ENVIRONMENT & CONSERVATION
“A Dude Ranch Rests Hopes on a Rockefeller Deal.” By Kirk Johnson. New York Times. November 18, 2011. — John D. Rockefeller Jr. fell in love with the West here, and left his fingerprints all over the place. Beginning in the 1920s, a company disguised as a hunting club but fueled by Mr. Rockefeller’s millions quietly bought tens of thousands of acres with the goal of conserving and preserving a staggeringly beautiful corner of western Wyoming, a process that culminated in 1950 with an act by Congress incorporating Grand Teton National Park. Now a federal lawsuit, ostensibly over the concession contract for a historic dude ranch operating in the park, is resurrecting old questions about the Rockefeller legacy and the unique creation story of a place that historians say was very much shaped around one man’s vision. The patchwork of deals, promises and betrayals that was formed in making Grand Teton — hugely controversial a few generations ago, after the secret land acquisitions became public — have resurfaced. Old ways of doing business in the West, with a handshake and a nod, have bumped against the modern mantra of competition, efficiency and markets. At the center of the dispute is a family called the Turners, who have hosted legions of dudes — a term, at least here, owing nothing to hipsters — for five generations at a place called the Triangle X Ranch. The Turners began a guest and guide services operation on the wilderness site in 1926, during the golden age of dude ranching, before the advent of motels, car camping and Interstate highways. The Triangle X is the last dude ranch concession inside any United States national park, according to the Dude Ranchers’ Association, a trade group. In September, the National Park Service, citing a 1998 federal law requiring competition for business concessions in the parks, finally threw open the contract for running the Triangle X Ranch to bidding. Until then, the family had been granted extensions of its previous contract. The family, led by John F. Turner, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the administration of the elder President George Bush, fired back last month with a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Cheyenne. The suit accuses the Park Service of violating contractual promises first made by Mr. Rockefeller’s land agents in 1929 when the family sold the Triangle X property to Mr. Rockefeller’s Snake River Land Company — promises that the suit says were made concrete and inviolate in the 1950 act of park incorporation. “We had no choice but to stand up for a family legacy of 85 years,” Mr. Turner said.
“Brune new chairman at Sierra Club.” By Dan Berman and Darren Samuelsohn. Politico.com. November 18, 2011. Carl Pope will resign next month as chairman of the Sierra Club after 17 years, to be replaced by Executive Director Michael Brune. The move comes as the environmental lobby recovers from last year’s death of climate legislation on Capitol Hill and the GOP takeover of the House. Greens have even split at times from President Barack Obama, most recently threatening to abandon the president’s 2012 presidential campaign if the Keystone XL pipeline was approved. Brune downplayed the change in leadership, framing it as a lengthy transition that began when he joined the organization as executive director in 2010. “This announcement doesn’t come amid discontent or division,” Brune told POLITICO, noting Pope has been making plans to give up the top job since January 2009. “It’s the end of a process that’s been a long time coming.” Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter, said the group has seen big changes over the last two years. “But I don’t think it’s primarily as a result of the change in leadership. I think there’s an intensified interest in moving beyond fossil fuels, oil and coal, but I think that trend was headed that way before Carl left.” Brune “feels fully like he’s got his legs under him. We’re off charging,” Darin said. Darin added he didn’t expect the Sierra Club to incorporate the kinds of direct action protests that Brune was known for at the Rainforest Action Network. After all, the Sierra Club’s charter states that the club won’t practice civil disobedience. But Brune has already taken a stronger line with the Obama White House, always a difficult dance for environmental groups who spent eight years fighting George W. Bush tooth and nail.
“Sierra Club leader departs amid discontent over group’s direction; Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope, whose leadership has stirred dissent, steps down. Some believe the organization has compromised its core principles.” By Louis Sahagun. Los Angeles Times. November 19, 2011.