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Winter 2000, Volume 17.2



Max Oelschlaegerphoto of Max Oelschlaeger.

The Way Ahead: Building Grounded Communities 

Max Oelschlaeger is the McAllister Endowed Chair in Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University. He hosts a televised colloquium series that brings the Plateau community together for public discussion. Recent books include
The Idea of Wilderness (Yale UP), and Texas Land Ethics (UT Press), with Pete Gunter, awarded the 1998 San Antonio Conservation Society award. 
Read other work by Max Oelschlaeger published in Weber Studies: Vol. 12.2.


We enter the new millennium on thin ice. Threats to sustainable living include the   anthropogenic mass extinction of life, runaway population growth, global climate change, and relentlessly growing demands for consumer products. The political efforts to deal with these issues at a global level though the United Nations, most notably Agenda 21, are viewed by many with scepticism. Agenda 21 lacks the force of law, and if it were law, critics believe that "sustainable development" is intrinsically oxymoronic. Our national efforts seem to be marked by one step ahead, followed by two steps back. For example, CERCLA, the superfund law, appears to be a step in the right direction; yet billions of tax dollars have been consumed in litigation and amelioration, while virtually insignificant sums are spent on pollution prevention. Regional efforts, such as the Western Governors ENLIBRA initiative, remain so new that results or lack thereof are as yet unknown. Sceptics have already criticized ENLIBRA as smoke and mirrors, that is, creating the appearance of action while environmental problems worsen. Political efforts by individual states are, according to many, narrowly legalistic in complying with federal statutes, so as to keep the federal money flowing without addressing fundamental issues of economics, ecology, and politics.

Which brings me to my subject, that is, communities and the steps leading toward good and sustainable living. My account here refers exclusively to those communities within the intermountain West, particularly the smaller ones, the Durangos and Show Lows, and the middle-sized ones, the Flagstaffs and Missoulas. The Salt Lakes, Denvers, Albuquerques, and Phoenixes are another matter, basically outside my scope.1

In Community and the Politics of Place, Dan Kemmis looks at the West he loves, and envisions four possibilities for the future. The first and most likely is that the intermountain West will become more and more like the East. "The last arena," he writes, "of a way of life based on open country will disappear as the rest of it has, under the ever-less-gradual industrialization and urbanization of the continent" (37). The second possibility, which Kemmis finds highly unlikely, is that the West might return to its roots, to the "last of what is best," as he puts it (38). "A third scenario," he observes, " is for people of good will to continue valiantly to resist the worst incursions on their way of life, to continue to strive, individually or through pluralistic coalitions, to move society toward a better future" (38). This scenario, Kemmis believes, accurately characterizes the politics of the last twenty years or so. He argues that such action has made some difference. But, he continues,

The question is whether this way of dealing with the `last of what is best' is good enough. The fact is that most of the victories claimed through this kind of struggle are victories only in the sense that things might have been worse. It is a victory when we slow or scale down a threat to our way of life, but all too rarely do we actually gain ground…. What is worse, the way our political system leads us to pursue our visions very often has the effect of alienating more and more people from public life altogether. (38-39)

The third alternative, then, has lead to a politics of deadlock, pitting bankers, developers, loggers, ranchers, home builders, heavy equipment operators, and the like against conservationists, preservationists, and environmentalists.

Which leads Kemmis to call for consideration of a fourth possibility. "If a politics of polarization will only weaken still further our capacity for an effective public life, then perhaps it is time to hear again [Wallace] Stegner's call to cooperation as the region's best chance to `create a society to match its scenery'" (42). If we are to build communities in the intermountain West that "match the scenery," how are we to proceed? Are there reasons to think that a politics of cooperation is possible? Isn't it more realistic to acquiesce to the third path, that is, for those given to the constraint of growth and development, the conservation of wild lands and rivers, and the protection of endangered species, to fight as hard as they can for as long as they can to hold off the inevitable, so that a few relict wilderness areas large enough to support grizzlies and elk and a few small towns might remain for those given to rural living in proximity to wild lands.

