Patrick Jobes has written a profoundly pessimistic analysis of the fate of the West's attractive, or amenity, towns in the April/May 1995 issue of Western Planner. Fortunately, the article by the Montana State University sociologist is so densely written that its full, depressing impact may hit only those who reread it several times.
Based on work done over
the last 20 years in Montana's Gallatin Valley and centered on
Bozeman, Jobes concludes that newcomers to the West are fated to
remain forever new since they move again and again: "80 percent of
the newcomers to the Gallatin Valley had moved away within 10
years, and the residents in particularly visible tourist towns,
like Aspen and West Yellowstone, were even more migratory."
Newcomers are also hypocrites when it comes to
maintaining the environment: "For example, they initiated "view
shed" ordinances to make the town appear nested in nature at the
same time that subdivisions were exploding in natural areas. They
drafted statutes to regulate appearance, but rarely became engaged
with community organizations. They said they loved nature, yet they
participated in it gradually less." The influx of new people
destroyed the community: "There was not, and indeed could not be,
true community in such places because they lacked the sustained
personal, informal commitment to other residents and to the
Jobes scoffs at the idea of substantial
numbers of professional "lone eagles' earning good livings in these
areas: "Popular observers emphasize higher-profile, "lone-eagle"
professionals moving to such localities. While a few professionals
derive their income from other locations, their percentage is low
and declining." Newcomers, he continues, soon join oldtimers in
demanding growth: "The longer they lived in these areas, the more
acceptable growth became and the greater their opposition to
planning and environmental protection." The newcomers may demand
this growth because they cannot make a living: "In spite of the
relatively higher growth and perceived success of such areas, the
proportion of residents officially designated as below poverty is
increasing. In Bozeman, the percent below poverty jumped from 9.5
percent in 1980 to 25.2 percent in 1990."
concludes: "Collectively, the quantity and quality of newcomers
literally deconstructs traditional small towns."
A copy of the newsletter is available for $5
from Western Planner, Worthington, Lenhart and Carpenter, 200
Pronghorn St., Casper, WY 82601; (307/266-2524). When you write or
call, ask for the appendix of tables and charts, which were not
printed with the article.