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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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This weekend's column: Land's value is not about it's 'beauty' ...
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"Magnificent desolation." — Col. Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, on the moon, July 20, 1969

To hear Utah Congressman Rob Bishop tell it, the decisions to be made about the future of the mostly wild and mostly government-owned lands throughout the American West are best made in terms of what’s pretty.

How very "Hunger Games" of him.

In a visit with The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board the other day, Bishop patiently explained how he hopes to peel some Eastern Establishment members of Congress away from the idea that large portions of the West need to be preserved, in wild or near-wild conditions, just by showing them some pictures.

He offers a side-by-side comparison. One photo is of a verdant, tree-rich section of forest, which Bishop accurately describes as the popular image of a national park.

The other is a shot of a dry, scrubby patch of what the congressman calls, in a contemptuous tone, "Sagebrush land." It is, he suggests, a vista that would actually be aesthetically improved by the addition of a drilling rig or two.

Bishop explained how he is making progress with some of his colleagues by asking them whether they really want to spend all that tax money, mostly through the Bureau of Land Management, to preserve such ugly scrub country. It’s the logic of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Lord High Executioner: "They’d none of ‘em be missed."

Bishop used to teach civics, so when he describes how ideas are presented to Congress and how decisions are made, attention must be paid.

But he clearly wasn’t qualified to teach biology. If he were, he’d know that the ecological value of any expanse of land can never be measured by its beauty. [Read the rest ...]

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