Unit 7: “The Devil is in the Details” Reading Response

Get the discussion on this article started by posting your reading response here. Please remember that you will need to post your response and then read other students' responses and post  a reply.


In this essay, Christopher Solomon discusses a Utah Congressman, who has emerged as the unlikely architect of a grand compromise, one that would involve massive horse trading to preserve millions of acres of wilderness while opening millions more to resource extraction. Is this a trick, or the best way to solve ancient disputes that too often go nowhere? How can we compromise without sacrificing the very thing we're trying to save?

Write your response in a comment to this page.

31 thoughts on “Unit 7: “The Devil is in the Details” Reading Response

  1. Olive Hager

    I commend the environmentalists for making an effort to negotiate with the other groups. I don’t feel like they had to negotiate, as they had the threat of Obama building the monument as a fail-safe that would preserve the most land. It’s really difficult for people who aren’t locals to make decisions that only affect a small community, but in this case it really sounded like they needed a neutral third-party to help with this negotiation. It would be great if we could all work together as a whole society to make the best decisions for not only our short-term gain, but also our long-term. Giving up some lands that are protected in exchange for a greater total acreage of protected land sounds like a fair trade, but the essay made it sound like it would be a net-loss for the environmentalists and the native Americans.

    1. Christina Beaver

      I agree it’s hard to vote on something if you’re not going to be seeing the effects of it. Kind of like the reading we did a couple of weeks ago with the ice and global warming, if we don’t see the results overnight, we don’t care. In this case, it is a little different, but the principle is still the same.

      1. Olive Hager

        It can be really difficult for some people to really grasp a situation without seeing it first hand. Put those people in charge and you have a mess like this one!

    2. Miranda Jackovich

      I thought your idea of using a third party to help negotiate was great. Do you believe if locals should have the power to decide what happens, or a compromise with those who have no claim. In a perfect world things would be fair, but reality isn’t. Some cases, the respect of those who have been there longer should come first. Great conversation starter!

  2. Christina Beaver

    I’m not confident that the back and forth that would be needed to go into a compromise is going to resolve the issue fast enough. It draws everything out for far too long. Even in the article, there is a line that goes; “… compromise sometimes means ‘three wolves and a sheep talking about what’s for dinner.’ (Solomon 175)” If the fight is three to one, you probably won’t get the results you’re looking for. Although this isn’t always true, if we look back at when Lincoln won the election, in 1860, he won because he was the only Republican out of the three other candidates who were all Democrats and part of the Constitutional Union, although that meant that there was a significant portion that didn’t entirely agree with him.

    I’m not entirely sure how to come up with a compromise that involves no sacrifice on either side. If it were me, I would split the land as equally as I could to meet each other needs.

    1. Olive Hager

      Right, once you have more than a few people involved in anything, it gets so messy trying to please everyone.

    2. Jerry Carroll

      You make a good point with the three to one fight, that would be a hard one to win.

  3. Jerry Carroll

    I think that the negotiation is great, but I don’t really care about the money hungry people just wanting to go for the resource extraction. A fair compromise would be the best way to go about it, and make the most people happy.

    1. Lane Ito

      I also do not particularly like people who just want to extract resources for money, but I can understand how they also wan to give other people new job opportunities. But I have no idea as to how they can mine for copper without harming the environment and affecting Native American heritage.

    2. Jessica Hernandez

      I agree completely, negotiation can work in many tremendous ways. I see where you come from with the money hungry but where would we be if someone wasn’t spending money to make our lives a little easier? Just food for thought. This a good post! Keep up the great work.

      1. Victoria Murdock

        Money is the root to all things, it can help and hurt at the same time. I agree with you on your opinion about the copper mining as well.

  4. Rebekah Ulrich

    The environmentalist did a well rounded job on negotiating with other groups to try and fix the problem at hand but negotiating and dragging the problem out longer than needed creates more problems that get pilled on. Eventually the problem becomes an issue for the back burner. The residents need to have more of a voice to the compromises that are made towards the land, non-residents that try and make decisions do what they think is best without exactly knowing the land but the residents know what is best and need that voice. No one can negotiate and compromise without losing a little of something that they want. You just have to sacrifice certain wants with what really matters.

