Back to the Wild

Over the years I have made disparaging comments about wealthy
people. If I recall, I called some of them ‘rich weasels.’
Repeatedly. I’ve even been annoyed by the ‘benevolent rich
weasels’ who try to assuage their consciences by making large
donations to their favorite environmental group while
simultaneously building obscenely extravagant, absurdly consumptive
dwellings for themselves, hoping for recognition in
Architectural Digest and Sierra magazine. And
considering the compromised, money-hungry attitude of most enviro
groups these days, such dual recognition is not beyond the realm of

Then along comes Jennifer Speers.

I’ve never met this woman, but I will, right here, right now,
get down on my knees and grovel for forgiveness. I will lash myself
with wet leather straps. I will allow you to bury me in sand, pour
maple syrup on my head, and cover me with fire ants. I’m

Here is what Jennifer Speers did. First she bought Proudfoot
Bend Ranch, about 30 miles east of Moab, Utah, to assure that its
cow pastures and open space would never be condominiumized. That
was good enough, but she didn’t stop there. And this is where we
enter the realm of the unheard of.

Adjacent to the bridge itself is (was) the Dewey Bridge
subdivision. A developer bought the river frontage land several
years ago, put in a road, and carved up the acreage into expensive
lots. Then he built a $600,000 home on the banks of the Colorado
River (just across from a public campground) to, I would guess,
prime the real estate pump. But nobody was interested. The
‘development’ languished for the past few years, until Jennifer
Speers came along. She bought all the lots — the whole damn
subdivision — and then . . .

She tore down the house.

Ms. Speers sent in contractors to salvage doors, windows, the
huge wooden beams — anything that could be recycled. Then she had
a bulldozer knock the adobe walls down and clear away debris. There
is not even a hint that a monstrous, out-of-place mansion ever

I hope that Jennifer Speers becomes a role model for other
wealthy people. Even if she owns large homes elsewhere, this is
precedent-setting. If all rich people would tear down just one of
their mansions, I would sing their praises as well.

And to Ms. Speers, even though by all rights you could pick up
the check, if I can ever buy you dinner, it’s on me.

Reprinted from Canyon Country Zephyr (April/May
2004), a Moab, Utah-based bimonthly newspaper that’s been nominated
twice for an Utne Independent Press Award for best local/regional
coverage and is infused with the muckraking spirit of
editor/publisher Jim Stiles (its motto: ‘All the news that causes
fits’). Subscriptions: $15/yr. (6 issues) from Box 327, Moab, UT

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