'Alarmist and extreme'

Some left-wingers and greens don't like the state's new chief of Agriculture.

Tony Lesperance, a rancher and former Elko County commissioner, took over the agency Monday at the request of Gov. Jim Gibbons.

The 72-year-old Mr. Lesperance, who turned down an earlier offer for the post, said he'll be on the job for about 18 months to see the agency through the state's current budget crunch and the next legislative session.

But Launce Rake, a spokesman for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, questioned the interim appointment, calling Mr. Lesperance's views "alarmist and extreme."

What is it that has Mr. Rake and his "progressive" friends in such a lather?

Mr. Lesperance has been a vocal critic of the federal government's land-use policies in Nevada, where it controls 90 percent of the real estate. He played a pivotal role in the controversy that erupted in the late 1990s after the Forest Service -- operating at the behest of hard-core environmental groups -- refused to allow Elko County to rebuild a washed out road near Jarbidge that had been used for decades to access campgrounds and a wilderness area.

The standoff became heated and resentment toward heavy-handed federal regulation was palpable in many parts of rural Nevada. But Mr. Lesperance and the "Shovel Brigade" eventually prevailed; the road was repaired and reopened.

In Jarbidge, "What happened was that the position people took was so radical and anti-government that discussions broke down and there could be no compromise," Mr. Rake complained.

Would Mr. Rake also describe as "extreme" and "radical" those Nevadans now fighting the federal government over a little land-use issue called the Yucca Mountain Project? We didn't think so.

There is one outcome better than a "compromise." It's called a "victory."

For his part, Mr. Lesperance maintains he will be able to work with federal agencies in his new job, but "won't take a lot of excitement with the federal government running over me. ... I will stand up."

Sounds good to us.


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