Answers to such questions are in part common sense. Common sense in that the only way to proceed is by departing from the present, guided primarily by a vision of the future (that itself might shift from year to year) and the application of that vision to problems amenable to incremental solutions. But more than common sense is involved: there are abundant possibilities for civic action that addresses the problem of building good and sustainable communities. Among these are new and evolving tools and strategies for forestry, for ranching, for water resource management, and for managing wild lands and protecting biodiversity.

There is one possibility, in particular, that I wish to focus on_what I will call an "ecosystem approach," which overlaps with various notions of "ecosystem planning" and "ecosystem management." Try thinking of an ecosystem approach as a signpost indicating a path toward a future where our civic lives are reinvigorated and where "inhabitation" is more than a word in bioregional narratives. No doubt, the idea of an ecosystem approach is sometimes maligned. Rather than a marker indicating a route of passage between the present and a sustainable future, critics view it as problematic, even as a Trojan horse allowing urbanization and industrialization to proceed under the guise of legitimacy. One of my friends, greatly experienced in ecosystem planning, calls it a first class road to "growth hell," otherwise known as "Californication." The very words "ecosystem," "planning," and "management" have been singled out as problematic. I am aware of the criticisms and difficulties. Given the constraints of space and time, I am going to focus on the positive implications of an ecosystem approach, that is, its potential for use by the dwellers of the intermountain West for building grounded communities. (If this potential is realized, the pitfalls will necessarily be addressed and overcome.)

Let me offer a short sketch of a near consensus position on an ecosystem approach.2 The sketch has two parts. Part one is descriptive. Part two recounts some legitimating arguments for an ecosystem approach, an apologetic that addresses the question of why an ecosystem approach is crucial to building grounded communities.


Part one: What is an ecosystem approach?

Four basic themes have emerged among the constituencies, scientists and citizens, federal and state agency personnel, and scholars who have participated in and studied it.

First, it is a departure from traditional, strictly economic, ways of valuing the earth. Rather an inclusive array of values are admitted into the cultural conversation. Economic objectives still count, but they are now one among many, including for example the intrinsic rights of floral and faunal species to continued existence, the protection of watersheds and habitat, and so on. At the far reaches of an ecosystem approach values such as appropriate technology, social justice, and human dignity also enter the conversation.

Second, the science involved in an ecosystem approach is not narrowly reductive, focusing on technological solutions, but broadly holistic. There is an understanding that ecosystems entail temporal and spatial scales that have been neglected in traditional science; for example, we have clear cut forests, built super highways, and constructed dams without thinking of long term temporal and wide spread spatial consequences. While narrowly engineering approaches have dominated, the complexity of the relations between natural and cultural systems has eluded reductionism. New ways of approaching the nature/culture interface, grounded especially in nonlinear thermodynamics and chaos theory, are beginning to transform science and technology.

Third, an ecosystem approach challenges us to reframe managerial strategies and policies as learning processes rather than as the mechanical application of universal rules, like putting the land to its so-called highest and best use. An evolutionary perspective on the processes of cultural adaptation suggests that there are no final managerial solutions. The notion of moving beyond certainty goes by different names, such as "double loop learning" and "adaptive management." An ecosystem approach affirms the dynamic, open-ended relations between culture and nature, highlighting the crucial importance of learning from experience and adjusting our behavior accordingly.

Fourth, an ecosystem approach entails democratic, collaborative decision making processes that incorporate inclusive scales of issue analysis and policy judgment. Nature is not organized the way that humans have liked to think, with neat boundaries between states and counties, public and private land, wilderness areas and cities. Our ranches, villages, communities, counties, and states are all placed, that is, grounded in biogeophysical reality. The many human stakeholders, who often hold apparently countervailing, even contradictory interests, are beginning to work together to develop effective public policies and guidelines for action that reflect the reality of place. And different kinds of scientists and land managers are becoming involved in this process, not as the experts who make the final decision, but as practitioners of civic science.


