“So you’re really not going to sell?” a voice asked.
It was a representative from the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). During the past few months, SNWA had been buying up ranches for top-dollar prices in the Spring and Snake Valleys—two valleys that border Great Basin National Park to the east and to the west. The plan: Buy out the ranchers, snatch up their water rights, then build a massive, 306-mile pipeline to ship billions of gallons of groundwater from the Great Basin Desert to parched Las Vegas.
The Robison Ranch in Spring Valley had just sold for $22 million. Dean Baker and his three sons owned twice as much land and three times the water rights, which meant, by all accounts, they’d just won the lottery. But to the Bakers, some things in life are more important than money.
“We’ve been telling you for three years,” Dean replied. “We’re not selling.”
When the SNWA rep said he assumed the Bakers were just holding out for a higher price, Baker pondered his decision once again. Selling would grant his family the easy life and more money than they could ever hope to spend. Staying meant years of more hard work, and opposing the pipeline would be the toughest fight of their lives. Then again, staying also meant years of honoring what Dean loves most: watching things grow—his crops, his cattle, his family. “We’re not selling,” Baker said resolutely.
Reprinted in Utne Reader, July/August 2012