure” into the “success” illustrated above.

Fortunately for all of us, including environmentalists, there is a much better, much more functional, more accurate and realistic way of interpreting the concept “nature” that can provide a basis for our relationship to the world in which we live. This more functional view of what is “nature” fortunately doesn’t lead to absurdities like the ones just described. It is derived from science and experience rather than from definitions. It is a basis that we can learn about and confirm “on the ground” rather than merely by indulging in word games.

First of all this functional way of relating to our environment resolves one of the main problems with defining nature as: ​existing or ​happening “​independently of ​people.” Humans have been a part of nature for as long as any other plant or animal, i. e. for as long as we have lived on this planet. And while we’ve been here, we’ve lived and participated in nature in the same way as those other life forms. We’ve provided input and we’ve harvested output. We’ve been predators and prey; herders and harvesters; cultivators, pollinators, and seed spreaders. We’ve dunged and urinated, lived and reproduced, died, and decomposed just the same as all those other “natural” living things.

From that it seems obvious: an environmentalism based on a dividing line that separates us from everything else on the planet is mistaken and useless. So, If we’re going to come up with a way to understand and practice an effective way of living on planet Earth, whether we call it, “environmentalism” or not, it has to be inclusive. It has to effectively increase our understanding of all those ecological processes we’ve been a part of and continue to be a part of today.

Oddly enough, the best candidate for such an understanding comes to us from the space program and our efforts to visit other planets. In the 1960s, in advance of sending a probe to Mars, NASA decided it might be good idea to know in advance if there is life up there, so they enlisted a number of scientists to come up with a way to tell if there is life on a planet without (or before) visiting it. Among those scientists was James Lovelock, an English chemist known for thinking out of the box,.

Lovelock noted that there are a number of characteristics of our own planet that cannot exist without being sustained in some way (or, in other words, by some thing). For example, there is no way our planet’s atmosphere could stably consist of 20+% oxygen (which it does) if left purely to the vagaries of chemistry. Oxygen is a very reactive gas. That means it would quickly react itself into compounds with other chemicals and trend to zero or nearly so if something wasn’t replacing and sustaining it in its pure or free form. (Venus and Mars, for instance, contain 0.00 percent and 0.13 percent, respectively, of free oxygen.) Here on Earth, plants, both on land and sea, produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. In other words, they produce one of the main components of a habitat that will sustain life for life by the process of living.

Something similar happens in the case of the salinity of the oceans. In spite of the fact that every year roughly 500 million tons of mineral salts are eroded and dissolved from the Earth’s dirt and rocks and carried by streams and rivers into the planet’s oceans, the salinity of those waters remains a surprisingly stable 3.4% and has for a very, very long time (millions of years). Lovelock considered it no accident that this is exactly the level of salinity required for the continuing existence of the forms of life that inhabit the seas. (And we’re supposed to worry about a little more carbon dioxide.

To make a long story short (you can read more on your own.) Lovelock hypothesized that living things have developed the conditions that make life possible here on Earth, and they sustain those conditions in a relatively stable form. That means the life forms of Earth (including us) haven’t lucked out by being placed on or happening onto a planet with a series of geologic or interplanetary processes that inadvertently make life possible. The living things on Earth have evolved or been created in a way such that they sustain the conditions for life by the very natural act of living. Example? — Bees pollinate flowers as they feed on their nectar, which creates seeds, which create more plants, which create food for bees (and other creatures) along with the oxygen that bees and other creatures breathe, which creates more bees and more other creatures, and more flowers…

And while we’re at it, think about those ranchers and cowboys, and cows and grasses, or Indians and bison, and The Great Plains, etc.

Lovelock attached the name “Gaia” (the Greek name for the Earth Goddess) to his hypothesis at the suggestion of an author friend. The name has the unfortunate (in my opinion) effect of making his conclusions susceptible to being co-opted by mystics (for pantheistic purposes) and feminists (for political purposes). In spite of that, the most notable implications of Lovelock’s hypothesis are decidedly practical.

Consider those photos we looked at a few paragraphs back. If we interpret them in terms of Lovelock’s hypothesis, what seemed like an absurdity at the time (That’s healthy?! And that’s not?!!) now makes perfectly good sense. The green photo is green because living things, including cattle and humans, have developed the conditions for life and are sustaining them by the act of simply living. Humans are acting as predators, cows are prey, humans are moving and circulating cattle, who are harvesting, recycling, seeding, tilling, and fertilizing. The result is a prosperity that benefits more than cows and humans. It benefits deer, rabbits, mice, fish, birds, bugs, plants, microbes, the list is longer than I have room to include here.

In the other photo, the most significant predators, prey, circulators, harvesters, recyclers, seeders, tillers, and fertilizers have been removed, and where the interaction of living things has been reduced, so have the conditions to support life and, thus, so has life itself.

Translation: protecting the environment from humans performing the functions Lovelock identified as sustaining the conditions for life does no favor for the environment, nor for us, nor for anything, really.

Unless, of course, you live in a world where semantics matter more than results… or more than sustaining the conditions for life.

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AAA Dagget Peaks


Why do we need a new environmentalism?

Because the old one doesn’t work.

Says who?

Says Nature.

OK, how does Nature tell us environmentalism, old, new, or otherwise, doesn’t work?

She tells us in terms of results, because Nature doesn’t communicate with words. She communicates by means of results — the language that enables Nature to give us the most important message she can give us…

“That works.”
“That doesn’t work.”

That ‘s how we can check what Nature has to say about what we’re doing, by checking the results.

Are they good or bad?

Are they what we expected or not?

Are they what we’ve been promised or not?

Do they make things better or worse?

That’s the purpose of the comparative photos shown in this post. They communicate Nature’s verdict regarding which of the the various techniques by means of which we interact with (actually, play a role in) our natural environment work and which ones don’t work. They communicate Nature’s verdict by showing the results created by those techniques.


Click for a closer look.


Click for a closer look.

Consider the first comparison. These two very different photos present Nature’s works/doesn’t work verdict regarding two very different ways in which humans use or relate to the land. One of those “ways” involves using the land to produce food in the form of animals. The specific form of that use whose results are pictured here is cattle grazing or ranching. This could be characterized as a “new” use of the land — one that has happened only since western European peoples have come to the North America; however, it should be noted that for thousands of years before ranching came to the Western Hemisphere Native Americans herded and hunted animals such as deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and others in this same landscape, using some of the same techniques as modern ranchers.

The other manner of relating to the land included in this comparison is the technique of environmental protection . It is one the way we relate to Nature that we consider to be the most beneficial, sustainable, restorative, and, well… natural, so we don’t even really consider it to be a “use.” Some of us even refer to it as “non-use.”

