Outside magazine, January 1996
Sheep rancher Randy Campbell says he's been backed against a wall. "All the spring range is being subdivided for golf courses," sighs Campbell, who works land near Vail, Colorado. Such growth has forced him to consider a startling possibility: Could affluent newcomers, not environmentalists, be his real worst enemy?
Campbell isn't alone. In a small but growing spirit of sagebrush détente, ranchers and greens are sidling toward each other to do something about a shared foe: ranchette-building Rocky Mountain newbies, who often hail from California. (In 1994, for example, Californians accounted for 25 percent of Colorado's skyrocketing population growth.) Gary Sprung, a Crested Butte environmentalist, has brought ranchers together with backcountry recreationists to fight suburban sprawl. Near Steamboat Springs, ranchers in the Elk River Valley have agreed among themselves not to subdivide. Working with greens and county planners, they're also putting teeth into local development restrictions.
Such cooperation is working--so far--only near ski towns. That it exists at all is amazing, considering the historic loathing on both sides. "If the rancher wants to survive, he's got to adapt," says Reeves Brown, executive vice-president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association and a sometime cohort of Sprung's. "The way coyotes do. The rancher can learn a lot from the coyote."
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