Strange bedfellows: Why is Alice Waters involved with the Ameya Preserve in Montana?

The following is by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman, who has contributed previously and we hope will soon join the Ethicurean kitchen formally. Charlotte writes the LivingSmall blog from Livingston, Montana; she is the author of the novel Place Last Seen (Picador, 2000).

Ameya Preserve listing in Nieman Marcus catalog

Alice Waters author photoAlice Waters is everywhere right now, doing press for her new book, and the old argument over whether "Alice is an Elitist" is getting a fair amount of play – Adam at  Amateur Gourmet thinks perhaps yes, while David Lebowitz (who worked at Chez Panisse for a long time) says no. Personally, I have no idea. But I do know that her name is being bandied about my Livingston, Montana, neighborhood these days in conjunction with a gated development of big, luxury second homes, and I am concerned.

The Ameya Preserve (careful, the website has so much Flash and music that High Country News featured it in its list of Irritating Websites) has come roaring into the Paradise Valley with all sorts of promises about how green it is, and how it’s going to be the place where “nature meets culture.”

The problem is, none of these claims have been backed up. It says it is a “wildlife preserve” but there are no conservation easements. It boasts that it will be “carbon neutral,” but the plan for carbon neutrality turns out to involve planting thousands of trees on the developer’s home estate in North Dakota (incidentally, not an ecosystem known for its ability to support tree growth). And it claims to be "green," yet the marketing is aimed at "that rare individual who can live anywhere he or she wants.” Says Wade Dokken, the developer: "It’s really a private national park that you can live in luxury in."

I hate to be the one to point it out, but luxury and sustainability are contradictory values.

Here’s where Alice Waters comes into the picture. All of the current advertising for the Ameya Preserve — including the 2007 Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog — trumpets her involvement. Alice may or may not be an elitist in person, but she has aligned herself with a developer and a project that is openly and unabashedly elitist.

The Christmas Catalog promises that Alice herself will cook your dinner if you buy a 10-acre site. The price tag: $2.3 million, in an area where the average home price is around $150,000 and the median income hovers just below $40,000. The press releases on the Ameya website claim she’s building a culinary school. Over on Epicurious, Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl announces Alice’s involvement and gushes that this school is part of her dream to “begin by teaching our students to raise the food that they served.”

Reichl also says that Ameya’s plans include “resident MacArthur Fellows to think big thoughts. And resident farmers to grow great food.” So I suppose Alice isn’t planning to come out and demonstrate for us how to dry-farm at altitude. Or to try to teach the rich people who are going to buy these $2.3 million second homes to grow their own vegetables.

No, they’ll have “resident farmers” for that — like exhibits in a zoo. Sorry, I mean, in a “private national park.”

The early press on Ameya was good, and those of us who live here were hopeful that we might actually wind up with a green development. Dokken, the developer, cited Ted Turner as a model, and he seemed genuinely interested in building something less environmentally destructive than the typical 5- to 25-acre ranchettes that have been such a blight across the inter-mountain West. But as we asked harder questions, as we pushed for legally binding conservation easements, as we opposed the sale of two sections of public land to the Ameya development, then Dokken accused those of us who questioned the project as being driven by “class envy.” He claims to be bringing all this culture to our valley, but he’s not bringing it here for the public – his MacArthur Fellows and musicians and artists will be up there behind the gate.

As my friend Maryanne famously said to the woman giving us the sales pitch, “But we already have an artistic community – it’s called town.” Livingston and the Paradise Valley are full of rich people and artists and movie stars and famous writers. But there are also ranchers and former cult members and old hippies and regular old families raising kids. The charm and wonder of our home has always been its lack of elitism: The rich people and movie stars send their kids to the public schools. We all come together to pitch in for the same events, like Bark in the Park (Humane Society) and the Fourth of July Parade — and the all-volunteer Christmas Dinner at the Civic Center, where we make sure that no one in town goes without a hot Christmas Dinner served with love. We have public lectures when someone interesting comes to town. The former Nashville music producer turned Livingston resident celebrated her 50th birthday with a public concert where her friends Rodney Crowell and Johnny Cowan and Roseanne Cash all played.

We are a community. We try, as hard as we can, not to be elitist: to listen when our neighbors who’ve ranched or railroaded here for generations try to tell us newcomers how they feel and why they feel that way. We’re not always successful, but we keep trying.