Both of the above photos were shot on a piece of arid rangeland in central, Arizona. One is a photo of a U. S.D. A. Forest Service study plot that has been protected from all human use (predominantly grazing by cattle) for 66 years.

The other photo shows an area directly adjacent to that study plot which has continued to be grazed for that same 66 years plus as much as a hundred years prior.

Which is which?

The photo on the left illustrates the results of  66 years of protection on this location under these circumstances.

The photo on the right illustrates the results of humans using this same piece of land for at least the same amount of time for an activity that is widely considered to be environmentally destructive — livestock grazing.

What is nature trying to tell us here?

Let’s look at a few more comparisons.

LHP 1957 cropped 2.2 Little Horse Park 2013

The photo on the left shows a piece of rangeland near Sedona in 1957. It is being grazed as it has been for, probably, more than a hundred years (See the cows?). Soon after this photo was taken cattle were removed and the land became protected (in the 1960s). The photo on the right shows the very same piece of land in 2013 after more than 50 years of protection. Notice you can’t see Courthouse Butte on the right side of the “after” photo on the right. That’s because 3 feet of soil have been removed by erosion that has happened since the land has been protected. This lowered the photo point, shifting the angle of the perspective, and, combined with the fact that the trees have grown, caused the butte to be obscured in the latter photo.

What’s Nature trying to tell us here?

Here’s another message from Nature.

3. Dry Creek Allotment C5T1.19635

U. S. Forest Service monitoring site on the left — grazed for more than a hundred years. (Grass is short — recently grazed, very little bare dirt, no erosion.) On the right, same place  in 2013 after roughly 25 years of protection. (Cattle were removed around 1990.)

Nature’s verdict?

If Nature keeps telling us this, when are we going to listen?

The photo on the left, looking toward Bell Rock, was taken in 1921. Again, at this point, the land has been grazed for more than a hundred years. And again, the grass is short has been recently grazed and is short. There is very little bare dirt and no erosion. (You can click on the photo for a closer look. — I’m just learning how to make these photos close-up able, so some of them work better than others.)

And then look at the photo on the right. This photo was taken in 2012 in the same area as the location of the photo on the right. There’s Bell Rock again. This photo shows the results that have been achieved by a mere 22 years of protection.    Nature’s verdict?

BigPark.cropped Bell Rock Erosion wi man2

Come back again soon, the next post will deal with a new basis for environmentalism —

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CONSERVATIVE ENVIRONMENTALISM : You Can’t Have Your Cake Unless You Eat it Too

AAA Dagget PeaksRecently (10/14/2015), I registered the domain name: “”

Actually, I’ve been describing the content of both of my blogs/websites — “” and “The Right Way To Be Green” as “conservative environmentalism” since their inception, and any web search for that category would have turned up one of both of those sites as one of the top hits. In celebration of this event I’m posting the introduction to one of my books — Gardeners of Eden, Rediscovering Our Importance To Nature because it describes the principles of this alternative to left-wing environmentalism so well.

If you’re wondering what that means, read on (and read some of the other posts as well.)

On Duel-ism; Living Like Bees, Beavers, and Wolves; Using Alien Solutions to Earthly Problems; and Becoming Native Again 

The argument over how we should live in relation to the rural and remote lands of the American West hasn’t changed much in more than a century. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and father of the modern environmental movement, said in the late nineteenth century that we should reduce our impact on those lands as much as possible and preserve and protect all that we can. Most certainly, Muir and his followers insist, we should protect as much as possible of that which has remained relatively untainted by human alteration—the wilderness, the wildlands.

Others have maintained, on the other hand, that it is our right to use whatever we choose because God created it for us or merely because there is no good reason not to. Still others, the middle-of-the-roaders, say, “It would be nice if we could protect everything, but we’ve got to be realists….” They concede the high road to the preservationists but turn the dispute into a struggle of idealism versus realism, the moral versus the practical, small is beautiful versus more is better.

This fits right into our duelistic society of liberals versus conservatives, Republicans versus Democrats, and tree-huggers versus wise-users, and plays to our prejudice that the solution to all environmental problems is “victory for our side.” Within this us-versus-them scenario, a few try to achieve compromise or find a middle ground, but no one, or almost no one, asks if these are really the only two alternatives.

They aren’t. There is another alternative, one that is much less divisive and much more hopeful. There is a way to enrich the land as we use it; a way we can benefit the plants, animals, and ecosystems with which we share this planet as we benefit ourselves.

If this sounds too good to be true, or too close to violating the maxim that “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” the message detailed within this book is more radical than that. The message you’ll read here is, “You can’t have your cake unless you eat it too.”

This is not news. Bees, beavers, wolves, and more plants and animals than there is time or room to list have been operating under this maxim for millennia. Bees pollinate flowers as they consume nectar and, in the process, create more plants and more flowers and, therefore, more food for more bees. Beavers eat willows and use them to construct dams which create ponds and enlarge meadows. That creates more habitat for more willows and more beavers. Wolves cull the sick and slow among the deer, keeping the herds genetically healthy so they prosper and continue to feed more wolves.

Until recently (for the first 99 percent of our existence), humans fit into nature in this same mutually beneficial way. As hunters and gatherers, as pastoralists, and even as small-scale farmers and gardeners we benefited the ecosystems of which we were a part in much the way beavers, bees and wolves do. Some of us still live in this naturally interdependent way.

A much larger and faster-growing percentage of us, however, get our food, fiber, and other products from nature via a system of extractive technologies more characteristic of aliens than of a mutually interdependent community of natives. We have developed this extractive technology for good reason, of course—it produces food, fiber, and other things we need in prodigious amounts, insulating us from the effects of drought and the other vagaries of less technological agriculture. But living as an alien has its downside, too. It threatens the breakdown of important ecological functions via global warming and the endangering of species. It erodes the connection between humans and nature as we turn our communities into a series of urban and suburban space stations surrounded by an “exploitosphere” from which we extract everything from food to recreation.

Some of us have become aware of the downside our alienation creates and have begun to try various means to counter it. Ironically, those countermeasures have been, for the most part, just as alien as the situation they were created to correct. Rather than restoring our old relationships with the ecos of which we were once an important part, these countermeasures have removed us even farther from it. To try to counter the effects of our alien technology, we have created ever larger preserves and protected areas, and removed ourselves and our impacts from them. Acting as if we’re trying to fool nature into thinking that we’re not here, we have behaved as aliens would. We treat this land outside our exploitosphere as if it were a combination art exhibit, zoo, cathedral, and adventure park. There we limit ourselves to roles as sightseers, worshipers, caretakers, and joyriders. Exacerbating the situation, we make our technological system ever more extractive, efficient, and detached in the mistaken belief that the way to heal the damage we do is to create less connection rather than more.

