Where Old West meets New West : confronting conservation, conflict and change on Utah's last frontier Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/3f462820q

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  • In the United States during the last 30 years there has been a shift from extractive natural resource-based economies of the Old West to a New West defined by environmental protection. Over the past century, a growing national support for environmental protection has influenced a lengthening list of national and state parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas in the western United States. Increasingly, urbanites seeking outdoor recreation and enhanced "quality of life" are attracted to the rural towns, or "gateway towns," bordering these protected natural areas. Boulder and Escalante, Utah, traditional ranching communities that became gateway towns to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on September 18, 1996, are western rural towns currently experiencing such change. President Clinton created Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) by invoking the Antiquities Act and thus bypassing congressional approval and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. As a result, the local people of Boulder and Escalante have expressed anger and hostility toward the federal government and environmentalists, which has led to community dysfunction and polarization, leaving Boulder and Escalante in disadvantageous positions as gateway towns faced with the task of planning for increased tourism and population growth. In my thesis I utilize cultural survival theory and perspectives on environmentalism, tourism and growth management to explore the various impacts of GSENM on Boulder and Escalante's local culture and to identify possible remedies or alternatives to these impacts. Methods used in collecting data include background research, participant observation, recent related survey data, and in-depth interviews with Boulder and Escalante residents. Research findings show that GSENM threatens the local culture by infringing on local territoriality, introducing outside values, beliefs and ideas, forcing rapid and unwanted change on a traditional people, and leaving locals feeling voiceless and powerless in the face of change. In sum, I found that a lack of both trust and cultural sensitivity have played roles in fostering community dysfunction and polarization. However, I believe that common ground and community solidarity can be achieved in Boulder and Escalante through the re-establishment of trust, a greater sensitivity toward the local culture, and proper leadership.
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