I’ve been a freelance writer for more than 20 years and have published in Harper’s, CounterPunch, National Geographic, Hustler, Penthouse, the New York Times, Pacific Standard, Sierra, Earth Island Journal, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Salon, and many other websites and newspapers large and small. I am a recipient of the Award for the Latest-Sleeping Writer Ever.
A little something about “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West”: It’s my first book, so forgive me its faults.
The idea for the title of course comes from Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” whose lyrics I learned as a schoolkid. Funny thing is that what was taught to me as a child was not the complete version, a portion of Guthrie’s original song, perhaps the most important part, having been censored. The stanza that never made it to my school, and probably not to many others, was this:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.
You still will have a hard time finding that censored lyric when you hunt around on the Internet. So be it. What Guthrie was talking about was land that belonged to everyone — you, me, and all the fools in between.
As for the image on the book’s cover, under that vast Western sky of egg-shell blue is a bulldozer that pulls a naval anchor chain across a stretch of pinyon-juniper forest in Utah, tearing out the roots of the trees, laying waste to the ecosystem…so that money can be made for a privileged few who wear cowboy hats and call themselves salt of the earth — more like salters of the earth are they, leaving devastation in their wake. The chaining of our land is just one of the many examples of “management” as practiced by the federal government. Multiply this scene by hundreds of millions of acres, imagine the various forms of “management” for the profit of the few, and you might get a sense of the scope of the ecological tragedy unfolding. This land is your land…or perhaps we should amend that to “was.” And the crazy part of it is that green groups who purport to be “environmentalists” are in fact abetting the destruction. Read my book to understand what’s really going on.