Greg Walcher, President of the Natural Resources Group, a consulting firm specializing in energy, water, public lands, forestry and wildlife. In addition, Walcher has served in the Governor’s Cabinet as the head of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and he also has spent a decade working in the U.S. Senate. Walcher’s book, “Smoking Them Out, The Theft of the Environment and How to Take it Back,” is in its second printing.
Jason Spiess mentioned that Colorado has a reputation for an energy and green state. In response, Walcher said: I am a 5th generation Coloradan and I am green as they get.” Spiess ask if Walcher if he had noticed any changes in Colorado politics over the last 30 years, to which Walcher responded that there was a time when everybody at the dinner table could agree about good conservation and the environment. “Now, nobody can talk across dinner table without major environmental disagreements, because they are too busy suing other.”
As Walcher continued to describe his interests, Spiess said that Greg had added a whole new layer to the conversation. Stephen Heins interjected that in many cases the differences were a matter of semantics: “Previously, we all talked about conservation and now we talk about the environment.” Walcher observed that historically the US was a bipartisan country about national monuments and national parks, with local communities wholeheartedly supporting those efforts. He also pointed out that surprisingly Republicans led many of the early environmental efforts: Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and even TR’s friend John Muir. Muir, of course, went on to help found the Sierra Club. Now, recent polls suggest that 70% of American believe Democrats will do a better job with the environment.
Talking about the American legal system, Walcher remarked: “the courts are all over the map.” Politically, the American people are divided between the conservationists who believe in careful use of our natural resources and environmentalists who believe that most natural resource projects are harmful to the environment.
Walcher recalled a meeting he had while in Washington DC with someone from Rhode Island who favored setting aside large parts of the Western wilderness, but who had in fact never been there. Walcher also talked about the differences between people from east of the Mississippi River and those from west of the Mississippi: Easterners have plenty of water and mostly private land and Westerners much less water and 35% of the land is owned by the national government, with Nevada being 97% federally owned. As Walcher put it, Western life depends on the responsible use of public lands.
Spiess reminisced about his first days covering the Bakken Basin, seven or eight years ago. While owning a food truck around the oil-producing parts of the Bakken, Spiess practiced what he called “method journalism” by embedding himself among those North Dakotans. He had expected to do investigative reporting, but instead, he realized that these local people really controlled these oil businesses, even at major oil facilities.
From then on, Spiess reported about the real people creating the Bakken as we know it. In fact, Spiess got national attention for writing about life with boots on the ground, after being disgusted by the slanted reporting of the national media.
Walcher agreed with Spiess insights and Heins said he felt like singing Kumbaya. After having a conversation far too big and wide-ranging to be written about here, all three decided to have another discussion next week, but this time about water.