The problem with all this is that we humans were once a part, in some cases a very important part, of the very ecosystems we’re trying to restore by removing ourselves from them. This dooms us to trying to put back together an extremely complex puzzle with a very important piece missing—us. And, when we discover that this alien-style solution doesn’t work, we don’t relent, we just do it harder. We remove ourselves from ever larger pieces of nature (or at least we pretend to), and we create more and more stringent limits on our involvement in those areas from which we can’t remove ourselves.

And as we do all of this, we neglect the obvious truth that, if removing wolves or some other predator does harm to an ecosystem, if causing a species such as the red-legged frog or the tiger salamander to become extinct threatens the security of all other species, as some of us claim, then it stands to reason that removing humans who have played a more widespread, more impactive role must cause even greater problems.

In spite of this, hardly anyone, to my knowledge, is expressing concern about the removal of humans from the roles within the ecosystem that we have evolved to play, and that Nature has evolved to have us play. Nor is anyone conducting studies to determine what those roles were or what changes have occurred because we no longer fulfill them. Most important, perhaps, no one is trying to reintroduce humans into the environment to have us resume our duties as hunters, herders, gatherers, and whatever else, even though we’re going to great ends to restore animals that have played much less significant roles.

Sometimes I wonder what Earth’s ecosystems think has happened to the two-leggeds who once served them so well. Where did those beings go who once played such an important role as predators, foragers and cultivators? Have they vanished? Been abducted? Gone extinct? And then I wonder what those same ecosystems think of this new being which walks in their midst, which resembles the one that has disappeared in every way except that the new one keeps none of the old responsibilities, the old agreements. Is it an impostor? An alien body snatcher who has removed the old ones and taken their place? In a way, it is. Or rather, we are.

In fact, most of us know about as much about restoring a Martian ecosystem as we do an earthly one.

This book offers an alternative to living on Earth as aliens. It offers a way to become native once again, to reassume some of the responsibilities we evolved to uphold, at least as much as is possible in the context of a modern technological world. The stories that follow are about reintroducing humans into the environment in the same way that we might reintroduce an endangered subspecies of caribou or flycatcher or cactus. They make the point that this is as important in the case of humans as it is in the case of those other living things, and for the same reason—because, as we remove ourselves from those old mutualisms by acting as aliens, we leave as big a hole, if not a bigger one, than those other life forms have left.

That may set off your alarms in a couple of ways. “Ecosystems got along just fine before there were humans!” you may say. Or you might ask, “How could it be possible that humans are abandoning the planet when there are so many of us, and it’s so obvious that we’re overwhelming it?”

As for the first of those questions, it’s true that the earthly community got along fine before there were humans, just as it got along fine before there were bees and beavers and plenty of other things. But those pre-human communities were made up of different species than the one we evolved to be a part of. Those old communities and many of the species that comprised them are gone. The community of which humans evolved to be an important part is still here.

As for how I could say that humans are abandoning the planet while it seems so obvious that we are overrunning it, that brings us back to the alien/native distinction. It’s the people who are living as aliens who are overrunning the planet. Those who are living as natives are few and getting fewer. Some remain as holdouts from traditional ways of being. Others are the products of their own do-it-yourself reintroduction program.  Examples of both are the subject of this book.

Last, but not least, others have expressed concern that the claim that humans have been an essential part of nature, and can once again become so, is just a restatement of the old arrogance that our species has been granted dominion over nature. This arrogance, critics say, has been used to excuse all sorts of environmental profligacies. Humans have certainly done things to harm the environment, and the claim that we have dominion over nature has certainly been used as a means to excuse such harms, but the examples that follow in this book are not examples of domination, they are examples of mutualism and synergy. And while it may be accurate to level the charge of arrogance when humans are blinded by our claims of domination and do harm, that charge makes no sense when it is directed at humans playing roles we have evolved to play and that nature relies on us to play. We don’t call beavers arrogant when they create ponds that water meadows that grow cottonwoods that feed more beavers. Nor do we call bees greedy or exploitative when they consume nectar while they pollinate flowers to make more flowers to support more bees.

The purpose of this book is to dispel smoke rather than to create it. One way in which it achieves this purpose is by revealing an environmental smokescreen of which most of us are unaware, and behind which a whole class of environmental wrongs goes undetected. It also clears our environmental view by showing us how to restore feedback loops between humans and nature that have shriveled and ceased to function as a result of our adoption of an alien agriculture and a just as alien environmentalism.

Why should you listen to what I have to say about these things? I’m not a scientist, but I have been an environmental activist for thirty-one years. I started my activist journey fighting coal strip mines in southeastern Ohio. From there I moved west to Arizona where I worked to designate remote public lands as wilderness, fought to tighten the restrictions that governed what ranchers could do to protect their livestock from mountain lions and black bears, and helped initiate a campaign to ban uranium mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. My involvement in that latter campaign included helping to put together some of the first demonstrations organized by Earth First!, one of the most radical of environmental groups. During this part of my environmental career I was designated one of the 100 top grass roots activists in the United States by the Sierra Club (in 1992).

More recently, I have been involved in putting together a collaborative, conflict resolution group involving ranchers and environmentalists that has been used as a model for other groups. I wrote a Pulitzer Prize-nominated book (Beyond the Rangeland Conflict, Toward a West That Works) about this experience and have been called on to give well over a hundred presentations about it around the West. Lately, I created an environmental organization named EcoResults! that secures grants to fund efforts by rural people to restore damaged lands and bring them back to environmental function. As part of my involvement in EcoResults! I’ve done my share of spreading seed and mulch, piling rocks in gullies, reading monitoring transects, and acting like a predator by herding animals.

My methods, in other words, have changed, but my values haven’t. I still value open country, wild land, wildlife, predators, and healthy ecosystems as much as I ever did, maybe more. Now, however, instead of trying to serve those values by demonstration, regulation, and litigation, I work with people who live on the land and ask it what it needs and respond when it answers.


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AAA Dagget Peaks“Dan Dagget is a ‘must-hear’ for anyone who cares about this magnificent land that we inhabit. Whether you are a rancher, environmentalist, farmer, gardener, nature lover, meat eater, or vegan, Dan’s message of sharing, healing and action is as good as public speaking gets.

Courtney White, Executive Director , The Quivira Coalition, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 In 24 years of keynotes at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Dan Dagget’s presentation at the 2008 Gathering was the best we’ve ever had.” 

Waddie Mitchell, cowboy poet and one of the founders of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.


When Dan Dagget moved west to Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1980, one of the first things he did was become involved as an environmental activist. Dagget worked with a variety of groups, some of which he originated, to designate wilderness, increase protection for mountain lions and black bears, and he helped initiate a campaign to ban uranium mining in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. His involvement in that latter campaign included helping to organize some of the first direct actions of Earth First!. In 1992 he was designated one of the 100 top grass roots activists in the United States by the Sierra Club.

