The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnNow Hear This!!!rnoil could say it isn’t easy being a liberalrn1 the most conservative state in thern’nion if it weren’t for the fact that in therniiost conserative state in the Union, therniberals occupy all the best bully pulpits.rnThis means that, in Wvoming as in thernest of the SO states, DemocraHc liberalsmrnis the unofficial public philosophy—rnn spite of Wyoming’s congressionalrndelegation being solidK conservatie Republican.rnThough liberals in Wyomingrnare a small minorit}-, that minorib,’ is veryrnbresent, which is why the mood of officialrngloom pre ailing here might suggest tornthe uninihated observer that Al Gore, notrnGeorge Bush, won the presidential electionrnlast fall. Lamentation comes largelyrnfrom distraught environmentalists, whornhave not been happy campers since thernattempted Democratic coup in Floridarncollapsed in December.rnNot counting the election itself.rnBush’s Cabinet was the first shock. GovernorrnChristie Wliitman replacing CarolrnBrowner at the EPA v-as more or less acceptablernto Western environmentalistsrn(she comes to the position from a placerncalled the Garden State, and has no problemrnwith using abortion as a means ofrnpopulation control). Gale Norton replacingrnSt. Bruce the Babbitt, though,rnwas another story, since Norton created arnsignificant paper trail in defense of propert’rnrights during her years as Colorado’srnattorne}- general (and, before that, in herrnassociation with James Watt at the WesternrnStates Legal Foundahon). HavingrnAgriculture taken away from an urbanrnJew and entrusted to someone with experiencernas an agriculturist didn’t putrnsmiles on environmentalist faces, cither.rnThe Casper Star-Tribune (the Wyomingrnequivalent of the New York Times, whoserneditorial-page editor is a native New-rnYorker) claims the Republicans arc initiatingrna “Time of the Great Undoing.”rnThe Bush administration, the paperrnwarns, intends to open Alaska’s ArcticrnNational Wildlife Refuge, the Bridger-rnTcton National Forest in Wyoming, andrnparts of the Lewis and Clark NationalrnForest in Montana to oil exploration andrndrilling; revoke the ban the National ParkrnSenice placed on snowmobiling in YellowstonernPark; and drain the Zuni SaltrnLake in New Mexico (where Zuni, Navajo,rnHopi, and Acoma Indians gather saltrn”for religious purposes”). Nay, more (asrnMencken liked to say): Republicans onrnthe U.S. House Natural Resources Committeernhave announced their intention tornreview all 19 national monuments, andrnthree expansions of monuments, createdrnby President Clinton during his eightrnyears in office. In short, “Republicanrnleaders in Congress and the Bush administrationrnare attempting to unravel the nation’srnenvironmental protection laws andrnthe protections granted to some pristinernareas of public lands.” (No mention thatrnmuch of the Great Rollback is targeted atrnClinton’s Great Roll Fomard—or 0er?—rnwhen, in the former president’s final daysrnin office, he seemed to be tr}’ing to monumentalizerneverything from himself tornthe branch creek where Black Elk tookrnhis last leak.) The controversy for thernmost part underscores a longstanding impressionrnthat conservatives always thinkrnthe}’re right, while liberals believe themselvesrnto be right and righteous.rnThe Star-Tribune has been workingrnhard to make the point that “The oil andrngas business couldn’t have better friendsrnin office than President George W. Bushrnand Vice President Dick Cheney.”rnMaybe it could; then again, maybe itrncouldn’t. But what a stupid time to bernmaking the point, wJien Californians (byrntheir standard) are freezing in the dark,rnwhile Westerners living cast of the SierrarnNevada are paying through the nose before,rnperhaps, suffering the same fate, andrnthe California and United States governmentsrnare talking seriously about importingrnelectrical power from Mexicol “Wliatrnwas your gas bill last nrontii?” is a ubiquitousrnquestion in these parts (mine wasrn$320), followed by “How can we haverna gas shortage in [expletive deleted]rnWyomin’? Do you realize this saloonrnwe’re settin’ in is built above a [expletiverndeleted] gas bubble?” The problem, Irnsuppose, is that when ou spend most ofrnyour life talking with rocks, trees, grizzlyrnbears, and clouds, you forget in time howtorncommunicate effectively with realrnpeople.rnIn an intelligent column in the samernpaper, two local coauthors, GeoffreyrnO’Cara and Dan Whipple, argue thatrnThere seems to be only one relationshiprnpossible between the Westrnand the federal government. ..rnWith the ascendancv of the Democrats,rnRocky Mountain denizens inevitablyrncharge that the administrationrnhas declared “War on thernW e s t . . . ” In the interregnuii-is betweenrnDemocratic administrations,rnhowever, the West does not declarern”peace.” Instead, we launch arn”Sagebrush Rebellion . . . ” Itrn[seems] illogical to fight a War onrnthe West to install your own peoplernand then declare a Sagebrush Rebellionrnagainst them once thev arernWith George W. Bush succeedingrnthe “Antichrist Bill Clinton” in office,rnO’Gara and Whipple continue, the rebellionrnis raising its ugly head once morernin Western legislatures. As evidence,rnthey cite a Montana House bill thatrnwould require the state attorne) generalrnto transfer titie to the state of all federalrnland within its boundaries, a bill in thernUtah legislature requiring state approvalrnof the sale of any land to the feds, and arnproposal by the Idaho Department ofrnLands to hand over national forest landsrnto local communities.rnWhat Whipple and O’Gara miss isrnthat the process they describe is simplyrntwo steps forward and one back, whichrnSagebrush Rebels eternally hope to replacernby two steps forward, one ahead —rnwith the help, naturally, of the Republicanrnadministration in power. The Westrnis not anti-federal —federalism as it’srnproperly understood, at least—so muchrnas it is anti-Democrat, anti-centralist, andrnanti-statist; and so the rebellion’s re-rnMAY 2001/49rnrnrn