(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – I have a friend in Elko who many of our readers also know.
His name is Grant Gerber and, in addition to being an extraordinarily skilled lawyer, he is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to East-coast yuppies telling us Nevadans how to live.
About 92% of this state is controlled by the Federal Departments of the Interior and Agriculture in the form of the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, and they rule the Western United States with a heavy and relatively incompetent hand.
There are some activists who want to go after them with a brute force approach.
An example of that would be the late Nye County Commission Chairman Dick Carver, who opened a road the Feds had closed with a dozer. He ended up scattering several gun-toting agents who, it turns out, didn’t believe in the Federal Government’s cause nearly enough to get run over by a Cat D-8.
It earned him the cover of Time Magazine and the lifetime enmity of the Feds.
Gerber is far more subtle.
He took the Federal Government’s cartoonish actions and reduced them to, well, a cartoon character named Smoked Bear.
Perhaps you’ve heard Mr. Bear in radio announcements that have been running on Nevada radio stations during the past two years.
You see, Gerber found the weak underbelly of the yuppie land-use policies in the statistics regarding Western United States wildfires.
It seems that if you don’t put cattle and sheep out to graze on public lands, you get less cow plop for Pennsylvania Yuppies to step in when they make their lifetime pilgrimage out here to see the Wild West.
But you also get a lot of extra fuel for all of those forest fires, which another bear once told us that only we can prevent.
The numbers go like this:
Before 1980, there were less than 25,000 acres burned in Nevada wildfires each year. Now over 600,000 acres are burning in Nevada wildfires each year.
Before 1980, those unsightly cattle and sheep grazed public lands almost at will, dropping plop on the land and sending some methane into the air.
That, somehow, upset yuppies from all over who fancied themselves “environmentalists”─as if cow plop was bad for the environment.
People, such as then Muskogee, Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar, decided that somehow people who want to backpack into National Forests and on BLM land were more important than the folks who grazed cattle and sheep. So he started crowing about how much all of this grazing and resultant cow plop was costing the taxpayers.
Talk about Cow Plop.
It happened that I owned a bunch of radio stations in Synar’s district at the time and causes like this were his excuse to let his staff deal with the VA Hospital in Muskogee and let him travel the West at our expense. We removed him from Congress in 1994 and, unfortunately, he died in 1996.
He never had a chance to see what the law of unintended consequences had wrought.
I’m sure Mike—who was a friend even though he was a political foe—never intended that his little jihad against Western ranchers would help result in an annual burn of 600,000 or so acres in Nevada and the deaths of literally millions of wild animals who inhabit those lands.
Not to mention the millions of dollars the taxpayers spend each year fighting those fires.
He might even have changed his mind.
Unfortunately, the East coast yuppie mind-set is so entrenched in places like the Forest Service that they will have to be embarrassed into change.
That’s where Gerber and his Smoked Bear character come in.
Smoked Bear is a nice, warm, talking bear with feelings and a point of view.
Like his brother Smokey T. (Don’t tell the forest Service I’m using Smokey’s middle initial. They get very upset.), he doesn’t wish to be burned up in a forest fire.
But his approach is more pragmatic.
If a human Yuppie backpacker leaves a still warm campfire, it’s true that a forest fire could result.
But if the cattle and sheep have grazed off most of the fuel—as the pre-1980 numbers show—it won’t burn very much.
There’s room for both Bear brothers and their respective philosophies.
But Smoked (That’s Mr. Bear to young folks) has a philosophy that is far more pragmatic and will result in a far quicker solution to reducing the annual burn.
If that results in a few red-faced Federal employees, well, I can live with that.
So can Mr. Gerber.