Over time Dagget came to focus mainly on issues involving the rangelands of the West and the issue most relevant to them — livestock grazing. He wrote two books on the topic Beyond the Rangeland Conflict Toward a West That Works (which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) and Gardeners of Eden, Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature.

“Remaining just as concerned as I ever have been about the mountains, canyons, rivers, and wide open spaces that have been my home now for 34 years,” Dagget writes, “I have continued to keep track of the areas I made such a big deal about as a wilderness advocate and crusader for “healthy ecosystems.” As a result, I have something to report that may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.”

The surprise is, according to Dagget, the problems purportedly caused by grazing haven’t gone away even where grazing has. In fact, he says, they have become worse, so much worse that a significant portion of Western rangelands may be in worse condition today than they were when the campaign to protect them was at its hottest. What is different, however, is that the responsibility for the deteriorated condition of the western range has shifted — reversed, in fact. Now, says Dagget, it is protection and regulation and the advocates of those policies that are causing the most significant damage to the rangelands of the West.

Dagget supports this observation by presenting old photographs of rangeland while it was being grazed compared with re-photographs of those exact same locations after several (as many as 80) years of protection. In addition he compares some of the “bad” photographs that were used to make the case against grazing in the old “cattle-free” days with photographs of damage that has occurred while land has been protected. You’ll be surprised to see which damage is greater.

Today, Dagget works to create a conservative environmentalism intended to make all sides in environmental issues accountable based on the results, rather than the political correctness, of their actions.

Dan Dagget

Books and Presentations

Dan Dagget’s newest book — Gardeners of Eden, Rediscovering Our Importance To Nature has been called “the most important environmental manifesto since Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic,” It is available via the University of Nevada Press at 877- 682-6657 and or at

His first book, Beyond The Rangeland Conflict, Toward a West That Works was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and has been called one of the classics dealing with environmental issues of the American West.

A Partial List of Dan Dagget’s Presentations:

• 2015 North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition Winter Workshop
• 2014 Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting
• 2014 Nevada Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting
• 2014 Grazing and Gaia, Trappings of the American West, Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff
• 2012 Society for Range Management, Arizona Section Annual Conference, Tucson
• 2010 EquiKnox Lecture at Knox College Galesburg, Illinois
• 2010 Congress on Western Rangelands — concluding keynote
• 2009 Working Landscapes Seminars at several venues in Northern California
• 2008 Keynote at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada
• The 2006 Sun Valley Sustainability Conference — keynote
• The State of the Rocky Mountain West at Colorado College— keynote
• The First National Conference on Grazing Lands— keynote
• Bioneers — keynote and workshops
• Quivira Coalition Annual Conference — several times
• California Rangeland Conservation Association— keynote
• California Native Grasslands Coalition— keynote
• Society for Range Management, Arizona Section Annual Conference — keynote
• National Woolgrowers Association — keynote
• Sierra Nevada Deep Ecology Institute
• The Nature Conservancy
• Sierra Club
• The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
• The Arizona Cattle Growers
• The Garden Clubs of America
• People for the West
• Universities of Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Boise State, Colorado State. Chico State (CA), University of California, Berkeley, Cal Poly, Humboldt State, Northern Arizona University, Colorado College
• The Thatcher School at Ojai, California
• And many more.

Contact Dan Dagget via


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Climate Change, Witch Hunts, Zombies, and more…

Most likely you’ve suspected that the current flap over “climate change” isn’t the first time our society has been torn apart by a controversy over the weather and our alleged effect on it.

And, of course, you’re right.

But I’ll bet you didn’t know that one of the previous incarnations of this issue was one of the most infamous and shameful episodes in human history…

That’s right, the infamous “witch hunts,” that wracked Europe from 1430 to 1650 and even extended into the New World in Salem, in what is now Massachusetts, were, to a significant degree, about climate change. One of the main “crimes” for which a number of humans estimated from 60,000 to more than a million (mostly women but a significant number of men, also) were hanged, burned at the stake, and tortured by a variety of other means (mostly in Europe) was “global cooling.”

In a (London) Telegraph article dated February 7th, 2012, “Big Issue” columnist Brendan O’Neill wrote, “One of the key mad beliefs behind witch-hunting in Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries was the idea that these peculiar creatures had warped the weather, that they had caused “climate change.”

Christian Pfister, Director of Business, Social, and Environmental History at the University of Bern, Switzerland, added, in an interview quoted in the 22 June 2013 Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, “Today we estimate that from 1430 to 1650 in Europe 60,000 women were executed as witches, not only because of, but most often because of weather-sorcery.”

Historian Emily Oster, in Witchcraft, Weather and Economic Growth in Renaissance Europe, writes that, “The most active period of the witchcraft trials (in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe) coincides with a period of lower than average temperature known to climatologists as the ‘little ice age’.” “Witches” were targeted for blame, Oster argues, because… the culture at that time both allowed their persecution and “suggested that they could control the weather.”

So, are there any similarities between those ancient climate change witch-hunts and the ones we’re conducting today?

You bet!

The most obvious similarity is they both embody the assumption that the way to solve a problem is via blame and vilification. The 15th century version didn’t have Republicans or Tea Partiers to blame so they settled on witches. Today, we do have Republicans and Tea Partiers to blame not only for weather change, but also for racism, poverty, income and wealth inequality, endangered species, Radical Islam and their beheadings, overpopulation, the War on Women, Occupy Wall Street, etc., etc, etc…

How well is that working? About as well as it did the first time — in the 1500s. For confirmation check The War on Poverty and the War on Racism. As you check the War on Racism and encounter those photos of people standing in front of the burning buildings in Ferguson, think about how much those images resemble the paintings of people holding their torches and pitchforks backlit by burning (I don’t even want to say what) during those earlier witch hunts.

Has anyone suggested climate change “deniers” be burned at the stake? Well… recently, there has been a huge flap on the web about an article about “climate change”  “deniers” published in “The Guardian” that, according to Breitbart News, was illustrated with a photo of a severed head. The Guardian article, elicited a number of comments including one which was traced to another Guardian author and Greenpeace activist using the name “Bluecloud” that included numerous references to beheading so-called “deniers” including the subject of the article — UK House of Lords member Matt Ridley (who describes himself as a Climate Change “Lukewarmer).”

When I went to the Guardian website I didn’t find the severed head photo, nor could I find the comment from Bluecloud. Instead I found a photo of people costumed as “zombies” and a reference comparing debunking climate change myths to killing zombie and complaining about how tiring it becomes having to kill and re-kill myths that never stay dead.

Further web research revealed that the Guardian had removed Bluecloud’s comment as well as info revealing his identity.