Part two: Why an ecosystem approach?

We know what the West looks like as constructed on a narrowly economic, scientifically reductionist, traditionally procedural, and exclusionary basis. An ecosystem approach, as outlined above, however tentative and provisional, is a new departure. The old way is arguably antithetical to the long term well being of culture and nature. An ecosystem approach begins with the premise that, "It's time to try something new." The legitimation of such an approach lies at the convergence of an array of arguments that are partly deconstructive, that is, fly in the face of the conventional wisdom, and partly reconstructive, that is, offer alternatives for constructing the New West generally and grounded communities particularly. These arguments, to name just a few, are economical, ecological, historical, and philosophical.

A new generation of economists are deconstructing neoclassical economics. They argue that neoclassical analytical methods are wrong-headed; rather than optimizing productivity, conventional economic analysis threatens its long term viability, and rather than aiding communities in development efforts, conventional economics creates conditions that undercut economic vitality. An exemplar is Tom Power's Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies. Power makes clear how the neoclassical paradigm leads to poor communal and regional decision making that, over the long term, ruins local economies. Bearding the economic lion in its own den, Power argues that the primary sources of our well being, indeed, the very meaning of life, are neither market commodities nor tied to income.

Second, a new generation of ecologists are deconstructing the notion that nature is nothing more than a material underpinning for culture, a stockpile of resources for economic appropriation, and a dumping ground for the by-products of a consumerist, industrial life style. They argue that not only is such a conception of biogeophysical reality patently false, but a threat to human well being. The noted biologist Ernst Mayr argues that it is a tragedy (that's his word: tragedy) that the discourse of Enlightenment science, in particular physics, has overdetermined our societal institutions and beliefs. The systems ecologist Frank Golley, concluding his remarkable study of the history of the ecosystem concept, observes that we can no longer be clear

where ecology ends and the study of the ethics of nature begins, not is it clear…where biological ecology ends and human ecology begins. These divisions become less and less useful. Clearly, the ecosystem, for some at least, has provided a basis for moving beyond strictly scientific questions to deeper questions of how humans should live with each other and the environment. (205)

Thus, an ecosystem approach, by bracketing scientific reductionism and utilitarianism, can be viewed as the hinge on which the gate of sustainability swings.

Third, a new generation of historians, such as Patricia Limerick, Carolyn Merchant, and Donald Worster are deconstructing the old Western history, which revolved around the theme of Man (capital M man, a white Anglo male warrior/entrepreneur, John Wayne type) conquering the frontier, and moving ahead in the construction of alternative historical narratives. The new Western history makes clear that people other than male Anglos were and remain part of the Intermountain West, that such people have values other than those of the market place, that they envision different projects than relentless demographic growth and accompanying economic development, and that the mythologies of Progress and Manifest Destiny are not part of their beliefs. These histories uncover the assumptions on which the old West was built and begin to imagine future possibilities. While history books begin and end, historical process does not. The new Western history facilitates an ecosystem approach by showing again and again that place and people are intertwined in ways that we are only now beginning to grasp.

Finally, a new generation of philosophers, or what I prefer to call grounded thinkers, are deconstructing traditions that isolate humans from everything else, including each other. This tradition began with the Greeks, who saw the flora and the fauna, the waters and the soils, as merely transitory appearances inimical to human well being. The meaning of human life was associated with another realm, a realm of transcendental and perforce eternal truths. Another floor of the dominant philosophical edifice was added during the first scientific revolution. Francis Bacon laid down the notion that the sole function of science was to provide the power to control nature. And Descartes, also an apologist for the power of science, convinced us that through science we could render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature. (Ironically, since pure thinking things have no truck with nature, a strict Cartesian has no reason for such interest.)

