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But demographics have shifted the balance of power. The deciding votes are now in the west--in Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue--while the bulk of public lands affected by the west's environmental enthusiasms lie east of the mountains, which are the Northwest's cultural wall, its Mason-Dixon line. To apple farmers six hours east of Seattle, it was the "damned environmentalists" of the Clinton Administration who brought down on their heads something that felt to the locals like an economic Waco. Orchards had prospered because of irrigation made possible by Columbia's dams. After several species of salmon were put on the Endangered Species List, the irrigation evaporated; farmers burned their crops and cursed the nation's capital.
Urgencies vary with the times. In Lewis and Clark country, if there is any visionary thought of Jeffersonian scope going on, it is directed toward reconciling development with environmental protection. Ward Parkinson, the co-founder of Micron Technology, Idaho's largest private employer, thinks long term about educated work forces and quality of life and says that when the state's politicians "decide to protect the salmon on the Snake River, that's when we will know they are serious about developing industry." There may be a convergence of environment and industry coming, but it is still somewhere downstream. --With reporting by Nathan Thornburgh/Seattle