Public lands managed by the federal government loom large in western politics, a defining topic dictating the political debate. Corporate interests – logging, grazing, and mineral extraction most prominently – have often succeeded in dominating that debate through their good-old-boy network of legislators, county commissioners, lobby groups, and captive agencies. This powerful group largely controls the imaginary “custom and culture” of the West, a myth which reflects an attitude of dominion over nature, an anti-regulation mindset, and an obsession with economic profit regardless of social or ecological consequences. But in reality, westerners in large numbers don’t actually share these values. With the influx of tech companies and professional workers from other regions, this extraction-centric worldview is becoming a tinier and tinier minority viewpoint in a West that increasingly prizes unspoiled scenery, abundant wildlife, and recreational values above extractive uses of public lands.
As they sense their deathgrip on the public debate slipping, those seeking to maximize exploitation and marginalize conservation on western public lands are becoming increasingly strident in their insistence on a variety of fictional assertions about the West. Here is a list of some of the most outrageous misinformation being peddled through the media and via political channels.
1) Industrial oil and gas drilling is compatible with healthy wildlife populations
Big Oil has been trying for decades to sell America on the idea that it is not a dirty industry, and that whatever its latest environmental disaster happened to be, it was a rare occurrence that will never happen again. Drilling rigs, pipelines, and the spiderweb of dusty access roads can exist side-by-side with abundant native wildlife, they assert.
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