The descriptive term little brown towns (lbt) always comes to mind as I travel the endless miles around much of the Western landscape. The wind, water, soils and geology have allowed settlement by only the hardiest and those who could see the potential that hard work, risk taking and perseverance could produce.
The drastic changes in both our economy and more importantly in the political makeup of the decision makers in Washington, D. C. leave the little brown towns scattered across the Western landscape at serious risk.
They are at risk for having significant pieces of legislation passed and regulations modified which are driven by the emotions and appetite for control long held in reasonable check by the political composition of the U. S. House and U. S. Senate. This buffer of reason was lost in the last election cycle. We must not, we cannot take recent elections in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey for granted.
Changes afoot to the Clean Water Act, new proposals for Wilderness legislation, expansion of wild horse and burro areas, pending listing of the Sage-grouse as an endangered species across 11 western states, designation of special management areas (SMA) which easily marginalize and restrict multiple use on both U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, are just a few of the threats that dot the legal landscape we are now facing.
Beginning immediately, these next years will require all of the inner strength and enduring spirit of the citizens who populate these small but strong little brown towns.
It will be up to us to ensure that our voice, values, economies and cultures are not silenced, replaced, destroyed and abused. We can do this.
It will require that every age group be involved in different ways. Those who are in their middle years and are now benefiting from the wisdom and confidence that the years of involvement bring will need to lead this defense. Civic retirement is not an option.
This age group will need to lead by example, BUT as importantly they will need to create ways for the younger and older segments of our lbt populations to help with this defense.
The defense of our little brown towns will come from our willingness to not make excuses to remain silent and apathetic. Our defense will come from paying close attention to the ‘heads up’ articles we read, and then digging deeper for more information. Our defense will come from not reading these articles and then assuming that someone somewhere will take care of that pending problem. Each of us is that someone who can contribute cumulatively to the defense of our little brown towns.
Our defense will come in part from bringing issues to our county commissioners and conservation district supervisors. These are legal avenues, available to everyone, which allow your voice to be heard. This proactive approach can be done one-on-one or by asking to be on the agenda of their meetings which are frequently covered by the press. The media coverage can help expand and deepen the public’s awareness of what’s happening.
Our defense will come from using your telephone, pen or computer to connect with your industry associations, your congressional delegation, your radio stations to discuss the pros and cons of pending changes. If we want to create an effective collective voice which can be heard beyond the kitchen table or coffee shop it begins with each of us.
Time and space do not allow for a complete list of the multitude of other ways that citizens can enhance the voice of our little brown towns. Those can be covered in subsequent articles.
Right now, it is far more important to plant the seed of sharp awareness that all of the wonderful things which comprise our lbt are at risk, and that it is in our civic hands and inner spirits to stand and defend them with pride and reasoned discourse.
Kathleen Jachowski is a free lance writer and public speaker on natural resources and cultural issues. She is Ex. Director of Guardians of the Range. Opinions expressed are her own. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org