  5. Jesse Coulman

    I think this compromise is a good way to put to rest this ancient dispute. Both sides will be receiving part of what they desire, the environmentalists will be protecting millions of acres of land forever, the largest amount of wilderness to ever be protected, while the developers gain large sections of land that they can begin collecting resources from. Each group is gaining something they desired which makes for a good compromise. In the end the environmentalists are sacrificing the very thing they are trying to protect to make this compromise but they are choosing to protect a portion of the land they care about forever. Its a difficult situation to be in but in the end nothing will change without a little compromise.

    1. Conall Birkholz

      I agree that it’s important to recognize that without compromises, progress can not be made. If the propositions do pass, while the groups involved may be not getting exactly what they want, they do get something which is more than nothing and they can move forward and focus on other things. Constantly fighting over land doesn’t help society and just keeps future developments stagnant.

    2. Briana Shaffer

      I don’t know… Utah is gorgeous. Maybe all the ranchers can move somewhere hideous like Oklahoma. In all seriousness, Is it dire that the natural resources be extracted now? Its not going anywhere.

    3. Shurena K

      I agree. It is a like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s as much of a win-win for each side that it seems they will get.

  6. Lane Ito

    Is it possible for environmentalists, Native Americans, and mining companies to come to agreeable terms on the environment? When I first read The Devil is in the Details, I knew there was limited grassland remaining today, but I did not think the article was centered around Utah. However, what really took me by surprise was how the environmentalists, Native Americans, and mining companies are still arguing over what they want from the land.

    “Only after I leave him do I understand what he meant. He wasn’t talking about acres. He was talking about a way to live.
    On January 20, Bishop and Chaffetz unveiled their draft proposal. It would give added protections to about 4.3 million acres of Utah, roughly split among 41 national conservation areas, as well as seven “special management areas.” To try to address Native Americans’ concerns, the proposal would create a nearly 1.2-million-acre conservation area for the Bears Ears, to be managed by federal agencies and advised by a commission containing some native people. It would expand Arches National Park and add more than 300 miles of wild and scenic river protection (pg. 183).”

    If I was to take a side in the argument, I would definitely side with the environmentalists. This passage shows how they want to preserve the land, while also including a portion of land for the mining companies to use. However, I ponder the question if the companies can mine for copper and gold without harming the environment and the effects on Native American heritage as a side effect.

    “Then there’s the Native American issue. About half of San Juan County’s residents are Native Americans, and about one-quarter of the county is reservation land. Because of a general lack of outreach, but also by their own choosing, only a few Native Americans participated in the county’s grand-bargain planning. “It’s a trust thing,” Lyman acknowledges. “I don’t blame the Navajo personally who doesn’t trust the white community, the federal community, the county.” (pg. 180)”

    This passage is one of the most relatable to the indigenous people of the Western United States. Ever since the traders, politicians and settlers moved into the west, it was difficult for the Native Americans to trust outsiders, especially white people because they had overhunted the herds of American bison and cleared massive spaces for farmland. The Natives, particularly the Hopi and Zuni people also feel the lives of their ancestors on the land.

    “Conservationists want protection here. But under the county’s proposal, this would be an energy zone. Right now, Lyman says, there isn’t a mine operating anywhere from Durango to Hanksville. “Let’s really draw the line,” he says. “West of here would be the wilderness they want, and east of here would be the really productive lands, managed intelligently. Real people, good jobs, putting food on the table.” (pg. 181)”

    While it is understandable how the mining companies are trying to develop more job opportunities, I highly doubt the world needs more copper and gold mines. Lately, I have come to believe that mining companies are more concerned about the profits made from exploiting natural resources and precious metals. Additionally, these companies have shown little concern about damaging side effects their projects will bring. I have thought about these details ever since Pebble Mine in Alaska was proposed and the threat it brings to fishing communities in Bristol Bay.

