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Guest Editorial 
This page was last updated on January 06, 2009 .

Battling Interviews: An open letter to investigative reporters
by: Dr. John Carter. June 27, 2002

I am getting fed up with people that call themselves reporters who never look into the facts about public lands issues. They just call up three or four people and report what I call "battling interviews" where all the valid science and data are equated to someone with a vested financial interest in lying or obfuscating around the truth. Many times I have spend an hour on the phone with a reporter, providing numerous references and facts, even by the Government Agencies themselves, only to have a mis-stated byte placed opposite some greedy, self-serving rancher who wouldn't know an ecosystem if it came up and hit him (or her) in the face. I am challenging these reporters to do some research and am providing them with links to government documents, reports etc. I doubt it will do much good, given the penchant among local reporters today to let others do their job, but at least it feels good. 

I have a PhD in Ecology, a BS in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, have been a technical and litigation  expert for the State of Colorado Attorney General on natural resource damage issues. I have represented many clients in highly technical environmental and ecological matters. I have studied and researched western watersheds and streams for decades, including the analyzing the effects of livestock grazing, which far exceed the environmental and monetary damages on any superfund site I have ever seen. 

What is my motivation for pressing the agencies on these issues? It certainly isn't money as I have donated tens of thousands of hours to environmental issues over the last three decades, and have no financial vested interest in the outcome. What I do have is an ethical set of principles to do what is right by the ecosystem, our watersheds and wildlife; to ignore political pressure, death threats and other forms of intimidation and to speak the truth and use my science to the best of my ability to counter fraudulent agency and rancher claims regarding costs and benefits of livestock grazing on public lands.

What is the motivation of ranchers to lie about their impacts? Well, they get to continue grazing our public lands at a fraction of market value without any of the billions of dollars of environmental damage being taken into account. All this is at taxpayer expense, which is highly hypocritical for these supposed "Self-reliant workers of the land". 

What is the motivation of University Extension and Professors to deliberately mislead? Well, they are funded by agriculture and extractive industries that drive them to conduct their research in such a way as to avoid dealing with the impacts of grazing. 

There are a few exceptions, but within the Agencies, including BLM, the Forest Service and State Departments of Environmental Quality and Wildlife, a near universal corruption of science exists because of the political pressure exerted by Western Politicians and the Administration to gut environmental compliance and benefit ranchers. There are so many examples of of this "dumbing down" of ecosystem status to include livestock as native herbivores and avoid dealing with their impacts, it is incredible. Yet, the GAO has documented this very thing in its various reports on livestock grazing, riparian condition and western fire issues. Check out some of the GAO studies that validate what I say. 

When you review the ecological literature it is abundantly clear what the ecological costs of grazing our forests and public lands are, not to mention the hundreds of millions of acres of private lands. Then, realize there are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies published that provide this documentation. This is what I have studied, yet all my documentation and research, all my review of these numerous documents and the government's own research that shows that these problems exist is ignored by the press. The press focus is on what I call "battling interviews". Pit myself against some one who has a vested financial interest or job interest in dancing around the facts or outright lying as to the facts is what we nearly always get. 

You should review Thad Box's 2000 articles in Rangelands (see for an online example), a journal of the Range profession. Thad is retired former Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Head of the Department of Range Science at Utah State University. Being now retired, and no longer under the thumb of Utah government to obtain funding for his department, he has written about how Range Scientists have become "Apologists" for the livestock industry and fail to protect the resources as they are supposed to be trained to do. Other professors I know are disgusted by the students they trained that now work for agencies and pretend they employ the science they were taught, yet are just that -- Apologists for the livestock industry who deny damage, lie and obfuscate. 

The burden of the reporter is to read as much as you can, go out and see for yourself and decide who is telling the truth.


Ed. note: Here are a few online resources that reporters might find useful.