Working the Range: Essays on the History of Western Land Management and the Environment

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

IV
ENVIRONMENT AND LAND MANAGEMENT

"I find the longer we live in these valleys that the range is
becoming more and more destitute of grass; . . . where grass
once grew luxuriantly there is now nothing but the desert
weed. . . . There is not profit in this, neither is it pleasing in the
sight of God."

Orson Hyde, Mormon apostle addressing
the General Conference of Saints,
Salt Lake City,
Utah Territory, 1865

For an agriculturalist the land is a majestic gift, a special resource that gives of itself bountifully. It is to be cherished, nourished, and worshiped. And yet the land has not always been carefully respected. The farmer and the rancher have a reasonable record of regarding the environment, but if they have erred it is on the side of mistaken management and supplication of the environment.

Orson Hyde, for one, recognized the twin responsibilities of the agriculturalist with reference to the land. Environmentally the farmer and the rancher seek a balance. The land must be renewed, and it must be agriculturally productive. To discover the middle ground was often a complicated and difficult task, sometimes resulting in environmental disaster.

Spring 1983 and 1984 were nightmares for many Utahans. Their beautiful mountains turned into cascades of dangerous flooding streams and mud slides. Scores of highways, homes, farms, and

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