A hundred and fifty years ago, nobody wanted the West. Much of it was land that couldn’t be farmed. Back in those days, everyone had a connection to agriculture—farming and ranching was a way of life. The West has always been dry and desolate country, but some men realized they could grow cattle and sheep. Hunting bison was a way to destroy the Native American culture; the 1860s was a rough and selfish time in America. Nobody but the toughest of men and women would travel west to homestead and ranch on what was once called “the commons.” It was every man for himself and consume as much grass as you can.

The Taylor Grazing Act put an end to the uncontrolled use of public lands, and the allotment system was started. Everything seemed to work fine, and the western lands were productive. Then Congress in the 1970s ushered in a bunch of new environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency was started, which gave us the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. From that point in American history, we changed our world—some for the better, some for the worst.

What do you think?

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