I cannot see how a gated development of second-homeowners who will fly in and out on their private jets can be called sustainable or viewed as contributing to the health of our community. So I cannot understand why Alice Waters — someone who has always seemed to be deeply invested in the health of real communities, someone who wanted to build a restaurant that was like a home, someone who is creating gardens in underserved elementary schools, someone who is actively promoting real, slow, actual food purchased from real farmers – I cannot understand why she has lent her support to a developer who seems to represent everything that is antithetical to real community-building.

I’ve long harbored hopes of writing Laurie Colwin-style food pieces, and I’m sure that this piece isn’t going to do my nascent food-writing career any good. But this is my home. This is the community that came together to save me when my beloved younger brother was killed in a car wreck. A couple of weeks after his death, I was faced with clearing out his apartment. I am good at coping with things, but Patrick’s apartment was something I really couldn’t cope with, and so I put out the word: I need help.

Nearly 20 people showed up that Saturday morning, some of whom I didn’t even know. They brought horse trailers they’d hosed out, and they carefully folded and packed his clothes, cleaned out the kitchen cupboards, and carried all his furniture and belongings to a storage unit. Even those who were my friends didn’t know me that well; I’d only been here a year. But it didn’t matter. Someone among us was in trouble, and so they all came. They pitched in because that is what we do here. So if my choice is between a nascent food-writing career and my home, my decision is easy.

And so I’m asking Alice:

Why are you involved in a development project that seems to run against the very grain of what you believe in – community, connection, real food, real people?



39 Responsesto “Strange bedfellows: Why is Alice Waters involved with the Ameya Preserve in Montana?”

  1. T.Gray says:

    I think you have merged your love for your community, and your love for writing very well. A few thousand words separate you from the likes of Wendell Berry, but I would be pleased if I could make my points as well as you have. I hope that what you have to say, here as well as in your community, have an impact.

  2. Le Prince says:

    I don’t understand what the big deal here is. Reminds me of that New York Times article last week about rich people buying up National Park land to keep it wild. As someone in that article said, isn’t it better than a housing development?

    Haven’t you heard — the rich ARE different. They’re rich! don’t we all want to have enough f-you money to go live in an unspoiled wilderness in Montana and have our own personal farmers? Anyway, plenty of green celebrities have a Prius for every home, solar panels for a fraction of their 48,000-square foot Mansions. Obviously Alice is getting something out of this -” maybe a home? And wont Livingston get the benefit of property taxes and more service-industry jobs?

    Can’t stop the rich.

  3. Susan Willow says:

    Not sure what the death of a persons brother has to do with a preserve in Montana. We all grow tired of writers who drag their personal lives into pieces on an unrelated subject.
    Additionally, if the average income is only $40K a year it seems like a good idea for more cash to be coming into the economy.
    By the way, the writer calls herself a newcomer, well I imagine there are long timers in the community that feel she is exactly the same as these “elitists” who are now encroaching on her sacred space.

    It’s called capitalism, we all claim to distain it, but we all profit from it and enjoy it in our own socioeconomic stratum. We should all take a good look in the mirror before we judge others. It’s all just degrees.

  4. Janet says:

    Oh, dear. I wasn’t going to comment, but I guess I will in light of the last two. I believe the points are (a) hypocrisy is disgusting, (b) these pseudo-environmentalists could well damage not just the natural environment but the social environment, too, and (c) celebrities who sell out their supposed values may not owe “their public” anything, but if they don’t explain themselves they can expect to lose the support that got them their fame.

  5. tai haku says:

    Wow – tough crowd here in ethicurean comments.

    I’m not sure I buy the luxury isn’t sustainable line at all but thought the rest of the article was excellently expressed and raised a number of pertinent questions. I’m hoping we get an update on the (lack of(?)) response….

  6. Bonnie P. says:

    Yes, I’m pretty surprised at the response. I think of Ethicurean readers as a little less cynical, myself. But maybe I’ve made too many bad puns.

    The community response to the death of Charlotte’s brother was not gratuitously invoked, and I find it callous to call it sensationalist. I thought it was a beautifully written, passionate plea to treat *real* community — a value in quite short supply these days — as more important than an over-hyped, ham-handed approach to creating some sort of wealthy persons’ utopia.

    Seems to me Charlotte and the others like her in Livingston fighting against the development did not prejudge it. They were open to the idea of a “sustainable” preserve. They just want the developer to put his signature on more than just an ad (say, on actual conservation easements), and not treat them like envious peasants.