    During the time when The Devil is in the Details was written, all three sides were still arguing and none of them were happy. In the past, Congressman Rob Bishop proposed a “Grand Bargain” plan to make the environmentalists, Native Americans, and mining companies reach agreeable terms based on their ideologies, but this plan ended in failure. With all three sides continually disagreeing, how can the fate of the last patches of open grasslands in Utah be determined?

    Looking back after reading this article, I can relate to how the land in Utah is facing a threat of copper mining like in Bristol Bay. Additionally, the Native Americans in Utah and Alaska are at risk of losing their culture and their rights. As much as I do not like arguments, I am not certain how all three sides arguing come to a compromise. Hopefully in the future, the environmentalists, mining companies, and Native Americans can put their differences aside and achieve their visions and everyone can feel their interests have been heard.

  7. Conall Birkholz

    When thinking about the relevant factors in this article, there are the two viewpoints that are present when considering how land management should be done. There is the one side where if the land is used for development and resources, it could greatly benefit the communities with tax money and jobs. And then there’s the other side where the land should be preserved for either future generations or completely preserved to protect the wilderness and the biodiversity of our nation and world.

    When I was reading through this article, it reminded me of how Alaska similarly has issues with land management and resource development. While we want to leave our beautiful lands untouched and pristine, it is also tempting to exploit the land and its natural resources to help the states economy and make the state citizens and economy prosper. The propositions discussed in the article I don’t think are a “trick”, because if a resolution can be reached between multiple parties, I see that as progress being made that benefits multiple groups, and the land is used or in this case not used and people can agree on what its purpose should be.

    In this case it is difficult to answer the question “how can we compromise without sacrificing the very thing we’re trying to save” because while we want to save the land and keep it pristine, the matter of the fact about human society is that to sustain our current way of life and civilization, we need land resources. I think the most important thing that our society should focus on is how we go about using land resources for the future. If resources we are extracting now are not renewable in some way, we should be investing in new technologies to make them renewable or figure out how to do said practices in renewable ways. Human innovation and creativity is amazing, and if we can focus on ways to continue to minimize our impact on the world while still being able to live and enjoy our lives to the fullest extent, I think is a detrimental goal for society.

    1. Briana Shaffer

      It really is quite the dilemma. Especially up here in Alaska, where exploiting the resources puts bread on the table. I used to be highly opposed to my husbands previous employment at a local goldmine because of how deep and large the pit was. Then my husband educated me on the many steps that o into planning and permits and rules that get written in that promote rehabilitating the site to be better if possible for the ecosystem and animals. I remember going to a family day event where they explained how they replant trees.

      I think at the end of the day, the amount of people who care about the environment get outnumbered more and more. We have tried as a society to make an effort at being greener, but a majority of the population will turn its nose away in disgust at lab grown meat or electric cars. People will continue to complain about the price of getting converted to solar or alternative energy. Most people find it repulsive to switch to eco friendly soaps and products and ditch the sewer or septic system to a responsible grey water system and composting toilet.

    2. Lindsey Paulsen

      My response was similar to yours, and I am in agreement with you on how outstanding innovation and creation is. I enjoyed how you discussed how we should be attempting at making newer technology “renewable”, as this did not really seem possible to me. But now I am intently pondering it. Thanks!

  8. Jessica Hernandez

    I think this is a great compromise but it does take a little time. With restoring nature and many other things a straight line will not always work. Ancient disputes are hard to pinpoint since it’s still an on going thing, things change we have to remember that. I believe in life you have to give a little to get a little. Unfortunately it can be hard for people to understand that sometimes you have to give before you can receive. I think the best compromise it when you get something in return for a greater or equal prices.

  9. Victoria Murdock

    Although a lot of things are negotiated with other people before proposing things that take from our environment, sometimes the elongated times are not necessary. If the certain groups of people feel as if it will be beneficial, I don’t see reasons to debate or, go back and forth about it. Especially when peoples finances are involved and time is being taken away from them to go to residential meetings to come to a mutual agreement.