In various other articles writers have suggested that: “Climate Change Deniers” be subjected to Nuremberg-style trials, that firemen let deniers’ houses burn down (because those who deny climate change are willing to let our planet burn up); That deniers be executed. (Strangling them in their beds is one suggested method.) A New York Times cartoon even suggested stabbing deniers in the heart with icicles as justice for the deniers” claiming that the severe winter of 2013-2014 (which formed plenty of icicles) served as proof Global Warming was a hoax: A 2010 climate campaign video even shows a teacher blowing up students who didn’t sign on to cut their carbon footprints.

On a milder note, Well-known environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr., in his article “Jailing Climate Deniers,” argues that corporations and think tanks, which do not enjoy free speech protections reserved for individuals, “should be given the death penalty” (charter revocation) if they “deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies.”

In a time when people being beheaded and burned alive has become de rigueur on the daily news, advocating beheading people or burning them at the stake, even if it is alleged to be “mere rhetoric,” makes me wonder where this is all headed.

This brings to mind another point of identity between those earlier witch-hunts and our contemporary versions — the fact that deniers attract the most venom from the blamers, more venom even than the alleged perpetrators of said crises. If your modus operandi is never waste a serious crisis (as it is for modern liberals — thanks, Rahm Emanuel), the last thing you want is for someone to debunk your crisis. During the 15th and 16 th century, confessing guilt as a witch and admitting that witchcraft was responsible for altering the weather could get you a reprieve and forgiveness.  Denying it could get you burned at the stake.

And we wonder why Republicans are so reluctant to mount an open opposition to these campaigns.

How can conservatives counter this…? Not very well, apparently. It isn’t the business of free market solutions to counter crises that are trumped up, imagined, or manufactured in order to provide a leg-up to political power. For example, the fact that no one can prove the Earth is actually warming aids Climate Changers more than deniers. If the Earth was truly getting warmer, oceans would be rising, cities would be flooding, crops would be failing, and, well, everyone knows that the best way to deal with any real problem is with capitalism, private enterprise, and the free market. If the globe actually were warming, quite likely most of us (including Climate Change Crusaders) would have to turn to a conservative, free market approach to actually solve the problems thus created, and the Crusaders would be put out of business, at least temporarily.

But not for long.

While free enterprise establishes its legitimacy by solving concrete problems, liberalism campaigns itself into positions of power by using problems that can’t be solved because they are trumped up, manufactured, or distorted to be immune to pre-emption by the free market and conservatives. Take the issue of race. Republicans are currently cast as villains in this issue and are even blamed for trying to recreate slavery in spite of the fact that a Republican (Lincoln) ended slavery in the U.S. and more Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Bill. Also, Republicans, rather than Democrats, are the most functional supporters of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. The free market judges people by what they do, what they are able to achieve, how hard they work, in other words, by the content of their character. These days that will get you classified as a racist.

Another example from the list of crises manipulated by liberals to serve as an excuse for a witch hunt is poverty. Democrats/liberals tell us that poverty and income inequality are created by capitalism and the producers within our economy, even though it is capitalism and free enterprise that has made us the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. The free market is thus ruled out as a source of solutions to poverty except to be parasitized and the wealth it creates confiscated and redistributed. If initiative and inventiveness are applied to solve the problem of poverty — to solve any problem — they must be applied in service to liberal prescriptions — renewable energy, wealth redistribution, reducing human impact. Otherwise they will be blamed for increasing human impact, climate change, causing the sky to fall.

In the meantime, blacks, poor and others who are willing to give up their right to realize the content of their character and rise to their full potential via their own initiative, creativity, and enterprise are indentured to the dole and required only to vote Democrat, raise a little hell, and conduct some witch hunts (to keep Republicans intimidated) to stay on the plantation.

The best way to counter climate change as far as I can see is to stop trying to debunk it with dueling thermometers and climate studies and reveal it for what it is, a Trojan Horse dressed up in a Chicken Little outfit and filled with an endless supply of witch hunters.

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What About Global Warming Drake

How much do cows and grazing really contribute to Global Warming? Some groups say they are the greatest contributors of all, creating even more carbon loading than all forms of transportation combined.

I like to find things out for myself, on the ground, so to speak. So, rather than read a bunch of studies in which I have little to no faith, I decided to try a technique which, as far as I know, no one else has tried.

I decided not to measure carbon dioxide. I didn’t have any real way to do that, and I didn’t want to go around counting, collecting and measuring cow farts, so I decided to measure warming itself.

To do that, I went to the local hardware store and bought a device which can read the temperature of a surface — the soil surface, for instance — from as much as two feet away. Having thus equipped myself I headed for some central Arizona rangeland.

First, I went with a group of agency people – U. S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, Arizona State Lands, etc.— to monitor transects on a well-managed ranch, a ranch on which I’ve studied, rode horses, taken photographs, and even done ecosystem restorations for a number of years.

Below is a photo of the group “reading” one of those monitoring transects. While the monitoring team identified plants, counted them, measured their density, and recorded data, I took my new thermometer and took several readings. Because the area was almost entirely covered by grass (native grasses, I might add.), I took the most of my readings on areas of that sort. The reading illustrated along with the photo below (78°) is fairly representative. All of my readings were in the low to mid 80s and high 70s.

What About Global Warming Bar Heart

Next, while the rest of the team headed off to another transect, I went to visit one of my favorite counter-examples to the idea that land is healthiest if and where we protect it from the impacts of humans, especially from livestock grazing. This area is the U. S. Forest Service Drake Study area located not too far from Prescott, Arizona. The Drake has been protected from all human use (except study) since 1946.  That’s a photo of the Drake Study Plot at the top of this post. So you don’t have to scroll back to the top, and for easy comparison, I’ll include another copy here:

What About Global Warming Drake

If you’ve spent much time on this blogsite, you’ve heard of the Drake before, and you’ve seen photographs of it. If that’s the case, you know what it looks like, and if not, well, here it is — bare as a parking lot. I know it surprises most of you to encounter a piece of land that is “protected” and, nevertheless, in this condition. It surprises virtually everyone I tell about it, but bare it is. Most people whom I tell about the Drake assume that it is bursting with growth when I tell them it has been protected from grazing for more than 65 years (68 and counting). I don’t intend to explain here why this is not the case, but if you want to know more about this apparent contradiction of environmentalist conventional wisdom just search the blogsite for “Drake,” and you’ll get the picture. Actually, you’ll get a lot of them.

Right here and now, I’m using the Drake purely to illustrate the fact that, in some cases at least, protecting the land contributes significantly more to planetary warming than grazing it (as much as 44° in this case). The high reading I got on the Drake was 122°.

I checked the temperature of several areas, both grassy and bare, that day and the temperature difference remained about what I’ve reported. I did find that green grass was a little cooler than grass that had completed its growth cycle and had begun to dry and turn yellow. This is significant because the majority of green grassy areas I found were on the well-managed ranchland.

