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for people who care about the West

Ranchettes got a Twinkie-defense

  Dear HCN,

If Susan Ewing's soul is at rest on her 20-acre ranchette outside of Bozeman, as she claims, why did she feel the need to stage such an elaborate Twinkie-defense of living there (-My Beautiful Ranchette," HCN, 5/10/99)? Ewing's justification is her craving for space, her appreciation for wildlife, and her desire to "settle directly into an ecosytem." (I'd submit that her ranchette made a thudding, not a settling, sound.) Don't get me wrong - I'd trade places with Ewing in a second, but I wouldn't try to defend myself.

Unfortunately, taking joy in knowing where the mushrooms grow and the flickers nest isn't going to keep the West from becoming a big Tucson. At best there'll be a dominant species of guilt-ridden wilderness aesthetes spouting platitudes like "the concept of clustering houses ' is good "" from the porch swing. We need to do more than vacantly endorse managed growth and give money to charities. (How about running for town council?) The ultimate cop-out - blaming overpopulation - won't do either, since it doesn't necessarily lead to sprawl, and most of the encroaching hoard can't afford ranchettes anyway.

If the West is going to get off the sprawl highway, we'll need to break away from the misconception that to be part of "nature" you have to be surrounded by furry animals.

Just as Wallace Stegner told Easterners to forget about their green lawns and start to appreciate shades of brown, we've got to learn that real naturalists live in high-density communities. Maybe they can't commune with rigid definitions of nature out the back door, but they represent a vastly more sustainable part of the ecosystem. And the view? Beautiful ranchettes. To the horizon.

Auden Schendler

Carbondale, Colorado