    And yeah, I’m kind of surprised too that Alice Waters would make a command performance for some Nieman Marcus customer. I really don’t get how it furthers any of her social goals. What’s next, a line of $15 frozen dinners?

  7. amy says:

    The line of frozen dinners may not be far off in the future. Cafe Fanny Organic Granola can be found on San Francisco grocery store shelves.

    This article is a perfect example of why “green” celebrities irk me. They perpetuate the idea that you can buy your way to carbon neutrality instead of making a real difference by changing overly consumptive habits. Where is the celebrity that is trading in their car for a bicycle and vacationing by train instead of jetsetting to a tropical island (or in this case fly/driving to their “green” vacation home in the wilderness)? When are they going to organize the Academy Awards carpool?

    Luxury (which is associated with excess and indulgence) can never be sustainable unless the very definition of the word is altered.

  8. T.Gray says:

    I think the death of a persons brother has everything to do with a preserve in Montana. When it all boils down, it’s all about our local communities, and how we respond to each others needs. And no, we don’t all grow tired of writers who drag their personal lives into their writings, and as I stated above, I believe it is relevant. What’s the point if somewhere along the line it doesn’t become personal? I too am surprised at the negative response this article garnered. Hiding behind the anonymity of the web makes it much easier to be bitter and cynical. Too bad.

  9. Sam Fromartz says:

    A gated community is not a community, especially in a place where community already exists. It’s a wealth reserve instead. That’s the point of this wonderfully written piece.

    The larger issue is the way sustainability has become trapped in the high-end food world — in such a way, that is it not sustainable because it is accessible to so few.

    … And this from a person who ate a wonderful lunch at Chez Panisse on Monday, so go figure…

  10. Julie says:

    I really enjoyed this piece and found it interesting to read a local’s perspective. I hope in the future that comments will focus on reactions to the content, not criticism of writing styles. Comments that are mean and hurtful to someone who is writing something heartfelt make me sad.

    I think the most troubling thing about this is the sale of public land to private development and the “wilderness preserve” that has no permanent protection. I am so wary of greenwashing on the part of the homebuilder industry. It happens all the time in California. They say they’re building a nature preserve, but in reality there is a net loss of habitat and they are building a preserve as mitigation for the more pristine land they’re destroying. I’m not saying that’s the case here, but I do know that once public land is lost, it’s hard to get it back, and there’s no guaranteeing long-term stewardship on the part of a developer unless there is something legally binding.

  11. Tana says:

    “Not sure what the death of a persons [sic] brother has to do with a preserve in Montana. We all grow tired of writers who drag their personal lives into pieces on an unrelated subject.”

    No, Susan, “we all” do not. What a mean-spirited thing to say to the writer, who amply demonstrated not a theory of community, but the reality of one.

    Charlotte, I think your piece sings with clarity and thoughtfulness, and I commend you. I had seen the Neiman-Marcus offering on another blog, and it sickened me, much the same as OJ Simpson’s exhoneration by that jury sickened me.

    Good work, Charlotta: brava!

    Now wouldn’t it be nice if Alice decided instead to help with the community Christmas dinner?

  12. Emily says:

    What are a few service industry jobs to knowing and interacting with your neighbors?

    What’s the gate for? To keep out all the rampant crime of rural Montana? Gangs of elk? Homeless deer?

    Why install a “resident farmer” when many of the residents of the town are, in fact, farmers?

    I’d like to think that Ms. Waters is funding a dozen new and exciting projects with her cut of this deal. But with her love of the real, I can’t believe this contrived replica of local food systems appeals to her for any price.

  13. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    I also find it strange that Alice Waters is involved in this “reserve”. It doesn’t seem like she needs the money, but if she did (which she doesn’t) I guess this is better than investing in a fast-food chain. I can’t wait to hear what her response will be – I’m sure she knew full-well that many of her fans would not be happy with this one.

  14. Philip says:

    It’s churlish to pick on Alice Waters when all you want to do is stop the development of open space near your town. For starters, AW is mentioned only once on the Ameya website, in the press release archive. And if too much Flash is annoying, upgrade your browsers and connection speed. Are the music blogs picking on Joshua Bell and Renee Fleming?