What that all adds up to is areas that were grazed were consistently and significantly cooler than areas that were protected from grazing, as much as 44° (36%)cooler. What makes this even more significant is that the most effective way I know of turning bare and therefore hot areas into grassy and therefore cool areas is to use animals such as cattle to do so. I know this contradicts the conventional wisdom, which tells us that cattle make the land bare, therefore it has to be impossible for them to make it green and lush. For more on this check just about any (or all) of the other posts in this blog.

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DanDaggetShades2 In 1980  when I first moved to the West, to Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the first things I did was become involved as an environmentalist and join the Sierra Club and, shortly thereafter, Earth First!. I was excited about my new home, about the mountains, canyons, rivers, and wide open spaces, and wanted to keep those things as spectacular, healthy, open and free as possible.

At the time I arrived, one of the hottestenvironmental issues was grazing private livestock on public lands. Grazing livestock on land both public and private was claimed to be the most damaging activity humans had brought to the West. As one environmental group put it:

“The ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use.”

Livestock grazing was blamed for endangering species, destroying vegetation, damaging wildlife habitats, disrupting natural processes, and wreaking ecological havoc on riparian areas, rivers, deserts, grasslands and forests alike. What most caught my attention about this campaign against public lands grazing were the photos of denuded, eroded, cowturd-littered landscapes. Those photos served as one of the most effective tools for communicating the damage described above to those, like me, who were most likely to be concerned and recruited.

Here are a couple:

Hudak best 1

11. Public Lands Grazing Damage Entrenched sharp


To make a long story short, I got involved in the campaign to protect public lands, wrote a couple of books about the topic in regards to rangelands (actually about environmentalists and ranchers working together), and ended up enjoying a fairly rewarding speaking career about the matter.

Over time, the furor over public lands grazing has lost much of its intensity. Although grazing continues on public lands, it is highly regulated and significantly reduced. In fact, it has been totally removed from many areas where it had been standard operating procedure for more than a century. Also, Global Warming/Climate Change has replaced it (as well as a number of other issues) at the top of the eco-issues hit parade.

Living in Arizona, and remaining just as concerned about the mountains, canyons, rivers, and wide open spaces that have been my home now for 34 years, I have continued to keep track of the areas I made such a big deal about as a wilderness advocate and crusader for “healthy ecosystems.” As a result, I have something to report that may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

The surprise is, the problems purportedly caused by grazing haven’t gone away even where grazing has. In fact, they have become worse, so much worse that a significant portion of Western rangelands may be in worse shape today than they were when the campaign to protect them was at its hottest. What is different, however, is that the responsibility for the deteriorated condition of the western range has shifted — reversed, in fact. Now it is protection and regulation and the advocates of those policies that are wreaking havoc on our natural heritage.

This is something you have to see to understand — and to believe.

Having noticed the poor and deteriorating condition of the rangelands near my home in Sedona and on trips as far afield as Big Bend National Park in Texas and Jasper National Park in Canada, I started taking photographs to confirm my concern. First, I took photos of the most eye-catching (and mind-blowing) examples of degradation on lands that are now “protected” but were grazed in the past. That ignited my curiosity, and inspired me to start ferreting out old photographs of those exact same places while they were being grazed. These I located via local U.S. Forest Service offices, museums, books, and the internet. I even copied some from old movies (An old Elvis movie — “Stay Away Joe” was one of my sources).

One of the first “before and after” comparisons that caught my eye is illustrated by the following pair of photos from along a favorite hiking trail near Sedona. The first photo (courtesy of the Sedona Heritage Museum) was taken on 12/29/1957. Grazing was ended on this site shortly after this photo was taken. 1.Little Horse Park 1957 The next photo shows the exact same place in 2012 after 55 years of protection from grazing. The mountain on the upper right in the first photo (Courthouse Butte) doesn’t show above the trees in the second photo because the trees are bigger, and the point where I took the re-photo is lower than the original photo point, according to my rough calculations, due to 3 to 4 feet of soil erosion.

Little Horse Park 2013 Next, I located some old U. S. Forest Service photos of old rangeland monitoring sites used to evaluate the effects of management (in this case grazing) on Forest Service lands. Here’s an example — a photo taken in 1963, also near Sedona, of an area that had been grazed for more than 50 years. 3. Dry Creek Allotment C5T1.1963   In 1963 the grass was short (most likely it had recently been grazed), but you can see the plants were close together, the coverage was fairy complete, and there was little evidence of erosion.


I even located a photo of a 3 foot square frame by means of which the plants in a certain part of the transect were identified, recorded, and mapped to enable the USFS to accurately read and record any change that happened. Forty-nine years later (2012) I took a photo of that exact same site. I even relocated (and re-photoed) the frame. According to the best information I can find, grazing was removed from this area “before 1981,” so, at the time of the re-photo, the area had been protected for 30+ years.


6. JPG


Interestingly, a U. S Forest Service Range staffer, upon visiting this site with me in 2013, and comparing what she saw with the 1963 photographs said, “Well, The grass looks healthier now than it did back then, except where there isn’t any.” ”Where there isn’t any” is just about everywhere.

To shed a little more light on what is happening here, I included a photo of the land just to the left of the monitoring site. (That’s the same location stake.)

7. Left for Upload  To give an even bigger picture of what’s happening here I’ve included a photo from nearby on the same grazing allotment.

8. Big Erosion 1 upload

From the look of the exposed tree roots and freshly toppled trees it appears safe to say that erosion continues in this area in spite of the fact that it is being protected and has been for 30+ years. (I would also add it’s just as obvious that protection isn’t doing much to heal the area.)

Seeing devastation of this degree I couldn’t help but wonder: Were the effects of “overgrazing” anywhere near as bad as the effects of protection? To answer that question, I started searching the Web for those denuded, eroded, cowturd-littered images that were used to make the case against public lands grazing. I wanted to compare the effects of the activity whose “ecological costs exceed that of any other western land use” with the impacts of the remedy that was supposed to return the West to conditions the protectionists described as “pristine nature.”

This is where things really got surprising — the great majority of those “cows destroy the West” photos were mild, ho-hum, no big deal in comparison. Some even looked like positive impact photos. Here’s the collection of images that resulted from one of those Google searches. 

11. Public Lands Grazing Damage Upload11. Public Lands Grazing Damage

When that collection of photos showed up on my computer screen I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this what so outraged me and recruited me thirty years ago? Is this the best they’ve got? It must be, I concluded. These are the images that were published in books like Welfare Ranching, and Waste of the West, These are the photos that are on the websites of the groups still making the case to remove grazing from public lands. So, If environmental groups were so concerned about the effects of grazing on public lands in this photo, for instance:

12. Hudak 1

From Mike Hudak’s Photo Gallery of Ranching on Western Public Lands “This drainage in a heavily grazed field has eroded to a width of five feet.”

