First she killed her dogs, shot them in the head with a .38-caliber revolver and covered the two bodies with a quilt. Then Marlene Braun leveled the blue steel muzzle three inches above her right ear and pulled the trigger. “I can’t face what appears to be required to continue to live in my world,” the meticulous 46-year-old wrote in May in a suicide note. “Most of all, I cannot leave Carrizo, a place where I finally found a home and a place I love dearly.”
The Los Angeles Times tells the story of Braun, who had come to the Carrizo Plain three years earlier, after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management placed her in charge of the new national monument – 250,000 acres of native grasses and Native American sacred sites about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles. In Braun’s short tenure there, the plain had become a battleground between conservationists and the Bush administration over the fate of Western public lands. What began as a policy dispute – to graze or not to graze livestock on the fragile Carrizo grasslands – became a morass of environmental politics and office feuding that Braun was convinced threatened both her future and the landscape she loved.