Unit 7: “The Devil is in the Details’

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In this  essay, Christopher Solomon discusses a Utah Congressman, who has emerged as the unlikely architect of a grand compromise, one that would involve massive horse trading to preserve millions of acres of wilderness while opening millions more to resource extraction. Is this a trick, or the best way to solve ancient disputes that too often go nowhere? How can we compromise without sacrificing the very thing we're trying to save?

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18 thoughts on “Unit 7: “The Devil is in the Details’

  1. James W.

    It is hard to say that the federal government is better equipped to manage lands from the other side of the country, than the people that live in the area. There is no one better invested in the lands of a state, than the people that live there. As much as those residents might love the land, they are still working men and women who have a family and household to look after. They will protect the most special places in their region from development, but piece by piece, the land owners will sell to corporations looking to utilize the land. It has been that way all across the country. It is unfortunate that these undeveloped wild lands also are so rich in natural resources.
    As much as I like to see the power held at the lowest level possible. For the long term protection of the last wild places in the nation, I believe that a slightly disconnected higher power might be the best option. Having a federal organization set in place to defend these wild places, with a view to protect them for a dozen generations or more, unwilling to make deals. Cooperating and making concessions to the energy industry is a slippery slope in a game of tug of war. It sounds good to give up some lands to protect others. In time they will be back, asking for more land to industrialize. They may have to wait until a new generation of politicians in local government have taken charge, but eventually they will start the same arguments over again, looking for more land. As Solomon says in his paper, “Politically they can’t play that role in these small towns.” Leaders will slowly cave to the pressure from their people, to give more land to energy development, bringing in more money and making it a little easier for them to make ends meet.
    This is why we need a federal agency overseeing the protection of these wild undeveloped areas. It may sound harsh, but the lively hoods of one generation of people in the area is nothing compared to the protection of wild places for the next 100. As the nation grows, these places become more and more scarce, and once lost can never be regained. In my mind, there is not even an argument between protecting these areas from ever being developed, and an energy company arguing the quantity and ease of resources could be extracted.

  2. Isabella Darrah

    It goes without saying that the local residents of a given state are generally well suited to give input into managing that state. They know the good, bad and ugly & what their state needs the most. That said, an individual who works for the government and has seen many states’ management can also provide invaluable insight, as they know what to look for, what to expect etc. Of course, to some this can often come across as some outsider sticking their nose in the state’s business. It’s important to trust the process and understand that there are many moving pieces and different ways to look at everything.

  3. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

    As populations grow and economies drop it’s important to develop natural resources to boost the economy and provide for the growth of the populace. One day, this planet will not have any actual wild places left to protect and that is unfortunate. Until that time, however, it is important to protect the wild places that we have left and preserve them for future generations. A large problem to this protection is the collaborations like the one in Utah (pg 175). In these collaborations there are only heavily biased and self-interested groups participating. While it is not impossible to come to some agreement, it is highly unlikely as each group goes in willing to give up the smallest and least important resource expecting their overwhelmingly large resource to be completely spared. “[San Juan County] called for 945,000 acres of protection,” is a great example of this lack, or refusal, of compromise (pg 180).

    A neutral and non-biased party needs to be the one facilitating such an endeavor. Congressman Christopher Solomon seems to understand this need which is why he initiated the so-called Grand Compromise. Unfortunately it wasn’t going as smoothly as hoped but even he admitted that it wouldn’t be an easy road to find a proper distribution of land. It is important to note that there is someone in the federal government listening to his constituents on an important matter before he submits the proposed action into law, which is a rarity these days.

    I would like to believe that we are heading to a more renewable energy centric society and that, as we continue, these types of difficult challenges will become fewer and fewer. They’ll never quite go away as solar farms, wind turbines, and any energy plant, really, take up large amounts of space. The real hope is that these sources can enhance the beauty of an area, be less intrusive and more efficient so that it would require less space. An example of this are solar towers; they take up less space than solar farms leaving larger amounts of land untouched. Similar innovations can help preserve our wild lands longer and remove these difficult decisions. If we keep compromising we will be left only with what we personally own in our front and back yards, which is no wilderness.

    1. Chelsea Barnett

      I agree with you that it is important to protect wilderness areas while we still have them and that compromise is so much harder when groups involved are self-interest groups or groups that have money to gain from the compromise leaning their way. This topic is so hard to make a compromise on because so many people are affected either positively or negatively by the decision made that finding unbiased participants is very difficult.

    2. Scott Chaddon Jr

      You bring up a number of good points, and when it comes to our energy plants taking up space in natural areas, I’d like to think that we are trying to minimize that effect as much as possible. Think of any sci-fi idealized world with peaceful advanced civilizations. Their tech takes up limited space, leaving room for plants and trees to grow in abundance, limiting their influence on their environments while still allowing their civilizations to grow and develop. I feel that this will be our end goal, and it is important to preserve as many of our natural wonders as possible so that we can try and reach this point with them intact.
      It would be a shame if earth became a planet-spanning city.