  10. Briana Shaffer

    It is always a trick when money is involved and too often, money speaks louder than words. We could give those pushing for resource extraction some slack though, we have come a long way from leaving behind wastelands after harvest thanks to conditions set during permitting to restore the habitat back to or better than the condition it was in before mining. I think that should be the standard for any natural resource extraction no matter how small or large scale. I also think a lot of people get stuck in the emotional part of thinking when it comes to environmental and wildlife protection issues, and at the same time I think people get insensitive to other groups of people’s traditions and cultures and don’t take that into consideration as well. As far as compromising goes, I don’t think there will ever be a win-win solution to these kinds of issues. I honestly think if the state is left in charge, it will push to do what is better for the pocketbook than the environment. So maybe federal lands should just stay managed by BLM, and companies can stop hunting for oil and natural resources that are just going to stink up the environment anyways. The oil will still be there in 50 years, but will the environment still be as beautiful and pure for your great grandchildren to enjoy?

  11. Lindsey Paulsen

    Relevant factors in this article which stood out to me are the contrasting opinions on how land management should be dealt with and how its distribution should be managed. I’ve lived in many states in the country where land management in the creation and stripping of Native reservations was a highly publicized dispute, and have always had trouble “picking a side”. On one hand, land development is highly beneficial toward the economy and people’s lives, where on the other hand, land development can seem immoral and quite selfish. I am a white female with no known cultural background, so I almost do not even feel right choosing a standpoint on this topic, but I definitely see both sides of the argument.

    If my home or culture was threatened by modern procedures I did not agree with, I would be distraught. But then again society would not be able to function if it were not for the distribution of building-based businesses or institutions. All land was natural once, but vaccines and medical procedures were also non-existent. With evolution comes progression, but not all evolution is good evolution. I am standing in the middle on this one, but found it interesting to evaluate.

  12. Miranda Jackovich

    Many people have the notion to settle disputes that the best solution is to come to a compromise. When it comes to ownership of land it hasn’t been easy. Unfortunately land that is claimed is usually done so by force, but there will always be a force that opposes it. In the midst of this conflict the environment is always hurt in the process. There will always be people who fight to help the impact it goes under, but could also hurt it. “In their pursuit of land preservation and wilderness, critics charge, environmental groups frequently horse-trade inappropriately with the public’s lands-shutting out dissent, undercutting their conservation mission, and even eroding bedrock environmental laws” (Solomon 174) Sometimes intervening isn’t the best solution; what’s best for the environment might not be the best for all parties involved.

    1. Travis Winterton

      The situation at hand is really a tricky one. At this rate it seems that all parties involved are too stubborn to move or back down from their spots, and I think it will eventually result in a never ending stalemate with no real forward progress. I am the personal opinion and side of using land to gather and extract valuable resources to help in assist in the betterment of society. However I think that (or believe at least) are ways and methods that we can reduce our footprint on the land as to ensure that we don’t destroy its natural beauty. However I am somewhat not fully educated on the topic of conservationism so do take what I say both in this reply and in my response with some salt. I’ m open to learning more about this issue during my independent time, and perhaps my opinion would most likely change.

  13. Travis Winterton

    Admittedly I was somewhat overwhelmed with the the issue that is being discussed in the reading as I am not quite personally familiar with the issue of conservation (not just exclusively to utah). Personally I’ve usually been the person that always tries to look for a compromise in most situations but I understand that oftentimes a compromise can usually leave all parties more bitter or even worse off. Like George Nickas, the executive director of the Wilderness Watch puts its “Compromise sometimes means “three wolves and a sheep talking about what’s for dinner.” (pg 175). I feel like this situation in particular is extremely tricker due to the number of parties involve and the issue that is at hand. Land has historically been a hot topic issue due to its importance in both in a historical and economical context. I think Rob Bishop did a good job at describing land as currency. “Chips that can be cashed in, in exchange for projects like drilling pads, mines, and airports.” (pg. 170)

