A new phrase is raising hackles and fueling environmental debate in the Western U.S.: “rural cleansing.” Thought to have been coined by a Washington-state property-rights activist, rural cleansing is taking root as a catchphrase for those who argue that eco-activists are trying to drive rural citizens away from traditional resource-dependent livelihoods and into cities. The phrase is derived from “ethnic cleansing,” meaning the murder or forced removal of certain ethnic groups from an area, as happened tragically in Rwanda and the former Yugoslav republics. Some rural Westerners came to believe that environmentalists were eager to push them from their land when the Oregon Natural Resources Council suggested that the feds buy up farms in Oregon’s Klamath Basin, where irrigation was shut down in 2001 to help save threatened fish. Enviros reject the assertion that there’s any parallel between their conservation campaigns and ethnic cleansing, or any concerted effort to remove people from rural communities. “I know of no rural person who has been killed because of their anti-environmental beliefs,” says Idaho environmental activist Gary Macfarlane.