  4. Chelsea Barnett

    “The goal is to strike a balance between the needs of nature and the ever-greater demands of people” (pg. 174)
    I think that this quote of the essay stood out to me so much because it really simplified the struggle that is happening over lands. This quote made me think that the answer to this problem is so simple, protect nature, but the issue is so much more complicated than that. This quote reminded me that in this issue, agreements that are made are not permanent and that is agreements are just made to satisfy the demands of people, that the needs of nature will continually be pushed back and not met.

    The compromises that were made are not long-term as people will continue to push for more land that can be used for resource extraction after all of the resources are dried up in the areas originally designated for resource extraction. It is terrible to view resource allocation as currency, as it is mentioned by Bishop, as this comparison cheapens nature and misinterprets the control that we may have over nature. This compromise is putting nature at risk and is not sustainable and human wants are growing.

    It is difficult to find a way to create compromises in situations like this because nature ends up being traded like currency and is not appreciated or valued as it should be. Sustainable compromise should start with people looking at themselves and look at what they are asking of nature. Selfish desires stand in the way of creating a future in which nature is protected in a way that also allows for people to benefit from it.

    1. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

      It’s true that nature is often not given the value that it probably should, but remember that humans have been using nature as currency for thousands of years. This country alone made people who didn’t own land tertiary citizens if they didn’t own any land. You couldn’t be of any nobility or have a voice in Europe if you didn’t have any land, and even then your voice became louder with more land under your purview. People have bought and sold land since Humarabi and maybe before then. So while I agree that the land isn’t being valued very well or treated fairly, I think that it is likely the best way to resolve the conflict if only because it would take self-interest fanatics’ greed out of the equation.

      1. Moira O'Bryant

        Ryan, I like how you pointed out the historical use of land as currency. Being aware of that fact facilitates a shift in perspective. But I struggle with that concept with regard to protected land. The value of land (as currency) has gone down and the purpose and use of the land has changed. Unless you’re using the land for profit, what do you gain from having it? What do the people who want to “protect it”, who live far outside the area, gain? Other than satisfaction of knowing they saved a few trees?

  5. Moira O'Bryant

    “The goal is to strike a balance between the needs of nature and the ever-greater demands of people” (pg. 174)
    Another student mentioned this excerpt from the book. In my own reading, it was a highlighted phrase. It perfectly captures the dilemma at hand. Unfortunately, everyone involved is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    I think that the group best equipped to handle the land and make decisions for its use are the people that live there. Local residents are likely to have a deeper appreciation for the land, its history, and what it represents. They will also feel the direct impact of changes more strongly than anyone else. There are resources that people need to survive and for a community to flourish. The people living there are most qualified to to determine what those needs are. If the protected land can provide for them, and if they feel that the sacrifice worth-while, than can it truly be considered a “sacrifice”?

    1. Kimberly Ulery

      I agree that the group best equipped to handle the land are the people that live there. Everything you said regarding it, is exactly true. If the land they’re protecting is able to provide for them in the ways they need, then it is not a sacrifice.

    2. Justin Baugh

      Yes, the people of the area are the best fit to decide what happens with the land, but are the people of the area all want the same thing? or are they all going to want what is best for themselves. In many cases across history and even today, it can be seen that the majority of the human population is naturally selfish and that can be seen at many local council meeting across the country.

  6. Scott Chaddon Jr

    Everyone was destined to be unhappy with aspects of the draft, Lynn Jackson, a Grand County commissioner, tells me, adding, “This is what compromise looks like” (p.184)

    I feel that this is the best way to work these kinds of problems out. If left alone, stalemate issues like these will just keep on causing trouble and cause unnecessary conflict between different groups. These lands were being left in a state of turmoil in the case of classification. Who did it belong to? Why can’t we use the resources? Is it protected or not? These are important questions that need to be answered for the groups involved.
    The grand compromise allows these questions to be settled. Will this make it all permanent? More than likely it will not, but it does give a basic foundation to work from. It allows for groups to make smaller changes to smaller pieces of land. These should be easier to debate over and easier to settle for all groups involved. This is simply a start. This gives each group a solid foothold, organizing what could previously be considered the business equivalent of a bar brawl, giving each group the chance for focus and precision in their future dealings. It is far easier to debate and deal with a single opponent rather than multiple.
    There certainly is the danger that one or more groups will lose out in the long run to others (this is the fear of the conservationists), but there are also some groups that have limited need for the lands. On top of this, some uses that companies (like oil) have for the land is tied to public demand. In the case of oil, said demand has the potential to decline with increased use of alternative energies, meaning that any successes of theirs in this deal will be temporary. In contrast, the successes of the conservationists would be far more permanent.
    The main point to remember is that when the deal is struck, no one is going to be happy. No one will get everything that they want, but everyone will get something that they do. That is the whole definition of compromise. Everyone gives up something so that everyone can get at least a little of what they want. Everything in the world requires an exchange, be it energy, funding, life, or land. A compromise like this attempts to get everyone to make an equivalent exchange so that at least a portion of everyone’s interests are protected. They may not get everything they want, but they are guaranteed to get something.