Grounded thinkers are making the case that human beings are not free floating Cartesian atoms, thinking things cut off from their own bodies and the myriad relations they have with a fleshy, living world. Grounded thinkers argue that there are no solutions for the major environmental dysfunctions of the world through technology. Rather solutions begin with re-thinking our own being, in particular our humanness as this is connected with the rest of nature. Bruce Foltz claims that our relations with earth, in all there complexity and mutability, are the very stuff of being human, and that to become fully human necessitates that we become dwellers in place, connected to the land through roots that go deep into chthonian layers of our own human nature. Clearly, an ecosystem approach offers a toehold for such a vision to lead us toward sustainable living.

All this having been said, where are we? I turn now to the penultimate section.


Building Grounded Communities

Don Worster argues that Westerners have caught themselves in a paradox, wanting at one and the same time open spaces and wild lands, and the amenities of rural and small town living, while also desiring economic development, rising standards of living, and abundant, cheaply priced infrastructure amenities, such as water and energy. "To date," he writes, "the West has hardly acknowledged that it has created any contradiction at all. It has simply built more dams, made more money, packed in as many people as it could, ignored the costs to the environment and society that had to be paid, and told itself all the while it was the freest place around. Now that will no longer do" (90).

What will do, then? Worster believes that we must have an alternative vision, a vision of a new West, as I like to call it, one that preserves the natural amenities that gives western life its qualitative richness while also, as he puts it, allows us to "live well for the longest period of time…. [Such a vision] ought to suggest how we can occupy this place without consuming it or letting it consume us." And it ought to involve all of us who live here, "men and women, white and nonwhite, natives and immigrants alike" (90).

But there is something more, on Worster's account, something that brings us full circle back to Daniel Kemmis and others who have valorized the vital, irreplaceable role that the small and middle-sized communities of the West will play. "I believe," Worster continues,

that such a vision will begin to appear when and as, and only when and as, the people of the West begin to care deeply about their communities, especially their smaller communities where the relationships among people are the most direct and intense. Those communities may not in every case be models of decency or intelligence or tolerance, but it is only through caring about them that we can begin to learn to be at home in this place. (90)

The way ahead, I contend, begins at this historic moment, the moment where we begin to perceive ourselves as living in the gap between our retrospections of the past and our projections of the future, seemingly caught between a failed past and future powerless to be born. Further, it is precisely in the intermountain West, in the small and mid-sized communities of the public lands West, where place and people come together in a fateful rendezvous. Where the four alternatives sketched by Kemmis are palpably real. Where the mettle of an ecosystem approach will be tested, either empowering us to forge good and sustainable communities that match the scenery, or frustrating us, as an ecosystem approach reveals itself as yet another of those mirages that appear on the horizon of arid landscapes, promising so much when viewed from afar, but delivering nothing in the end.

Some examples are pertinent, and I will briefly consider three: the Sky Island-Gila Nature Reserve Network, the City of Flagstaff and the Greater Grand Canyon Bioregion, and the so-called new ranching. My criteria for choosing these cases are two. First, I've attempted to examine ecosystem approaches that work across different biogeophysical scales, from the entire intermountain West in the case of the new ranching to a city-scape and its bioregion in the case of Flagstaff. Second, my examination attempts to determine if people living in the intermountain West are actually moving toward the creation of good and sustainable places to live. I'm not asking "Have these people arrived?" I'm not sure that humans ever arrive, and in any case I'm not a utopian. Rather, the question is, "Are they moving, however confusedly and chaotically, in an alternative direction, toward a mundus alter?"

My first example is the so-called Sky Island-Greater Gila Nature Reserve Network (SIGNRN)_a project that has been several years in the design and is now entering into a more exacting public phase, one that will truly test the meaning of an ecosystem approach. Clearly, if SIGNRN is to become a reality, then precedent-setting changes, involving collaborative forms of governance and management among federal and state agencies, city and county governments, regional planning commissions, private land owners and public range managers, tribal nations, and conservationists and scientists will be required. Without cooperation SIGNRN is unlikely.

