templation of still grander vistas whoserneternal beauty, to paraphrase a line byrnE^ugene O’Neill, death cannot touch. Inrn1982, Governor Richard Lamm of Coloradornpublished The Angry West: A VulnerablernLand and Its Future, in which hernstated that while Westerners were by nornmeans opposed to economic growth andrndevelopirient in their region, they hadrnlearned to be skeptical of “progress” andrnto question their eadier estimate of it asrnan unmitigated good to be embracedrnwithout reservation. “A new ManifestrnDestinv has overtaken America,” Lammrnand his coauthor, a Colorado journalistrnnamed Michael McCarthv, wrote. “Therneconomic imperative has foreverrnchanged the spiritual refuge that was thernWest. Some of us have made a trucernwith change. Others hae refused.rnThev—we—are the new Indians. Andrnthev—we—will not be herded onto newreservations.”rnThose were the days of the rush tornmine low-sulphur Western coal and extractrnmaximum amounts of oil and naturalrngas; of the oil-shale craze centeredrnon the town of Parachute, Colorado, onrna bluff above the upper Colorado River;rnof urbanization produced by hundreds ofrnthousands of energy and constructionrnworkers drawn to the Rockies from allrnover the country b’ what President Clintonrncalls “good-paying jobs”; of the MXrnmissile svstem proposed for an area thernsize of Connecticut to be carxed fromrnthe Utah desert; and of the SagebrushrnRebellion, a noisily assertive uprising ofrnWestern politicians and developers organizedrnfor the purpose of wresting controlrnof federally owned lands in the Westrnfrom Eastern capitalists and the bureaucratsrnin Washington, D.C. Elc’en yearsrnlater. The Angry West makes outdated,rnif not actually quaint, reading. Todav,rndrill-pipe is in scant supply around thernUnited States, hundreds of oil rigs remainrnstacked after nearly a dozen vears,rnand experienced oilfield hands are hardrnto come by. Exploration for oil and gasrnhas virtually ceased in the l,ower 48,rnExxon long ago abandoned its oil-shalernproject at Parachute, leaing behindrnhundreds of vacant housing units built tornshelter the workers it never employed,rnand the MX missile has gone the way ofrnPresident Jimm- Carter, the Dodo.rnSince that time, change throughoutrnmuch of the Rock Mountain area hasrncome slowly, if at all, and in some placesrnspecially favored by heaven it has actuallyrnbeen turned back to allow blessedrnregress to occur. But now comes another,rnmuch worse, development.rnThe Great Boom was dangerous tornthe natural environment of the West, asrnthe continuation of what GovernorrnLamm called “the hunt for energy” stillrnis. (Owing to a tremendous surge in thernprice of gold since the early 80’s, vastrntracts of the state of Nevada are comprisedrnof private mining claims, andrnCrown Butte Minerals, owned largeK’ byrna Canadian company, Noranda, is makingrnplans to start up a gigantic gold minernin the high nrountains on the northeastrnboundary of Yellowstone Park.) It didrntrot, howe’er, constitute a serious threatrnto the indigenous civilization of the region,rnperhaps the one thing more fragilernand precarious than the land itself. As Irnattempted to demonstrate in a book,rnRoughnecking It (also published in 1982),rnthe New West of the 1980’s was substantiallyrnan extension of the Old Westrnof the 1890’s, another spin of the wheelrnof boom and bust that has characterizedrnthis part of the country since its settlementrnby the white man. By contrast,rnthe nev- boom portends, along with thernenvironmental degradation imposed bv arnsubstantial population increase, furtherrnurbanization, recrcationism, and whatrnEd Abbe’ called industrial tourism—allrnof them certain to produce alterations inrna traditional wav of life as satisfyinglvrnhuman and close to the bone of rcalit’ asrnit is unique and beautiful. Worse still, itrnmay not be a boom at all. “It’s not justrnanother cycle but a permanent, historicrnshift,” Lamm, now a professor of publicrnpolicy at the Univcrsit of Denver, believes.rnThe Californians are coming! A centuryrnafter the official closure of thernAmerican frontier, the inevitable is happeningrnas the vast westering humanrnslosh, receding from the coastal paradisernit covered in detritus and offal, washesrnback across the magnificent landscapernthat an earlier generation of Americansrndepreeatingly called the Great AmericanrnDesert and that pioneers and immigrantsrnon their way to Lotus Land passedrnover as being too cold or too hot, toornstreiruous, too unprogressive and ignorant,rntoo crude, too hick. In Los Aneelesrntoday, ou can take classes for a pricernfrom an organization called the GreenerrnPastures Institute whose business is adx’isingrndisillusioned denizens of the GoldenrnState vhere they should resettle.rn(And that, when the- do, they shouldrnimmediately change license plates tornavoid damage to their cars and insults tornthemselves.) Californians, arriving atrnthe gates of the second Eden after havingrntrashed the original one, may sineerel}’rnintend to accommodate themselves torntheir adoptive communities. But it isrnuphill work, and they have brought withrnthenr too much of what airthropologistsrncall cultural baggage, not to mention thernother kind. Westerners, yvhatever theirrnfaults (and there are many), are, parti}’ byrndefault, the realists among the Americanrnpeople, living a life that is much closer tornthe life of the frontier than is generallyrnunderstood; while Californians, in theirrnpostcivilized and fantastical existence,rnare probably the most unrealistic peoplernin the history of the world.rnIn ‘ihe Last Refuge, jim Robbins arguesrnthat the rural West must recognizernand bend before the pressures being exertedrnupon it by urbanites from its ownrncities and those of other regions whosernvotes will finally determine the futurernof the federal lands that amount to asrnmuch as 89 percent of the area of thernWestern states, and whose attitude towardrnrural and wilderness areas isrnquintessentially that of the city dweller:rnaesthetic rather than utilitarian, sentimentalrninstead of practical. He arguesrnfurther that ecological, as well as political,rnnecessity urges it toward a morernpreservatively responsible use of its resources;rnand in the second instance atrnleast he is sureh correct. Generations ofrnhighly destructive mining, logging, andrnranching practices have caused environmentalrndamage that can only be repairedrnby mitigating these, while the position ofrnnewcomers to the region has its ownrnironic and self-fulfilling logic. If thernWest is going to fill up with tens of millionsrnof people from California and elsewhere,rnthen the mode of life familiar tornit and based upon the existence of a relativelyrntiny population spread thinhrnacross a vast area will indeed be impossiblernin the future. But Robbins’ vision ofrnthe New West merging with the Old torncreate a “new society” in the RockyrnMountains may be no less likely, if by thern”new” he means the “better” or even thern”good” society.rnPulling a horse to Montrose, Colorado,rnlast fall I read on the Style page ofrnthe Denver Post a story about the boomingrnpurchase prices paid for old ranchesrnthat are said to have what realtors callrn”The Look.” The Look includes arnmountain meadoyv threaded by a creekrnDECEMBER 1993/31rnrnrn