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For years I planned to retire in Vermont. But, by the late 1960s storm clouds were brewing above the Green Mountains. New York imports like Bernie Sanders sang the siren song of Big Government: “This is a great place. Let’s change it.”

Bulk tank laws put small dairymen out of business. Affluent skiers bought up the farms and gave them cute names like, “Talking Waters.” Vermont topped the “moocher” list of welfare states—and produced the first politically correct ice cream.

In 1988 I retired to Wyoming. Occasionally I ask myself, could the Vermont scenario happen here? Mark Gordon, born in New York and educated in New England, may have the answer.

Gordon has given generously to Democrats, including John Kerry and Utah’s Wayne Owens—father of wolf re-introduction. And Gordon has held office in or has given money to each of the major environmental groups intent on transforming Wyoming.

Gordon served on the board of the Sierra Club (SC) from 1982 to 1996 and gave generously to it. This money supported radical ideas like: “Beyond Coal…Oil…Natural Gas;” while SC packaged itself as a “social justice warrior” opposed to “environmental racism.”

As a rancher, Gordon’s 38-year association with the radical Friends of the Earth appears especially illogical. “Friends” encourages us to eat less meat, while seeking to end traditional ranching practices—and coal mining.

Gordon has a long association with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), having served on the Wyoming chapter board. According to writer Tom Findley, “Nature Conservancy is not really a conservation organization at all. It is a land acquisition scheme, complex and elusive.” TNC acquires land, often reselling it at big markups to the government; or controls it through tax-advantaged conservation easements. TNC generates annual revenues of a billion dollars and controls 21 million acres nationwide.

Anticipating the governor’s race, Gordon has claimed his associations with “Friends,” TNC and SC were in the past. Yet, in 2012, The Nature Conservancy listed him as a donor in the 10,000-to-99,999-dollar category. In 2018, a Friends of the Earth website (later removed) listed him as a “notable donor, Treasurer of Wyoming.” While he has campaigned against federal restrictions on coal, in the recent past he contributed to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). RMI is working toward a U.S. economy “needing no coal, no oil.” These organizations are absent from Gordon’s website.

Men and women active in Wyoming’s conservation groups are committed to saving Wyoming’s wild places. But nationwide, environmentalists often ride roughshod over those at the bottom of the economic scale. In a series of articles (google “Nature’s Landlord”), Range Magazine describes tactics used by the Conservancy to intimidate unwilling sellers. They include forcing sales by buying up water rights, threatening lawsuits and purchases through dummy corporations. Tactics like these have helped “cleanse” areas, like Nevada’s Lahontan Valley, of farms—and largely depopulated 12 of Virginia’s Barrier Islands. Examples like these suggest that, often, dedicated environmentalists are indifferent to the social and cultural consequences of transferring ranches from men and women with dirt on their hands to San Francisco merchant bankers.

The culture of the American West is as vulnerable as any wild environment. And for people who live here there are no huge lobbying groups defending their way of life. Wyoming’s people — in ranching, natural resources, retail and industry — are a priceless resource. Most don’t care “how you did it in California,” are suspicious of Big Government and the wind turbines that threaten our landscapes and wildlife.

Our men and women are largely mavericks who hate bureaucracy — and are the best custodians of our future. Tie up their resources, bury them in regulations, nudge or push them off the land and you will destroy the character of Wyoming. Do this and all the conservation achievements in Wyoming will be empty victories.

The groups Mark Gordon has supported, collectively, threaten many of the pillars of our economy and way of life. That is true because — in the end — the environmental lobby is not about people; it’s about controlling human behavior. Mark Gordon and those groups he’s backed must not have a seat at the table when Wyoming’s future is forged.

The question voters must ask is, not if Mark Gordon is “Wyoming Ready;” but rather, “Is Wyoming ready for Mark Gordon?”

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Bill Woodward retired from the United States Air Force as Executive Officer, National Defense University, Washington D.C. His family, a mixture of mavericks and road builders, has lived in Massachusetts since 1630.


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