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Reclaiming the native home of hope: community, ecology, and by Robert B. Keiter, University of Utah. Wallace Stegner Center

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By Robert B. Keiter, University of Utah. Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment

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Page 8 In this rapidly restructuring global and continental context, the Rocky Mountain West faces two stark choices: either it will be dragged into the new globalism as a vassal to more highly organized coastal regions, or it will look to its own regional advantages and prepare itself to play a more independent global role. But three forms of internal fracturing now prevent the West from playing the mature global role to which it is naturally suited. The first is ideological. One ideology would make the West's natural resources readily available to any highest bidder in the global marketplace with the fewest possible restrictions on their extraction, while the other would either lock resources out of the market altogether or restrict their extraction through the remote, inefficient, and deeply resented mechanism of a federal command-and-control regulatory structure.

The counties movement added a kind of feudal twist by finding in counties (of all places) a residual sovereignty that no one had ever noticed before, but which they now claimed required federal officials to clear all their actions in advance with the local sheriff. " Perhaps this is a call for a constitutional convention to address the festering issues of sovereignty underlying all these stirrings of western discontent. Why exactly is it that these issues of sovereignty never quite get settled in the West?

Even in the heyday of federal expansiveness, it is doubtful whether Washington had the capacity to "manage" the millions of acres of federal domain in the West. With the steady, drastic downsizing of that government, the issue is no longer seriously in doubt. But this is not simply a matter of money or manpower. The inability of the Congress to pass comprehensive wilderness legislation for most western states revealed years ago to the West what the repeated shutdowns of the federal government have more recently disclosed to the rest of the country: This is a government of appallingly shaky legitimacy.

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