Why do we not hear a peep from them about the apparently much more damaging effects of protection on public lands in, for instance, this photo?

13. Looking up Through Roots Upload

This drainage, in an area that has been protected from grazing for more than 30 years, has eroded to a depth of more than ten feet.

Another comparison — same question: If environmental groups are concerned about the effects of grazing on public lands in this photo:

Entrenched sharp

From Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West — LIFEBLOOD OF THE WEST Riparian Zones, Biodiversity, and Degradation by Livestock, by J. Boone Kauffman, Ph.D “This stream in northern New Mexico has become “entrenched.” Over time, grazing and trampling of the soils and banks by livestock have caused the stream to widen and cut downward.”

What about this?

15. 2013Spring_WheatfieldExclosureUpload

Talk about entrenched!!! This is the Coconino National Forest White Hills Erosion Control Study Plot protected since 1935 (78 years and counting). (Photo courtesy of the Coconino National Forest)

What do these comparisons tell us? Well, one thing they seem to make clear is that, for those of us who are truly concerned about restoring and sustaining the ecological health of the rangelands of the American West, we’re spending our money and our energy in the wrong place. Instead of campaigning to protect the public lands of the West from grazing, we ought to be protecting them from, well, “protection,” which may qualify as the real “most damaging activity humans have brought to the West”

One thing that qualifies protection for this distinction is that the damage it causes is not only more severe, it is more permanent — more permanent because it is a one way street. Ask protectionist groups what they can or will do to heal the damage shown in the photo of me looking up through those protected tree roots or that fellow peering out from that huge eroded gully in the White Hills Study Plot, and the great majority of them will tell you, “Protect it longer.” One activist has told me, “It might take more than a lifetime.” The White Hills Study Plot has been protected for 78 years. That sounds like a lifetime to me.

I’ve written books and articles about ranchers who have healed damage greater than anything shown among the “grazing destroys the West” photos by using their management practices and their animals as the means to perform that healing. In fact, I’ve done some of those restorations myself.  Those restorations took days instead of lifetimes. In fact, I have some dynamite photos. See the photo sequence below.

1. Road Eraser, Before

Before (This would make a good “Cows destroy the West” photo. Watch the skyline these photos were taken in the same place (within a couple of feet).

1.2. Road Eraser, Cattle restoring

During We added seeds, hay for mulch and to attract the cattle, and then the cows did the planting, mulching, and tilling for us

1.3. Road Eraser Lush

The results! Not bad, eh?

To their credit a few environmental groups and collaborative associations are using those grazing-to-heal techniques today. I suspect that, in some cases, they’re even using them to heal the effects of protection. But to heal damage, you have to be able to see it, be aware that it is there, and you have to want to heal it.

Environmentalists have trouble seeing the damage they cause because they suffer from a type of blindness of which they have accused ranchers for as long as I’ve been involved in this issue. Environmentalists accuse ranchers of being blind to the damage they cause to the land because they (ranchers) consider what they do (raise food for people by using resources they believe God gave us just for that purpose) so valuable and so righteous that they refuse to see, just plain ignore, or consider irrelevant the damage it causes.

This phenomenon — being rendered blind to the damage you cause by your own feelings of righteousness — is a more accurate description of an affliction that plagues the green side of the aisle. When environmentalists say, “We all want to protect the environment,” they use the word “protect” in its vague general sense: “to protect from hurt, injury, overuse, or whatever may cause or inflict harm.” The idea that “protecting” in this sense could cause harm to anything doesn’t make any sense. How could saving something from harm cause it harm? If you peel away this blindfold of righteous semantics, however, as the photographs in this article have done, it becomes evident that the ecological impacts of “protection” may actually “exceed that of any other western land use” including grazing.

The implications of this are clear… If environmental groups and government agencies truly want to achieve their stated mission — to protect the environment from whatever may cause or inflict harm — they’ll have to open their eyes to the damage caused by what they call “protection.” And hold this environmentalist panacea as accountable as any other land management method.

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Profile written by Courtney White, originally published in Headwaters News.

Dagget’s book “Gardeners of Eden” urges humans abandon their hands-off preservation efforts and put Nature to work.

“When author Dan Dagget gave a talk recently at the annual Bioneers Conference, near San Francisco, he began by asking audience members if they had taken care of their environmental responsibilities that day. Had any of them gone hunting in a pack? Started a grass fire? Piled rocks in a gully? Chased any bison off a cliff?

“In response, some people jumped to their feet and walked out of the auditorium.

“This didn’t surprise the former Earth First! activist. Dagget has been causing people discomfort ever since the early 1970s when he fought strip mines in his native southeastern Ohio. Over the years, he has become something of a professional provocateur, tilting at sacred windmills right and left….”

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First published on American Thinker:


Most environmentalists I know consider themselves non-religious, even anti-religious. A few subscribe to “new” religious denominations such as Unitarianism, which I have heard described as “church for atheists with children.” None, as far as I know, would take kindly to being described as practitioners of fundamentalist, Bible-thumping, “ol’ time religion”.

The irony, here, is that contemporary environmentalism and fundamentalist religion have so much in common.

Take the most basic assumption of contemporary environmentalist doctrine. Individual environmentalists and environmental organizations, alike, hold that the one and only way to solve the problems they address is to “protect” the environment. Who they would protect it from, of course, is us, based on the further assumption that everything that goes wrong with the environment — desertification, species extinction, invasion by non-native plants, etc. — is the result of human misuse or overuse or just plain use of “nature” or the ecosystem, or whatever you choose to call our surroundings.

This assumption has become so all-encompassing that we now even blame ourselves for occurrences we used to call “natural” disasters.. Hurricanes are our fault (a result of Global Warming). Weather too hot — our fault. Too cold — ditto. There are even plenty of people who say earthquakes and tsunamis are our fault; also caused somehow by Climate Change.

Such a line of reasoning leads inevitably to the conclusion that the only way to solve any and all environmental problems is to somehow get us humans to use less, produce less, and reproduce less. So, at environmentalists’ behest our government creates such things as wilderness areas and nature preserves, on the theory that nature-left-alone will heal its human-caused wounds and help sustain at least a part of the planetary life-support system. In some countries, Canada, for instance, there are areas into which humans are forbidden to even set foot. More radical environmental groups, such as Earth First! (which I played a small part in helping to form) are pushing for similar measures in the U. S.

You’re not paying attention if you haven’t recognized this as simply a rerun of the biblical story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

This congruence of environmentalism and fundamentalism isn’t a coincidence. It can be traced to the fact that John Muir, “the spiritual father of the environmental movement” who founded the Sierra Club, the first environmental group, was a Calvinist. Calvinists, who first coined the word “fundamentalist” to describe themselves, held that the original sin for which humans were punished by expulsion from Eden, is a defining characteristic of what it means to be “human.”

