How citizens and communities can reinvent their relationship with the American landscape
Lifelong locals know their home. They understand
the land's intimate cycles from decades and generations of living
in place, a miracle of stability and identity.
We can never hope to restore or sustain landscapes and
watersheds without the cooperation of local citizens.
They rightfully resent and subvert any management scheme that
excludes them from decision-making.
mutual trust, respect, empathy, and accountability. The
hits and misses of long-term elders can teach us all, while
passionate newcomers -- community members by choice -- brandish a
fierce love for their new home that can reinspire old-timers. Honor
every skill and talent in the community. Involving too many people
is always better than leaving someone out.
Economic health is essential for community
health. If we don't create affordable housing and decent
jobs for full-time residents, the community will lose its
multigenerational roots. The working rural landscape will collapse
Ecological health is essential for
community health. Conserve land for the land, and good
things will come to people and community, as well.
Rapid, unplanned growth profits only the boomer, rewards
only the developer, and will in the long run fail citizens and
destroy their sense of place. Leadership must come from
within the community. A master plan is the key to the future for
each landscape -- an inclusive, place-specific vision conceived in
the broadest possible dialogue.
roads and off-road-vehicle use fragment the integrity of surviving
wildlands. Concentrate development where it already
exists. Preserve agricultural land and the wild habitats it holds.
Ranching on public lands contributes to the
American cultural quilt. But cows should have no special
rights. Where cattle and sheep damage the land, eliminate grazing
and manage for restoration.
That public lands
make up most of the rural West is a positive -- an asset.
Keep public lands public to create a buffer between village and
wildland. With privatization of the commons, we lose community
Refuse to drown in the deluge of change.
Channel those floodwaters to power community dialogue.
Continually reassess any plan for a specific landscape and its
neighborhoods. Insist on ecological sustain-ability, health,
preservation of cultural tradition, and protection of biodiversity.
Keep talking, no matter what. Keep listening, no matter what.
Restraint is both visionary and conservative.
Wildness is everywhere, but wilderness is a special
category. Designate and preserve large wilderness areas
on public land wherever possible -- several in each bioregion and
connected by corridors. Establish local and regional land trusts to
purchase critical private lands and hold conservation easements.
One person, one passionate person speaking out
stubbornly and relentlessly, can still make a difference.
Hard work by one individual can start a revolution.
Arrogance is the opposite of relationship. Don't hesitate
to use words like compassion and love and honor.
Depoliticize and humanize the issues, and fling open the windows on
bureaucracy and authority. Remove obstacles to healing.
We are stuck with our untidy web of conflicting
values. We all have our Edens, our devils, our bargains to strike.
We are responsible for planning, making decisions, acknowledging
duty, accepting stewardship -- and for wrangling through as a
Start the conversation before a crisis. Share
information and frustrations and dreams and anger and joy. Stomp
along the riverbank together. Work together. Cook and eat together,
tell stories together. Laugh together. Thrash through conflict to
higher ground. Inclusivity requires trust and openness from
old-timers and newcomers alike.
We call it paradise, this
land of ours. We call it home. Like our nation, the West is in the
middle of its arc. We must remain both vigilant and tender if we
wish to preserve its authenticity. We can do this. We are not yet
too old, too greedy, or too cynical to take wise action together.
Stephen Trimble makes his home in Salt Lake City
and in the redrock country of Torrey, Utah. His Credo is excerpted
from his new book, Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open
Spaces in America, in which he explores how we make our decisions
about open space through two stories: the privatization of a
public-lands mountain by a billionaire, and the irony of the author
himself developing his own small acreage.
credo? Send your vision of the people's West to online editor Marty
Durlin, firstname.lastname@example.org, to be considered for publication on hcn.org.
Please limit submissions to 500 words.