Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bear Butte Update

Unfortunately the Meade County Commission did not act on April 4 to protect the sanctity of Bear Butte, and instead voted (unanimously) to grant a malt liquor license, and all that goes with that to the developer, Jay Allen. Mr. Allen's goal is to set up a huge outdoor Sturgis Rally (and maybe other times) concert venue in the shadow of the mountain.

I found the Journal's own editorial on the subject, and several letters to the editor seem to miss what's at stake here. Many people don't seem to see how important this place is to the cultural heritage of our State and Nation, and to the soul of Indian Country.

The Journal's thesis, encouraging some government action to protect the Butte but suggesting that the fate of the Butte should be up to whoever can muster the cash to own development rights, falls in line with the typical Republican veneration of the concept of "free enterprise." If a outdoor biker bar wanted to set up shop next to Mount Rushmore, would their suggestion still be: "why don't the interested citizens simply buy up the development rights?" I think not! The Federal government has designated Bear Butte as a site of religious and historical significance. Those of us that know the Butte well should be outraged by the lack of action by the Meade County and the State to protect it.

What about values? The unguided invisible hand of an unfettered real-estate market is value-less. Government should support the values and dignity of all our citizens. Land use planning and zoning are part of a civilized society; they are the only way we can influence land use to protect our common values such as public safety (from things like floods or a Jackson Boulevard mudslide) and preservation of places important to local culture and religious belief (as in the case of Bear Butte).

The defenders of Bear Butte are not going to take this whole thing quietly, and progressives (even moderate ones like me) should consider ways in which they can be supported in their quest to save Bear Butte. It's all about values, isn't it?

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