by Ashea Mills October 28, 2008
You don’t know it, but I am looking down at your house right now. I am the bird in the sky, the small plane headed to Chicago and beyond. I get to see the stupendous aerial view of all that surrounds you, and my friends, it is magnificent.
I’m sorry to be leaving. It’s a perfect fall day, mostly blue skies, a few puffball clouds, mid 60’s. Family calls, so I’ll miss this perfect Montana week, but flying out over it, watching the land fall away…what a treat! The dominant features on the landscape are the curvaceous folds, the land rippling below as we bank away from Gallatin Field towards Livingston. The mountains ahead are looming closer, with the Bridgers off our port side.
On my side, looking down and south, I am running parallel to Trail Creek, seeing where it sashays into Paradise Valley. The valley itself is a sweeping sigh, an open space of clustered trees along watercourses, and glimpses of homes here and there. The broad basin of the valley almost seems at odds with the jagged saw toothed Absorokas.
I can see the Tetons piercing the haze to the south, and most of what I love is between them and I: my partner, my home, my friends, my mountains.
Now I am over the 90 degree bend the braided, winding Yellowstone River takes through Livingston. The river is steely and low this fall day. Town looks as sweet from this vantage point as it does while standing on Main Street, looking into the mountainous gloam at dusk, storefronts twinkling like a scene from a movie or a book.
And now, the crinkly folds of Absoroka peaks give way to the broad, flat top mesas of the Beartooth Plateau, already graced with this season’s base layer of snow.
What a view! What a gift to be able to see our home from up here! But my heart is weighing heavy with the impending choice we must make. I am of the opinion that when I fly eastward out of Bozeman in 20 years, when I take my starboard seat on purpose, because I love this quick and rare aerial glimpse of home, I want the mountains, the valley and the river to dominate my view.
Others do not share this opinion. There is a group of so-called “Concerned Citizens” that would very much like to be able to build whenever and however, values, views and history be dammed. They would like to have you believe that new development on the banks of the river and tops of dry canyons is good for us all, and that you and I shouldn’t mind higher taxes to pay for services to remote and scattered home sites.
One of the main reasons I fell in love with this area is that it still feels real. There is an authenticity to Park County that is lacking elsewhere. The working ranches and farms, their toil and struggle and rewards are a part of the fabric of what makes this area unique. Trophy homes in place of them are what ruins it.
Looking out on the landscape and seeing open space, feeling the wind (oh, yes, the wind,) having an unobstructed view of the big sky we all value…watching the calves grow burly in spring, while the alfalfa greens up…hunting for the winter’s food in fall, following the river’s seasonal surges and declines with the ebbs and flows in our own lives…This is what it means to live in Park County.
Maybe you’re from here, or maybe you moved here because you found yourself feeling more at home here than anywhere else in the world. Either way, we can all appreciate why we love it. I suppose then, it follows that we can see why others would too. Development will occur, and others will want to share in this most magnificent place, bordered by a world destination park, and countless opportunities for fishing, hiking, hunting and biking. Okay, so we get it. But does that mean everyone who comes in can build a monstrous house that impacts the view for miles around? Or take water away from agriculture to build a golf course that we aren’t even invited to? I vehemently say no.
Park County will see growth and that can be a very positive and necessary force. We all want opportunities and a sound economy. If current trends continue, Park County will see 2,100 new homes and 5,000 new residents in less than 20 years. We must decide now, as a community, how we want that to look. This isn’t about whether or not you can raise chickens, or if the garage door should be shut on Sundays. A local growth policy ( a non-regulatory guide, no less) can never trump Constitutional law. Your property rights are safe. This is, however, the defining moment for how Park County will look from a plane, or from a peak, or driving down East River Road in ten or twenty years.
We do have choices. A couple months ago, we were coming out of camping in the Crazy Mountains. We stopped in to enjoy a perfect brunch at The Grand Hotel in Big Timber. Lazing in the lobby afterward, I noticed a small pamphlet titled “The Sweet Grass Code of the West”. It was informative and inspiring. It talks about how the homes that have endured and weathered well are the ones tucked down in draws, protected from buffeting wind rather than posted on top of a hill for all to see. It mentions a rich and storied history and how that bonds the community to their past and future. It speaks to traditional agricultural use, the value of clean water and recreation, the value of community. Sweet Grass County comes right out and says, “These are the values we hold true. Our Growth Policy will protect these values.”