As a biogeophysical entity, SIGNRN sweeps across most of the intermountain Southwest, from the Mogollon Rim and Highlands to the Gila Highlands to the east, across the Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madrean forests, and on south to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. The presently mapped iteration of SIGNRN is a somewhat smaller portion of this region, based on a landscape scale design covering south-central and southwestern New Mexico, south-central and southeastern Arizona, and north-central Mexico. From a conservation standpoint, the project is designed on the so-called three C's, that is, cores, corridors, and carnivores (viewed as flagship and keystone species).3 The "cores," in this case, are the designated wilderness areas, national forests, native American reservations, and the old growth forests that still exist in northen Mexico. Within these core areas are literally hundreds of forested mountains thrusting up from the desert floors, creating oases of biodiversity. Some claim that the sky islands possess the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in the United States. What is known for sure is that there are more endangered and potentially endangered plant and animal species in this bioregion that any where else in North America.

The historic patterns of land use, including grazing, forestry, and mining, have shown direct, negative effects on the habitats and wildlife of the region, both within and without the core areas. A key part of the SIGNRN plan is to restore connectivity between the core areas. Because of the patterns of human settlement and land use the sky islands have become literally that: oases with relict populations of plant and animal species that are too small to support genetically viable populations. Further, these islands offer no protection from catastrophic events, such as prolonged droughts or extensive fires. Corridors are essential, as "the linkages" providing migratory pathways for plants and animals—basically genetic conduits—and also as the escape routes in times of environmental duress. But creating these linkages as well as the protocols for management of land buffers or stewardship zones entails unprecedented cooperation.

The big question is, of course, can SIGNRN move from the initial visioning stage toward on the ground reality? An ecosystem approach suggests that it can be done. Already we can find multiple examples of collaborative decision making incorporating multiple values, holistic science, and adaptive management. While the "over my dead body" crowd of ranchers gets most of the press, some ranchers in the SIGNRN area are cooperating, working with federal and state agencies in reintroducing endangered species on their lands, restoring riparian habitats, and managing their herds in different ways. Some county and city governments are taking positive steps, cooperating with other agencies and conservationists in refusing permits for developments that would devastate migratory pathways, building roadways that go over or under critical habitat, and so on.

The second example of an ecosystem approach centers on the city of Flagstaff and the Greater Grand Canyon Bioregion. Flagstaff, population 55,000, is located on the southern reaches of the Colorado Plateau, nestled in the highlands adjacent to the San Francisco peaks amid the largest extant Ponderosa Forest in North America, and including Mojave/Great Basin scrublands, Plains/Great Basin grasslands, and Pinon/Juniper woodlands in addition to the Spruce/Ponderosa Forests.

Citizens of Flagstaff and the Greater Grand Canyon Bioregion are beginning to use an ecosystem approach in considering the city-scape, the landscape, and the questions concerning sustainability. According to the Grand Canyon Trust, "Charting a course for the…future requires an understanding of the dynamics of the human population and the relationship of communities to their natural environment" (5). The local residents increasingly view themselves as caught up in the quintessential western predicament of wanting it all: that is, a vigorous prosperous economy and the amenities of nature, wild creatures wandering in pristine wilderness, free flowing rivers and dark, starry skies at night.

The key question is how to free themselves from that predicament, as well as deal with the relentless pressures of demographic growth, an increase of more than 30 percent in 20 years (from approximately 77K in 1980 to more than 120K in 1999). The people, defining that term to include the federal and state land managers, the residents of Flagstaff and other communities, including Native Americans, conservation advocates and scholars, have come together in different venues, some mandated by federal law, some by civic initiative, to consider the future.

Many different values are at work in the bioregion, including those which are narrowly ecological and those which are narrowly economic; but most of the stakeholders agree that only insofar as all these interests begin to meld through cooperative inquiry and decision making are lasting solutions possible. The patchwork approach, the jigsaw puzzle of myriad political and administrative fiefdoms, public and private actors, is understood as inimical to the sustainability of the bioregion. According to the Grand Canyon Trust, more and more stakeholders recognize that "fragmented management of the region's lands and resources confounds the basic notion of an ecosystem approach, and represents one of the biggest challenges to improving environmental health" (68). Thus, the Greater Grand Canyon Bioregion testifies to all the opportunities and all the perils of an ecosystem approach. But the overriding aim is clear: to create a bioregion that allows its residents to enjoy economic sufficiency and human dignity while also preserving ecological integrity.

