Ag groups scold Idaho’s Sun Valley for Western Watersheds award
“It is our intention now to encourage everyone involved in agriculture, recreation, power development, logging, mining, and such to not spend another dollar in the Wood River Valley,” wrote Idaho agriculture groups to the Sun Valley Chambers of Commerce in response to the chambers awarding Western Watersheds Project (WWP) the title of “Environmental Group of the Year.”
The award given to WWP is a part of the Wood River Valley Community awards, which exist to honor community members for their work in improving the valley’s quality of life. In a press release announcing the award recipients, the chambers stated that Jon Marvel and WWP have worked “to restore riparian habitat on public lands severely damaged by livestock grazing.”
“We take serious exception to that statement,” wrote the organizations, which include Western Legacy Alliance, Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Water Users Association, Idaho Recreation Council, Idaho Wool Growers, New Mexico Stockgrowers and the National Public Lands Council.
The chambers also said, “WWP has transformed the way the State of Idaho handles its land leases- requiring the state to have free market auctions that give conservation groups equal opportunity to bid against public lands ranchers.”
“Over the last 15-plus years, WWP has made it their sole mission to rid the public lands of livestock and the ranchers that own them, thus, seriously undercutting the multiple use concepts that public lands are based on. In Mr. Marvel’s own words as a U-Haul trailer drove by a range tour, ‘I hope that is another broke rancher leaving the Valley.’ At another time, in explaining his vitriolic hatred of ranchers, Mr. Marvel infamously likened himself to the Army in the 18th century handing the Native Americans blankets that they knew to be infected with Small Pox,” the groups explained to the chambers, asking, “Is this the type of individual or organization that the Wood River Valley chambers wish to commend?”
“Many of us have held our annual conventions or other major events at the Sun Valley Lodge for years, bringing significant revenue to your economy annually. While many of our members have been hesitant to come to the Wood River Valley, we have used the rationale that WWP’s motives and destructive agenda were not supported by the businesses that we frequent. Apparently we were wrong,” reads the letter.
The groups said that, by choosing to honor WWP as the recipient of the award, the chambers “seriously undercut” the value that grazing livestock, and other uses, provides to the land.
“Given the recent fires that have threatened your valley, the value of grazing in reducing fuel loads buildup should serve as one example. Further, by recognizing WWP as an ‘environmental’ group you falsely categorized them with groups that truly are about on-the-ground conservation. WWP would be much more honest if they chose to call themselves a for-profit, political obstructionist group. Most people view a true environmental group as one that spends time and money working on the land and with people to make things better for everyone, i.e. The Nature Conservancy,” the letter reads.
The groups said it is now their intention to encourage everyone involved in agriculture, recreation, power development, logging, mining and such to not spend another dollar in the Wood River Valley.
“Apparently, our contribution to your economy, or even your dinner plates, amounts to nothing in the eyes of the local business,” they said, giving as an example the “Trailing of the Sheep Festival,” a community-based, economic event highlighting the culture and heritage of the sheep industry in the West. “By commending WWP on a job well done, it would appear that the value you place on this community, tourism-generating festival is negated due to the fact that WWP specifically targets the people who own sheep and have worked their entire lives as shepherds of the range.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.