Book Review: "This Land – How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West"

--by Jim Maloney 

This capsule book review concerns a new book by Christopher Ketcham entitled “This Land – How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West.” It’s a non-fiction book set in the West but with a broader scope. 

The book concerns the exploitation of Western lands by livestock grazers, loggers, mining and fracking companies, and by the corporations that become rich by enabling them. It is an Ed Abbey-take-no-prisoners indictment of not only Cliven and Amon Bundy, the Mormon/Utah public lands grab, and the ultimate entitlement-demanding cattle grazers, loggers, and fossil fuel exploiters. It also manages to include the collusion, manipulation, control, and corporate direction of so-called “public agencies” like Wildlife Services, the BLM, the Forest Service, and other government “protection” agencies under Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. 

While I was aware of some of this stuff, I previously had no idea of the depth of collusion and utter betrayal of things many of us believed in. I remember I was traveling to a meeting in The Dalles, Oregon, when Obama won his first election. The meeting included individual people, organizations, and agencies trying to protect wildlife, while developing renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and geothermal. At that meeting, the agency biologists felt elated that finally they were being heard. Years later I was told, off the record, that it made no difference. Nothing had changed. 

The book is a good read, based on in-person interviews with the complete spectrum of participants, darkly evil and less so. Ketcham is an engaging writer, but I was left more devastated than elated. Read at your own risk; have a stiff drink nearby.