As a good Calvinist/fundamentalist/environmentalist, Muir was a frothing misanthrope, referring to humans as “the Lord Man” and writing, “Man is always and everywhere a blight on the landscape.”

So, as modern day green fundamentalists engage in a ritual re-creation of the expulsion of “the Lord Man” from Eden, one could make the case that they are indulging in a religious exercise rather than applying a practical effort to solve environmental problems.

Using an approach derived from fundamentalist  religion to deal with real world problems (and there are plenty of environmental problems that are real and serious) has a huge downside. First, it dooms us to deal with practical problems with an approach that treats them as invariably a matter of good versus evil, of “us” (the righteous Earth Savers) against “them,” the heretics and devils (Global Warming Deniers, capitalists, one percenters, Republicans,…)

Because this makes those issues a matter of winning and of defeating devils rather than solving problems, we spend more time proselytizing, evangelizing, and battling in the arena of politics than we do learning to live sustainably within our surroundings. Evidence that this is the case is provided by the fact that environmentalists measure their success in terms that really have nothing to do with the ecological problems they supposedly set out to fix. Among those terms are:

• the number of converts (members, supporters, and devotees) groups are able to evangelize, and the amount of contributions they are thus able to attract

• the extent to which they are able to convince the rest of us to blame the villains, demons, devils, satans, they blame — capitalists, free enterprisers, private land managers, meat eaters, the 5 % of the world’s population who live in the U. S. and use 25% of the world’s resource, and…

• the extent to which they are able to inject their doctrines, prejudices, and policies into the rules by which our society operates.

Does this approach of using religious-style rituals, exorcisms, and crusades work to make the environment any better, healthier, more sustaining?

To true believers that question doesn’t even make sense.

Religious truth is a matter of faith. It can’t be falsified by experience or fact. Can you prove via experience, facts, or science that God didn’t make little green apples, that Buddha wasn’t truly enlightened, or that Islam isn’t the religion of peace?

In the same way, and for the same reasons, it is just as impossible to debunk the charge that we are the cause of global warming, climate change, species extinction, or whatever.

This is why using environmentalist dogma to guide the creation of legislation and regulation violates the separation of church and state. It is also why doing so can lead us to results that are just the opposite of what we intend. If environmental policies can’t be proved wrong by experience, facts, or science, there is no way to prove that they don’t work, even when their results are absolutely disastrous.

This fatal flaw isn’t limited to environmental policies, it extends throughout liberalism. The reason it is impossible to prove (at least to liberals) that wealth redistribution doesn’t solve the problem of poverty, no matter how much poverty rates increase under those policies, or that Obamacare doesn’t create the best health care system possible, no matter how much rates increase or how many people end up without insurance as a result of those policies, is because liberalism, as well as its offspring, environmentalism, is a matter of blind faith, not reason.


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DanDaggetShades2Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about liberalism I’ve learned from an unexpected source – nature. Some of the clearest and most instructive of those lessons have come from a U. S. Forest Service “study area” in the central Arizona high desert.

In 1946, the U. S. Forest Service erected a fence around a portion of an area exhausted by human overuse and misuse in this arid rangeland to demonstrate one of the core principles of modern liberal environmentalism — that the best way to restore damaged land to ecological health is to protect it from the impacts of humans. Today, the Drake Exclosure (The Drake) has been under the beneficent care of nature alone for more than 66 years, but…

Rather than the revived Eden one would expect to find after 66 years of environmental protection, much of the Drake, today, is as bare as a well-used parking lot. (photo: DrakeInside10/2012)

“Actually, it looks pretty much the same as it did back in 1946,” said a Forest Service scientist studying the area, “but the trees were smaller.”



Drake Transect


Studies show that 90% of the plant species that lived within its boundaries before it was protected no longer live there. In fact, much of the land supports no plants at all, and, judging from the lack of tracks and dung, not much wildlife either.

When I bring environmentalists here and ask them what they would do to remedy this apparent failure of one of their most basic principles, invariably, they say they would continue to protect the area even though that policy has failed for 66+ years.

Some even say that they would extend this failed policy beyond the Drake’s protective fence.

This is where things become even more revealing.

Outside the fence a local rancher has applied the basic conservative principle that

doing nothing is not always the best remedy for doing the wrong thing, and…

If something doesn’t work, do something else. Better yet, if something does work — emulate it.

This rancher manages his cattle as Nature manages her own grazers — in herds moving regularly in response to natural conditions and allowing the land to recover before they return. On the land managed in this way, Nature’s “Yes” is as obvious as the “No” she has made so clear inside the Drake. Outside the Drake’s protective fence, on the land grazed by the conservative rancher’s cattle, a healthy stand of native grasses has repopulated the land; the plant species that have ceased to exist within the Drake can still be found; and there is plenty of evidence of wildlife as well as livestock.



Monitoring success of the conservative approach


Environmentalists react to this unexpected anomaly in a way that is revealing precisely because it isn’t surprising. First, the fact that the “protected” land inside the exclosure is essentially morbid and desertified, doesn’t shake their faith in their prescription for a second. In fact, they don’t really seem to care about the condition of the land inside or outside the exclosure

What they do seem to care about is that this inconvenient failure might put their liberal prescription — that we ought to protect as much of nature as possible — in jeopardy.

The Drake shows in the most concrete terms I have experienced that liberals really do believe that applying a liberal policy is the one and only way to solve a problem, any problem. According to liberal doctrine, the Drake, as barren as it is, is healed because it is protected. There’s no reason to do anything else. There is nothing else liberals are able or willing to do. In fact, there is nothing else they can do without contradicting their dogma.

Even when the results of that policy are so far off the mark that there is no doubt it is a failure, as in the case of the Drake, our national debt, the War on Poverty… liberals will continue to apply that policy, even try to expand it, until someone stops them, because that’s what liberals do — they apply policies that embody a doctrine and increase their own power. Problems, for them, are nothing more than opportunities to apply this political ratchet.

Conservatives contend that liberalism has never worked anywhere it has been tried, but if you accept liberal dogma as I’ve stated it, as liberals believe it, liberalism can’t fail. It always works, by definition. If it happens to get the wrong results, that’s someone else’s fault, somebody else (George W. Bush) screwed it up.

That is why, if you tell a liberal that what he or she is doing doesn’t work, you are treated as if you have uttered an absurdity, as if what you have said reveals you are so uninformed you don’t deserve a reply.

It is also why liberalism fails as often as it does -— because it is flying blind. It is unable and unwilling, to monitor and correct itself because doing the “right thing” according to liberal doctrine, always gets the “right” results — whatever they are.

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