The Dilemma of Simplification: Bears Ears and CNN

The Dilemma of Simplification: Bears Ears and CNN

A long time ago, in the context of Colorado Roadless, I raised the question of whether some natural resource/public lands issues are simply too complex for the news media to tell the story. When that happens (“it’s too complex”), it seems like the natural reaction is to find a simpler story.. usually good guy vs. bad guys. If we believe these stories, though, and trust “the media”, we naturally end up thinking that there are a lot of “bad” people out there, (including people in the industries that keep our buildings heated and cooled, and provide the electrons that power the internet) and get more worried/despairing/angry about the state of the world today.

Kevin Franck sent this by Jim Stiles in the Canyon Country Zephyr.

More than three years have passed since the idea of a “Bears Ears National Monument” was first introduced to the general public. One of the most far-reaching and expensive coast-to-coast marketing campaigns ever promoted by the powerful outdoor industry and their allies in the mainstream environmental community clearly contributed to the decision by President Obama to create the monument in the last days of his administration. Obama’s interior secretary, Sally Jewell, had previously served as CEO of REI, Inc, one of the largest outdoor retailers in the world.

(Jewell’s predecessor, Ken Salazar, promised Utahns in 2011 that monument designation was not being considered by the Obama administration.)

Those two forces came together to sell an agenda to the American Public and the mainstream media, from the national level to the local, often became a willing mouthpiece for that agenda. It became an un-debated, unchallenged “fact” that only monument status could save the area from rampant and imminent destruction from the energy industry and archaeological looters.

I don’t claim to be knowledgeable on many issues, and I try to limit my participation to stories that I know enough to comment on. But I have lived in southeast Utah for more than 40 years, I have been intimately connected to the vast wild country in San Juan County and to the two buttes known as “the Bears Ears” for even longer. I was once a strong proponent of the environmental lobby in Utah and many years ago even served on the board of directors of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. But in the past 20 years, environmentalists have forged alliances with the outdoor industry and turned a blind eye to the impacts their partnerships were creating.

In 2018, misinformation about southeast Utah, the monument and the people has been a particular source of frustration. In an effort to set the record straight, this publication has written and posted more than 50,000 words on the subject of Bears Ears National Monument. It’s been a Quixotic effort— not once has a major media source been able to contradict a single word, but the truth is, they won’t even try.

I think the whole piece is worth reading because it shows how difficult it would be (even in an 8 minute video segment) to even describe some of the complexity of the issue. I also wonder whether the same people who think it’s a bad idea for a former uranium/coal/oil and gas lobbyist to head the EPA, think that it was fine for a CEO of a regulated industry (recreation) to serve at the helm of Interior.


via A New Century of Forest Planning

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