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America Is Paying A Steep Price For Cheap Food

George Wuerthner has been called a brilliant provocateur who knows how to get under the skin of Western ranchers. With this essay, one that is certain to incite a strong reaction from readers, he examines the costs of America's cheap food policy on both the U.S. Treasury and the environment. Wuerthner writes: "Agriculture is the most destructive land use in America." As an activist, trained biologist, photographer and environmental writer, he has become a prominent figure in the campaign to eliminate livestock from public lands. The author of several dozen books, Wuerthner also has written prolifically about forest ecology, wildfire, the impacts of ATVs and, of course, the effects of non-native cattle and sheep on native species. His coffee-table picture book,Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, set off a firestorm of debate over the impacts of livestock and the multiple ways that beef production is subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. His most recent book is Wild Fire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. With this first piece, NewWest.Net is debuting a regular column from Mr. Wuerthner that will run twice a month on all things nature-related and anything that suits his fancy.

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Bozeman Leader Responds To His Town’s Impugned Honor

It definitely touched a raw nerve. When Stephen Matlow, editor of the Livingston Enterprise newspaper, wrote an editorial recently calling high and mighty Bozeman, Montana "butt ugly", a town rapidly losing its community soul, many citizens residing in Matlow's intended target reacted with the outrage of defensiveness. Current Bozeman City Commissioner Steve Kirchhoff, a former mayor and home-grown community leader who was once a school teacher in urban Chicago but in the 1990s with his physician wife decided to return to his native town to raise their family, took Matlow's semi-satirical observations to heart. And Kirchhoff's own assessment may surprise you. Like former Missoula Mayor Dan Kemmis [now director of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West], Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and others, Kirchhoff believes that what defines the modern West is not just the innovative approaches being employed to make money or selling real estate -- an improvement over the boom and bust days of frontier gold rushes -- but its capacity to see community as something more than economic, social and religious homogeneity. For Kirchhoff, it's the stuff that doesn't appear on ledger books that matters just as much as what's visible in statistics to bean counters. —Todd Wilkinson

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