Rocky Mountain Divide

[ American Studies ]

Rocky Mountain Divide

Selling and Saving the West

By John B. Wright

A study of two western American states with different approaches to land conservation.



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6 x 9 | 293 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72867-7

The opposing forces of conservation and development have shaped and will continue to shape the natural environment and scenic beauty of the American West. Perhaps nowhere are their opposite effects more visible than in the neighboring states of Colorado and Utah, so alike in their spectacular mountain environments, yet so different in their approaches to land conservation. This study explores why Colorado has over twenty-five land trusts, while Utah has only one.

John Wright traces the success of voluntary land conservation in Colorado to the state’s history as a region of secular commerce. As environmental consciousness has grown in Colorado, people there have embraced the businesslike approach of land trusts as simply a new, more responsible way of conducting the real estate business.

In Utah, by contrast, Wright finds that Mormon millennialism and the belief that growth equals success have created a public climate opposed to the formation of land trusts. As Wright puts it, "environmentalism seems to thrive in the Centennial state within the spiritual vacuum which is filled by Mormonism in Utah." These findings remind conservationists of the power of underlying cultural values that affect their efforts to preserve private lands.


Part I. Land and Life
1. Geographers and Landscapes
2. Land Regulation and Conservation in America
3. The Rocky Mountain West: Searching Country

Part II. Colorado: The Icon
4. Eldorado in the Rockies
5. The Front Range: Geography and Development
6. Golden to Fort Collins: The Trials of Suburban Land Conservation
7. Boulder: A Model Open Space Community
8. Ski Country: Uncontrolled Development and Industrial Tourism
9. Southern Colorado: The Outback
10. The West Slope: Rivers, Oil Shale, and Sunset Living
11. There Lies a City

Part III. Utah: An Elusive Zion
12. The Mormon Nation
13. Money-Digging and Seer Stones
14. Colonization and the Mormon Landscape
15. The Wasatch Front: Geography and Development
16. Salt Lake: Carving Up the Emerald City
17. Provo: Happy Valley Hangs On
18. Bountiful, Ogden, and Brigham City: Suburban Zion Spreads North
19. The Wasatch Back-Valleys: Mormon Heartland
20. If You Build It, He Will Come

Part IV. Home
21. The Geography of Home

Appendix: Land-saving Groups
Selected Bibliography

John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize
Association of American Geographers

Best Book, Mountain Environment and Culture, Finalist

Publication Award