  7. Kimberly Ulery

    Compromise is present in almost every battle. The preservation of nearly a million acres of land is a hard-fought battle, as there is always a great use for such land in a money-making perspective to the government, as well as to people all around. As Solomon says, “Compromise has long been a central part of wilderness politics, of course.” (Page 176) Collaboration to make a decision that everybody is happy with; almost never occurs. The government will continue to keep fighting for the land that they want, in order to do what they want with it. One way to stop this constant battle is to come up with a compromise, which is exactly what Bishop came up with. Is he giving up part of what he’s trying to save? Yes, in a way. Is he saving what he is trying to save as well though? Yes. So it goes to show, it may not be the exact thing that they want, but it will prevent their lands from being taken from them in the future as well as the preservation of these lands.

    1. Christian Williams

      Yeah, compromise isn’t always getting what you personally want, but pursuing the end game, like in this instance protecting the land. It definitely shows that you have to know where to sacrifice things to protect what you want to protect.

    2. Ruby

      I agree, compromise can help in a situation like this. Give a little, get a little. I wonder though, how many more times he will have to compromise. Every time he is to give a bit more he would actually be losing a whole lot more until eventually no one will have anything left and they will move on to a new location for resource extraction. Where does one draw the line? Compromise can be a risky business. Especially when it comes to nature, something you do not want to gamble away.

  8. Justin Baugh

    “The goal is to strike a balance between the needs of nature and the ever-greater demands of people” (p. 174) It is very hard for people to decide where land that has a deep connection with the native people who have grown up there and the United States that purchased it. With that being said the ever-expanding cities that are present in the Lower 48 may need to expand into these lands one day and there would be no choice to tell the people that they need to move and take up the other 3/4 of the county and possible into the 1/4 that is reservation land. “I would submit that these deals have always been complex.”(p.177) This is a true testament that explains the situation of land use and how the United States Government cannot redo what they have already have done

  9. Christian Williams

    Balance is tough to find, especially with so many things on the scale like this issue has. One has to weigh the past, present, and future of the area and that is hard. Obviously, the native peoples have deep ties to any land that they inhabited before western expansion and so what is the best course in helping them? Or, have enough reparations already been paid? There are many sides to each argument and each time periods value adds a layer onto each side, but I think that the congressman has the right idea. Fixing it from the federal level is wrong and should be given up to the state to fix. The state and its people live where the issues are closest and know first-hand what might be the best method for compromise and I think often times, people have stronger ties to the history and their state than the federal government does. So, how can we compromise without sacrifice I think first is impossible. Compromise involves sacrifice on both sides, but we can definitely weather any sacrifice as long as we know to protect and put first. The land is obviously important so whatever compromise is made should put it first so it is around for generations to enjoy. The sacrifices can come elsewhere.

  10. Ruby

    This essay was very thought-provoking. It struck close to home in the sense that it reminded me of the Donlin Gold issue that is in hot debate in Alaska right now. Especially in my region of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The question, how could we compromise without sacrificing the very thing we’re trying to save lingers around that matter as well.
    I don’t think there is an easy answer to that. Obviously if we’re compromising something we have to make a sacrifice, that’s what a compromise is. . . you give a little, you get a little and you kind of hope for the best. The issue with sacrificing natural resources and landmarks in nature is that there is no guarantee what the damage will do. People usually look at a limited scope of detrimental prospects when it comes to resource extraction. In the case of Alaska’s Donlin Gold project, many people see loss of salmon as the only problem but if you look at the bigger picture the lowered numbers in salmon population from mine development can affect the other animals in the food chain that rely on fish, causing them to look elsewhere perhaps making them look elsewhere subsiding on smaller animals or encroaching closer to the human population and we’ll in turn lower their numbers in retaliation causing an increase in the smaller animals that eat the berries and lessening our pick for our winter stock. Not even mentioning the lasting affects of pollution. Its all a domino effect. Page 174 says, ““The goal is to strike a balance between the needs of nature and the ever-greater demands of people.” but are these really the demands of the people or the demands of the people with the deep pockets? A compromise does not strike balance, nature naturally has it’s own balance and to compromise that we compromise our own future. We might give up a piece of our lands now for resource extraction but what happens when it has been fully extracted? They move on, they will need more land. We compromise and give them a little more, bit by bit until we have nothing left and their pockets are heavier but by that point everyone loses because we do not need oil, or coal, or gold. Its all materialistic that we put a value on ourselves and most have substitutions that protect can help protect the environment. . . what we need is fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, and the natural balance that could be found around us.

    Who do we decide to make these choices? Its even harder to say. If you provide that power to a section of the executive branch then money hungry corrupt leaders have control over much more than they should. If you were to provide that power to the people of the land then desperate citizens will look to make compromises with legislature or corporations, land for money. The real compromise should be in the power plays rather than the land because there should not be a price on nature and until we can find a way to value what we have without charging for it we might very well end up losing it.

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