My third and final example of an ecosystem approach at work is the so-called new ranching, that is, public lands ranching.4 Public lands ranching has been and remains an ethically, politically, economically, ecologically, and scientifically contentious issue. Conservation activists still tend to view ranchers as self-interested profit maximizers who would strip every last blade of grass from the land, exterminate every last predator and, for that matter, native herbivore that competes for grass, and destroy biologically rich riparian habitat with reckless abandon. Ranchers tend to view environmentalists as the devil incarnate. Which is to say that western ranching can be viewed as virtually a test case for sustainability. Ranching, Don Worster contends, "is an issue that is absolutely crucial to the course of western American development, [and it is] one that has much to teach the rest of the nation" (36).

Beyond question, public lands ranching has had an adverse impact on the native species, grasslands, and watersheds. Estimates are that at least ten percent of the intermountain West grasslands have been destroyed by the ranching induced process of desertification, that is, rendered incapable of supporting life forms above the size of an ant. A Forest Service Report estimates that "13 percent of the West has suffered `moderate depletion' (0-25 percent loss of forage value), 34 percent `material depletion' (26-50 percent loss), 36 percent `severe depletion' (50-75 percent), and over 16 percent `extreme depletion' (76-100 percent)." (Worster, 47) I will leave the impact on native flora and fauna, watersheds, and indigenous people for another time, as well as the complicated arguments involving the category of "wilderness." Efforts to manage the public grasslands of the West have generally satisfied no one, leaving a history, as Dan Daggett observes, "of stiff doses of contention followed by the bitter aftertaste of compromise" (2).

Yet there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon: an ecosystem approach, again, offers new possibilities for public lands ranching. In some cases these possibilities are becoming actualities. The actualities have been chronicled by authors who describe a sea change in process, one where a ecosystem view of rangeland is replacing a reductionistic perspective that sees it only as "fodder," and one where conservationists, federal land managers, and ranchers are forging consensus-based solutions. Daggett asserts that "the only way to create sustainable, functional rangeland ecosystems that are healthy and diverse is by means of sustainable, functional human communities that are healthy and diverse as well." (viii) Charles Wilkinson argues that "the controversy over the health of the western range ought not to be a war against the ranchers" (106). Which means that collaborative decision making, involving ranchers and conservationists, politicians and agency land managers, and incorporating an array of political, economic, and ecological values, is the road ahead.



As the millennium turns we are more than 50 years from Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, and his arguments for the creation of a land community, a vision in which human beings stopped acting as if they were the masters and possessors of the earth and started acting as plain members and citizens. In the interim ecological science has taught us much. We now know that distinctions between them and us, between the anthropogenic world, the built environment, and the natural world, the biogeophysical realities that sustain all life, are tenuous. We know that the future hangs in the balance: either we seize the possibilities of the moment, or we forever regret lost opportunities. "Western communities," Wilkinson prophesies, "can either take charge of the future by adopting some form of conscious management and direction, based on full and brightly etched visions of the future, and sustain the West's lands, waters, and way of life; or western communities can continue to abdicate—by allowing developers to charge ahead with few restraints—and surrender the distinctive qualities of the West within a very few decades" (304).

