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Also present in the Nugget was Dick Carver, county commissioner from Nye County, Nevada. Carver gained national notoriety two summers ago when he asserted Nye's authority over federal lands and used a bulldozer to make his point, putting a road through federal lands and threatening that Nye's sheriff would arrest any government employee attempting to enforce environmental laws and regulations on local ranchers. Of late, Carver reportedly has been preaching his message of local control at gatherings of the Christian Identity movement. No one would seem to be a rougher diamond; no one more removed from palavering inside the Beltway. Yet Carver's lawyer, also at the Nugget, is Roger J. Marzulla of Akin Gump--D.C.'s prime Democratic law firm, headed by Robert Strauss and Vernon Jordan.
One of Carver's foot soldiers confided their plans for the summer, inviting Nature and Politics to attend a ceremony in which Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt would be crucified in effigy, the cross placed in the ground upside down, and then burned. The man seemed nonplussed when it was suggested that treating Babbitt like the Romans did St. Paul might well backfire and put him on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The irrepressible Chuck "Rent-a-Riot" Cushman, leader of the American Land Rights Association in Battle Ground, Washington, spent most of his time selling "Clinton Free Zone" posters and bumper stickers with slogans like "Don't Steal: The Government Doesn't Like the Competition." But the lead raconteur of the Wise Use Movement did briefly address the gathering on his personal history "as a political guerrilla fighter." Cushman has two principle enemies in his life: the National Park Service and its real estate agent, the Nature Conservancy. The Park Service, it seems, once tried to condemn a cabin Cushman owned near Yosemite National. When that failed, Cushman said, they sent the Nature Conservancy to do their work for them. Cushman recounted tales of battles with the Park Service in Minnesota and Alaska, where Park Service planes were shot at by angry landowners. "When a car backfired, everybody ducked," Cushman said. "It was serious."
But in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Freeman standoff, Cushman went out of his way to urge Wise Use militants to craft their protests in a nonviolent way. "Violence is never appropriate in a democratic society," he counseled. Instead, Cushman said communities should strike back against the feds by hiring local sheriffs who would arrest federal land managers and then try them before local juries.
The Wise Users are going high-tech. One of the founders of the movement is Alan Gottlieb, the direct-mail maven of the Reagan Right, who along with Ron Arnold runs the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Washington. Gottlieb, who brags about his time in the federal pen for income tax evasion, was promoting the political virtues of his latest enterprise: Talk America Radio Network Online. This network gives his conservative talk shows a worldwide audience on the Internet. Gottlieb said he plans on taking the company public in the next month or so and expects to make more than $40 million. "I have no idea what we'll do with all that money," Gottlieb said. Also on tap was Ken Fowles, an executive from Microsoft, whose planned presentation on using the Internet to combat the environmental radicals fizzled when his copy of Windows crashed his computer. Another priceless Microsoft moment.
The Wise Use gathering was as white in skin tone as any enviro equivalent, but was exceptional in the number of women present in positions of leadership. In Ron Arnold's history of the Wise Use Movement, the founding impulse was provided by the Northern California group Women in Timber. Many of the women Wise Use leaders are self-professed Christian fundamentalists, scornful of things like "value-laden and outcome-oriented" education in the public schools.
Emceeing the Wise Use Leadership Conference (slogan: "Defending Your Life, Liberty, and Property; Defeating the Enviro-Radicals") was Kathleen Marquardt, who founded Putting People First in 1990 and later threatened to sue Clinton for stealing the name for his book.
Marquardt, a right-wing demon queen with a wicked sense of humor, mostly targets the animal rights movement, having written a book called Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights. She wants to sustain Wise Use as a cohesive political force and correctly fears its fissuring into Loyalists for Dole and the Republican Party or into militia-style activity.
It was an interesting weekend. A Harvard-educated sociologist told the Wise Users that Rousseau was a greater threat to them than Marx. True, no doubt. But the implications seemed lost on many in the crowd, who reflexively refer to environmentalists as "watermelons": green on the outside, red on the inside.
But the big coming threat, judging from the platform rhetoric, is World Anti-Golf Day. Yes, it appears the lawyers have definitely taken over Wise Use.
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