    I believe Alaska is also starting to enter into a similar situation, as with the current issue of draining oil supplies, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to run into the issue of how much land we are willing to give up in order to gather more supplies and other natural resources. If I were to take a side, I would personally lean more towards the side of using the land for valuable resources to help support society in the long term. While Nature is a beautiful thing, we also need to understand that using land and mining and extracting it of its resources is somewhat of an inevitable thing, or at least in my eyes. However, I’m sure that we are able to find ways to minimize the impact and footprint of our mining processes and extraction that we have on the land as to ensure that we aren’t completely destroying the land. Admittedly however I will admitted that I am not fully versed on the subject and nuances of the topic at hand so do take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    As for the compromise that is being discussed in the reading, I’m not so optimistic about the compromises future outcomes as all parties are very stubborn to move or to step down from their positions. At this rate I feel like that all further discussions will eventually middle down to an unceremonious stalemate, simply put all parties want their own cake, and eat it too to simply put. Until one party manages to suddenly gain a greater foothold in the deal from most likely political and government influence, I don’t think future discussions will result in any positive momentum. I don’t think the act of “horse trading” or any of the other propositions that were brought up in the reading are what I consider to be as “
    tricks” in my eyes as it is relevant to the issue that is being discussed at hand and are aspects in which all involving parties are interested in. Overall, while I hope for the best possible outcome for the future for all of the involving parties, I don’t think that a compromise will be able sufficient enough to really satisfy all parties sufficiently, and I’m not sure if any future discussions of compromise. However, I believe this is a topic that would require me more independent research for me to truly get a better grasp of some of the complexities that are involved in this.

  14. Shurena K

    This article asks a difficult question, “How much can you compromise before you sacrifice the very thing you are trying to save?”Our current society and lifestyles require resources, but similar to the reading from last week I believe, is this more of a moral question. Do we give way to destroying lands for the cost of needing these resources or do we look at other sources? Compromise is never an easy task, there will always be at least one side that is unhappy with the verdict. I wish the lands could remain as they are but being a realistic person I feel that this compromise will help everyone involved.

  15. Makayla Duhon

    I think the negotiation went well, however it could be a trap just to make money off of. Many of the native lands need help to thrive but the natives themselves don’t want to venture off from their roots. The people just want to be free and enjoy life without having to worry about the government or money or anything like that. The ancient disputes are still ongoing to this day and I don’t think it will ever be solved. There’s no way to make everyone happy at the same time. With every compromise, we give up something we don’t want to, although it may be necessary in some cases.

    1. Seth

      The negotiations were a solid effort on all fronts, save communication with indigenous people. But, given that a compromise was never reached and that environmentalists straight up walked away after Bishop revealed his plan doesn’t really make me feel that they went well. You’re right though, I doubt there’s any real solution to this that results in any group walking away happy. But, I like to believe a deal exists that will work, mostly because if one doesn’t exist then we and every one involved with this bill are wasting their time.

  16. Seth Packer

    Well, it’s certainly not a trick, and if it is it’s not even a good one. But I also wouldn’t say this has been “The best way to solve ancient disputes that too often go no where” because no where is exactly where this compromise went. It was apparently so laughable that environmentalist wouldn’t even bother with a round of revisions. You can that elitist or narrow minded of them, but that’s exactly what they get to do when arguing from a position of power. See not only did environmentalists have the trump card of Obama possibly declaring a national monument, they didn’t need to win the debates or even come out on top in the compromise. All they needed to do was turn down a bad deal and the status quo remained unchanged, which they were fine with. The only reason they took part in the debate at all was to show good faith. Now, don’t take this as a staunch defense of the environmentalists, their’s a big difference between support and understanding, personally I would like to see a compromise struck. However, that compromise can only be struck if the pro-development groups realize that any deal is a good deal for them and keeping the status quo is possibly the worst deal as environmentalist groups will just continue to sue and tie up any attempts or advancements made by pro development groups.

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