How big is your backyard?

  • Paul Larmer

 

The first time someone called me a NIMBY to my face was more than a decade ago, at a public meeting. The town council was expected to vote in favor of planting a new cell tower at the top of Cedar Hill, my favorite semi-wild place on the edge of town.

The mayor at the time extolled the advantages of a cell tower. It would fill in those annoying dead zones where there was no reception, he said. It might even save lives: A person in serious trouble -- someone trapped underneath a flipped ATV, for example –– could always reach emergency services.

True enough. But a few of us, who enjoyed the relative quiet of Cedar Hill -- the mule deer that bedded down under the trees, the delicate wildflowers that appeared for a couple of weeks in spring -- questioned why the cell tower, surely an eyesore, needed to be located there. Weren't there other options?

This is progress for our town, a council member responded, and you people who oppose it are "just a bunch of NIMBYs."

NIMBY, of course, stands for Not in My Back Yard. It is a term commonly used to denigrate anyone opposed to new development with a potential public benefit (along with, of course, some private economic benefits).

Environmentalists are used to being called NIMBYs. Any effort to protect wild places, endangered species, clean air and the like tends to provoke name-calling from those whose development plans might be derailed in the process. Which is why it is so deliciously ironic to see a Wyoming oilman -- and one of the state's most powerful political operatives -- being accused of NIMBYism. Diemer True, one of the central characters in this issue's cover story by Editor Jonathan Thompson, has helped form a conservation group to keep ugly wind turbines from sprouting in the Laramie Range, where his family owns huge ranches.

For most of his career, True has been on the other side of the barricades, fighting for unfettered industry access to public lands. Now, like a born-again evangelist, he waxes eloquent about his love for the land, and, with his wealthy neighbors, is engaged in a major campaign to keep the wind industry out of their capacious backyard.

The Laramie Range is a beautiful place, a landscape well worth protecting. Still, one can only hope that True sees the irony. All development in the West takes place in somebody's backyard. But only the rich and powerful can easily squelch it.

Thompson's story points to the difficult decisions facing the West as renewable energy advances: How much territory should the region sacrifice to large-scale wind and solar development as our country lurches slowly toward curtailing its carbon consumption? Wyoming sits at the nexus of both the old and new energy economies. If the question is answered anywhere, it will be here.

I hiked up Cedar Hill the other day to look at the cell tower. It looms like a bulky stick man; the metal-encased power box beneath it hums loudly enough to be heard from a hundred yards away. But the view from the top is still fantastic, and on my way down I spotted a small herd of deer flitting through the gnarled trees. At the bottom, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my cell phone, and called home.

For more reading: Wind Resistance: Will the petrocracy keep Wyoming from realizing its windy potential?

High Country News Classifieds
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.