-The thing about the West is that every jerk
is figuring out how to rip up the landscape,
and the laws in the West let him."
East Coast businessman
several years for a retired businessman from the East Coast to look
for recreational property in the West during fly fishing, hunting
and ski trips. In the end, he decided to buy in New England.
Because the conversation, held in spring 1995,
was informal and not intended as grist for an article, we print it
without his name.
Frankly, the West no
longer gives me a buzz. The West is not pretty and charming. And
what's going on out there doesn't help. What is Montana without
cowboys? Once you get rid of agriculture, you're left with
nothingness. You're not using the land. It becomes just looking
country. And there's not a lot of that. When you throw away all of
the land that's too steep to ride on or build on or that isn't
pretty, there isn't much left. The West isn't nearly as big as
"Of what's left, almost all of it
is way overpriced. And after you buy it, you have no protection.
You can spend several million dollars, and then maybe see an oil
rig from your front gate. Or you may have noxious weeds, and end up
spending thousands every year controlling them. If you don't, your
neighbors will kill you. Or maybe water will be diverted out of the
fishing stream you think is yours.
about the West is that every jerk is figuring out how to rip up the
landscape, and the laws in the West let him. Unless you're so rich
you don't care about someday selling your land, you shouldn't buy
in the West.
"I think it's easier to be alone in
rural areas of the East than in the West, where it's elbow to
elbow. Rural land may be more expensive in the East, but you need a
lot less of it. What is five acres in Montana, or in Colorado?
Nothing. But in New England, a couple of acres is a lot because
there's more variety in a small space. There's a lot of great
things about the West, but it isn't cozy or
"I've come to these conclusions because
after I got over my infatuation with the landscape, I began looking
not just for land I could ride and fish and hunt on, but also for a
place that would preserve my wealth. And the West won't do that.
The whole thing is smoke and mirrors. There's an immature group of
young people coming into big money on Wall Street. They shoot from
the hip. They've driven the market (on Western land) up to
unprecedented highs. I give this boom three to five
"The average tourist has no idea when they
see Taos of the social and cultural disparities, and how they will
be affected. I looked at a 10,000-acre property in northern New
Mexico. It was fairly priced. It was up against wilderness. It was
breathtaking. It was everything I wanted in a second home. Then I
found out what had happened. The owner was from Chicago, and he'd
posted his property to keep out local people who'd been hunting and
collecting wood on that land for generations. As a result, he had
several of his prize animals killed.
Vail. I still like the West for skiing. But people say "It's
beautiful" and they stick houses in the sagebrush near Vail. What
are they, crazy?
"There are other problems. The
Tax Reform Act of 1986 destroyed the real estate industry. Now if
you have a loss on a second home, you have to absorb it. And
they've tightened the tax laws on depreciation and losses on cattle
ranches. That helped kill the market for these properties.
"But overall, the West has no charm, no culture.
The mountain West is a result of 77 million baby boomers chasing
their youth. Montana is the Last Best Place - Incorporated. And
everywhere in the West, if you don't like rubber tomahawks, what's
left?" "''" n