Shaping the Sierra

  Even though he is now a professor of planning and landscape architecture at the University of California-Berkeley, Timothy P. Duane manages to fold his childhood memories and love of the "Range of Light" into this hefty and complex book about one of the West's rapidly developing mountain zones.


Like many Westerners with an attachment to a rural place, he is critical of the "equity refugees' bringing their large incomes, trophy homes and un-rural attitudes with them to exurbia. But mostly, this is a detailed, theoretically informed report on development in the Sierra Nevada. His diagnosis is that the growth machine and its economic driving forces, in collusion with the American ambivalence about individual rights and community values, will eventually overwhelm the carrying capacity of Sierran ecology.


Duane makes no simple argument, and the theory may come a bit too fast and furious for many readers. But the book comes together in case studies, especially of the politics of planning in Nevada County, Calif. This is a classic tragicomedy of American land-use planning, in which the creators of a comprehensive plan meant to control growth understated how much growth they had built into the plan, and the growth machine won again. As in an encounter with the Borg on TV's "Star Trek" series, resistance is futile, Duane finds, when it comes to growth. This is especially true on the rapidly appreciating real estate of the New West's most charismatic landscapes.


But this book does not wave a white flag. Duane wants us to resist, to seek ecologically based development. He offers a bio-regional prescription melding ecological analysis with renewed community-scale politics. He wants political subdivisions redrawn to natural boundaries, and he calls for planning that recognizes ecological limits and the value of smaller-scale, collaborative planning.


The prescription is a lot to hope for. I take Duane's analysis to support my conclusion about Western geography: We ain't seen nothing yet. A lot more development is coming, and Duane's analysis, while meant to show the absolute necessity of land-use reform, also shows the improbability of such reform.


Still, perhaps our love of Western landscapes can steer the growth machine in a slightly different direction, and we can thank Duane for using his own love of place to point out the needed course correction.





" Bill Riebsame





Bill Riebsame is an associate professor of geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance, a leading grassroots conservation advocacy organization for over 30 years, seeks a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help...
  • OPERATIONS AND FINANCE MANAGER
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a national grassroots organization led by women, seeks a resourceful, self-motivated, team player to serve as Operations and Finance Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) fosters community stewardship, education and awareness of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...
  • WYOMING STATE DIRECTOR
    Save the World ... or at least a piece of it! Join The Nature Conservancy and make a tangible and lasting impact by creating a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY NON-PROFIT NEAR YOSEMITE
    Demanding, but rewarding, advocacy work on forest, water, wildland, and wildlife issues. Applicants should have experience dealing with land management planning, public speaking, grassroots organizing,...
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR AT WILDERNESS WORKSHOP
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]