An ecosystem approach, I have argued, whatever the vagaries of the concept and the insufficiencies of our initial efforts, can facilitate the processes of building grounded communities in the intermountain West, communities that are good for people and creatures, that offer ample livelihoods and economic sufficiency without impairing ecological health and the indigenous flora and fauna. Clearly, other opinions of an ecosystem approach exist. Some conservationists and environmentalists advance a Trojan horse interpretation of an ecosystem approach, viewing initiatives such as ENLIBRA as little more than political hocus-pocus designed to legitimate continued demographic growth and economic development. On the other side of the coin, some development and private property interests interpret an ecosystem approach as political hocus-pocus designed to legitimate takings, increased governmental regulation, and the constraint of individual rights and freedom. Others view an ecosystem approach as too little too late, since a radical paradigm shift is the only thing can save us; or as a stratagem that "buys time" while other more radical solutions are devised. Surely the first step into the future is anchored in the present. We cannot, like Dorothy, throw water on the wicked witch and watch her melt away; we can only create tomorrow by moving on from where we are. Where we are lies somewhere between a failed past that was hard on the land and on people, and a future that is as yet not born. But the past also contains the seeds of tomorrow, the hope that a citizenry can escape the procedural republic and political deadlock, and join in the arduous yet fulfilling process of collaborative decision making that is good for the land and people. Though he is no political theorist, Allan Savory captures this notion in the observation that "None of the various government systems humans have so far devised has enabled us to deal with the complexity of nature. Most of the problems we face today…are of our own making because the interconnectedness of mankind, our planet, and its resources is not taken seriously or even believed fundamentally…." Yet, he continues, "One has to assume that few people deliberately do the wrong thing, and that given enough knowledge and time, we will find the right forms of government and administration to manage our resources" (13). And our own communities.

There is no hope of sustainable living on a small planet with decisions that are good only for people and not for places, or for only one class of people with one set of values at the expense of other classes of people with other sets of values. An ecosystem approach is one possibility, perhaps the best possibility, for actually wrestling with the thorny issues of sustainable living. Living in a world where the dominant narratives serve to alienate us from each other and from our places, we must surely look to new narratives that encourage cooperation going beyond the mindless operations of the procedural republic and the mechanical outcomes of the market.



Foltz, Bruce V. 1995. Inhabiting the Earth: Heidegger, Environmental Ethics, and the Metaphysics of Nature. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press.

Daggett, Dan. 1998. Beyond the Rangeland Conflict: Toward a West that Works. Flagstaff, Ariz.: Good Stewards Project.

Golley, Frank B. 1993. A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology: More than the Sum of the Parts. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Grand Canyon Trust. 1997. Beyond the Boundaries: The Human and Natural Communities of the Greater Grand Canyon. Flagstaff, Ariz.: Grand Canyon Trust.

Kemmis, Daniel. 1990. Community and the Politics of Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The Growth of Biological  Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Power, Thomas Michael. 1996. Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies: The Search for a Value of Place. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Savory, Allan. 1988. Holistic Resource Management. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Worster, Donald. 1992. Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilkinson, Charles F. 1992. Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.



1 "Scale issues" complicate the issues of building grounded communities for the large, metropolitan areas of the intermountain West. Because of the size of the built environment, the density of traffic, the intensity of economic life, and the problems of civic life created by the sheer "mass" of people, human beings tend to be disconnected from each other and from nature. Markets tend to dominate, leading to the commodification of nature and largely commercial civic lives.

2 My analysis is based in part on conversations with individuals experienced in the nuances of the ecosystem approach, including Geoff Barnard, of the Grand Canyon Trust, and Diane Vosick, of the Nature Conservancy. The draft of a paper by Charles Malone, "Ecosystem Management and the New West," was also constructive. Additional sources include Robert B. Keiter, ed., Reclaiming the Native Home of Hope (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1998), especially Part II, "A Compelling Unity: Integrating People and Ecosystems"; Charles Davis, ed., Western Public Lands and Environmental Politics (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1997), and Hanna J. Cortner and Margaret A. Moote, The Politics of Ecosystem Management (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1999).

3 See Michael Soulé and Reed Noss, "Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation," Wild Earth 8:3 (1998):18- 28.

4 While ranching in the intermountain West is understood by natives as "public lands ranching," the institution is poorly understood elsewhere. A public lands ranch typically involves a small private holding (say 1,000 acres, fee simple) and federal lands grass leases (from the BLM and the Forest Service), say 30,000 acres.


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