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8/17/10

The American West

Western states' uneasy relationship with the federal government...

United States map showing average annual precipitationThe West is known for it's wide open spaces, big skies and "live and let live" attitudes. Well...less so in attitudes now that it has become saturated with people from Back East after the Sunbelt Migration of the Seventies, changing the nature of western cities.

(For reference, to a true westerner, Back East is anything east of the 100th Meridian. When Back East., anything west of the meridian, is referred to as Out West.)

The West has always had a relationship with the Federal government, whether they chose to admit to it or not. It's an affair based on one element: H2O. Without the support of the federal government, dams and water projects wouldn't have happened and subsequently railroad, electric and telephone networks could not have been completed. Western states also have always had, as a price for statehood, a disproportionate area of land owned and controlled by the federal government. Prior to the late 20th Century Westward Movement, Washington DC was far away enough to be kept at bay and states Out West could operate pretty much as their own entities. 

The Sunbelt migration combined with the advancement of communications created a cultural shift that is pervasive in large western cities. The role of the federal government with state and local governments is a tense one. The Federal Government owning the majority of the land is a factor that should not be overlooked or underestimated. Within the relationship is a conflict in values.