I am probably somewhere over the Dakotas now. It is beautiful in its own way, quilted as it is with its own lives and work and histories below. But it ain’t no Park County. There’s no place like home.
Folks, we can do this. Pass the Growth Policy on Nov. 4th. It is not a painful process. It only seeks to enhance what we already know and have decided. It allows for public process. It allows local residents to decide how our future will look, not a small group of opponents to any planning at all.
In the past weeks, you may have heard people say that the County Commissioners have changed the “People’s Plan” into the “Commissioners Plan.” This is an attempt to fool the public into having no plan at all. The Growth Plan has been worked on for many years and truly reflects the will of Park County residents. Opponents to having a plan are focusing on three wording changes that make no practical difference to the overall plan, but simply bring it into state compliance. They want to create a smokescreen that prevents us from moving forward. We simply need to vote yes on the Growth Plan to get it passed and get on with the business of ensuring our way of life for the future.
We will all benefit from forethought and planning. If your goals are to protect and support agriculture, clean water, and a strong economy, vote yes on the Growth Policy. If scenic preservation, history, recreation, wildlife and a sound future in Park County are important to you, please vote YES on the Growth Policy.
And then get out there and enjoy it.
Ashea Mills has worked as a naturalist and educator for over 15 years, and has been guiding and teaching in Yellowstone National Park since 1998. Ashea is currently an instructor for the Yellowstone Association Institute and a frequent contributor to regional publications of articles relating to geology, flora, fauna, and history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Once upon a time, long ago and far away, when at least a thin thread of ethics ran through reputable American publishing houses, publishers actually cared (and checked) whether the non-fiction books they published were factual. Not any more.
Why should you care? Apart from the rare American who hungers for facts and intelligence, perhaps most people don’t care. But put yourself in the position of the person being libelled. If a book was published with completely undocumented and unverifiable assertions-what we would call “lies” on our planet–about you, what would you do? By the time you sued, the damage would be done.
“Obama Nation,” debunked by reputable sources everywhere as a pack of lies, was published by Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions, a division run by Mary Matalin, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and a publishing conduit for the conservative fringe. Matalin is the solitary voice claiming the book to be a good work of scholarship even though real scholars have discredited the “author,” Jerome Corsi.
In short, Simon & Schuster has demonstrated that it is willing to publish libel. Traditionally, publishers check facts before publishing. Think about what would happen if you asked them to publish your fine manuscript asserting that George W. Bush has had a long-running affair with Cindy McCain, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and several dead people, complete with quotes and bogus footnotes (Mr Corsi cites his own works as well as other discredited “sources”). How about a potential money-maker about how John McCain was never even in Vietnam during the war but was instead doing drag shows in Columbus, Ohio? Hmmm. Would that get past the editors? Ms Matalin? So, let’s just cut to the cha$e and boycott Simon & Schuster. Why would we pay money to a publisher when they are known to sell goods that are inauthentic?
Repeat: Boycott Simon & Schuster. If you’d like to tell them why you are boycotting them, fill out a Customer Service form, or write a letter to:
Simon & Schuster, Inc.1230 Avenue of the AmericasNew York, NY 10020
Simon & Schuster divisions/imprints include: Atria Books, Beyond Words Publishing, Free Press, Howard Books, Kaplan, Pocket Books, Scribner, Strebor, The Touchstone and Fireside Group, Threshold Editions, Washington Square Press, and these young adults/children’s imprints: Aladdin Paperbacks, Atheneum Fireside Books, Little Simon, Little Simon Inspirations, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (including Paula Wiseman Books and Ruckus), Simon & Schuster Libros Para Niños, Simon Pulse, Simon Scribbles, Simon Spotlight, Simon Spotlight Entertainment. Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS.
If you saw the sound bite from me in last Friday’s Enterprise, you know I am not a Christmas shopper. It’s not that I’m cheap (impecunious perhaps, but not parsimonious), but I think all the getting and spending is more than silly.
I make an exception for buying local and especially for buying art locally. That’s not silly. It’s smart. A painting, print, or photograph will last far longer than the latest phone-like device that takes your picture, plays music, plays videos on a screen proportioned for field mice cinephiles, and plucks your stray nose hairs. So, head on over to ArtsMontana.com and cruise the links in the left sidebar to see an astonishing array of local talent and to find art that you can buy online or directly from the studio. The Events/Shows category will also plug you in to art from local galleries.
Go on. Think Wall Art not Walmart. Mister Walton’s heirs don’t need any more 432,000 square foot homes.