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For the past ten years we have hosted a group of politics, literature, and environmental science students from Whitman College. This isn’t any ordinary class, they are traversing the West on a semester long camping odyssey.

Taki Telonidas, WFC; Phil Brick Professor, Whitman College; Steve Boies

Hiking down to the river to look at a healthy riparian area, we were confronted with some tough questions. It was obvious that the complexity of land use was beginning to morph from black and white into shades of gray. To one young fellow I tried to explain that ranchers who have lived in a place for generations have a sense of ownership that may extend beyond their fence. That it isn't much different than an older neighborhood in the city that is trying to save an historic community center from demolition. There is a sense of ownership and identity that sparks the effort to preserve part of the past and culture of that group of homeowners. The community center doesn’t legally belong to them, but because they were the people who used it, kept the building going and in good shape they have a vested interest.

Rock climbers all.

Perched on an ancient stone sentinel overlooking Jakes Creek drainage we found a great place to exchange viewpoints. One reoccurring topic was ranchers being subsidized on the federal lands. Challenging the thinking we suggested that perhaps ranchers were subsidizing the publics use of the land by managing it. Supplying water for wildlife, creating more green meadows than would naturally exist that support wildlife, creating fishing and wetland habitat that supports waterfowl and sport fishing, maintaining roads for hunters and photographers, snowmobilers and four wheelers.

At days end, we had a big group hug and were all better for the time spent together. I guess it is all about relationships and suspending judgment, being open to new ideas and someone else’s thoughts and opinions and realizing that the West is a dynamic and complex place to live and that is exciting.

If you would like to hear the radio program created by Taki Telonidas go to www.NPR.org. Find "Day to Day" for November 6, 2006, click on "College Class on Environment Redefines the Field Trip."

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The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

About Robin Boies

Robin Boies
Robin Boies is the product of a northern Texas cattleman and a city-bred girl from Boulder, Colorado. As a child Boies remembers Sunday's marked by church school and the weekly sermon, followed by an afternoon of Pitch or Twenty-one with red, white, and blue poker chips stacked neatly in front of her. When it came to culture it was sublime opera in the house and Hank Williams in the green Chevy pick-up truck. Boies found herself in Steptoe Valley north of Ely, Nevada, at age seventeen. For the past 28 years Boies has lived 45 miles north of Wells, Nevada, at the Vineyard Unit of Boies Ranches with her husband Steve. There they raised three children, Teema, Nathan, and Samuel. Teema enters Gonzaga University this fall to pursue a graduate degree. Nathan is back in college when not at the ranch after a service engagement in the 101st Airborne, and Samuel graduated from high school last year and has been in New Zealand since September 2005. While tending to the needs of the ranch Boise works to understand and tell the stories of contemporary ranching culture through writing and videography.
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