    AW spends a lot of time raising money for her projects. Sometimes perhaps the results appear less pure and chaste than one might wish for, like her Microsoft ad. But she does what she has to do, and cooking for rich people is part of that. As for the contention that luxury and sustainability are not compatible, you don’t see poor people shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Financially, local and sustainable is still a luxury. And the author’s knee-jerk assumptions- that gated communities have to be covered in log McMansions, or that farmers who are employees are part of some kind of high-altitude Potemkin village- have more to do with her own anti-elitist prejudices than with Alice Waters.

  15. Bonnie P. says:

    I wonder how much Skaggs’ $500,000 pledge for Slow Food Nation has to do with this alliance. Somehow I’d forgotten about that little nugget, reported in May on Michael Bauer’s blog.

  16. Charlotte says:

    Great comment thread folks — look, I admire Alice Waters and think she’s a real artist who has created not only a genius restaurant (where my agent took me for an astonishingly delicious lunch when she sold my novel), but is someone who has had an enormous impact on the way the American food system operates. But Alice is the one who purports to be this 1960s social activist-type, and so I don’t think it’s at all unfair to ask her to explain herself. Why, after holding out all these years has she sold out to someone like this Wade Dokken character? If Bullis Creek has to be developed, we’d all *love* to see something green up there, but so far, despite all his claims, there’s no evidence that that is indeed what he’s going to do. Alice didn’t build a garden in a private school, she built one in an underserved public school — so what’s with signing on to be a part of this “private national park”? She’s always projected an image that she’s a person who is interested in genuine community — and there’s nothing about this Ameya thing that is about community. So what’s Alice doing in the middle of it?

  17. Sam says:

    Reporting 101: Has anyone called up Alice and asked her?

  18. Bonnie says:

    Sam: Good point. She’s not on my speed-dial (care to share?) but Charlotte or I should have asked her office for a comment. I have now done so [tremble]. I’ll see if they respond.

  19. lynn says:

    As the old saying goes, ‘money talks, BS walks’…’Sustainable community’ my ass!…It’s all language to seduce the community…If they fall for it, they are fools…Most all developers are out to make money, and talk pretty to get their way…nothing more…

    With how much overpopulation, and overconsumption we already have, nothing anymore is very ‘sustainable’…and the only ‘carbon neutral’ life a human can have is to be dead…

    …”As my friend Maryanne famously said to the woman giving us the sales pitch, “But we already have an artistic community – it’s called town.”…

    Yep, that’s right…Hang onto that…The people need to call this what it is…Just another freakin’ rich person’s gated community – so we can retreat from the world in our second, or third homes…

    Yes, the rich ARE different…and the only difference is they’ve got the money to buy people off and usually get their way…but, that doesn’t mean they should get their way either…

    The community needs to call this what it is…Just another gated community, full of probably snobby, rich people…and then decide if they want it or not…

  20. Philip said: “As for the contention that luxury and sustainability are not compatible, you don’t see poor people shopping at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.”

    Perhaps, but the Ferry Plaza Market does not need to be entered through a guarded gate. It’s open to all, accessible by many lines of public transit (bus, streetcar, two subways). Furthermore, the market accepts food stamps, unlike many other farmers markets (an expensive machine is required to read the debit cards).

    And Ferry Plaza isn’t the only farmers market in San Francisco. For example, there is the Civic Center market on Sunday which features small farmers, some of them certified organic, which is frequented by lower income people.

  21. Tana says:

    Oh, I am sure someone here knows how to call Alice.

    (Leaning out window): “HELLO, ALICE WATERS! Paging Ms. Alice Waters! Come in, Alice Waters!”

    Hey, I’m a huge proponent (and lately, a defender, which isn’t always pleasant) of Ms. Waters, but golly. I think this is a mistake on her part, greater even than the faux pas issued from Carlo Petrini in his recent (booed in the SF Bay Area) book, where he downright lied about a “surfing farmer” (of my acquaintance) as being someone who works the markets once a month, gouges his customers, and surfs and diddles the rest of the time.

    “It’s churlish to pick on Alice Waters when all you want to do is stop the development of open space near your town.”

    How about being churlish for saying, “Alice Waters, you’re in a freakin’ Needless-Markup catalog for REAL ESTATE?”

    Alice, you got some ‘splainin to do.

  22. Charlotte says:

    I did write Alice a note last summer when Dokken first insulted us all in his letter to the commissioners (see the “class envy” link above) asking why she’d be involved with someone like this, and I never heard back. And I’ve heard some rumours here in town from folks who claim to have connections with Alice that she looked into Wade Dokken and doesn’t want to have anything to do with the development. But those are just rumors, and it’s not like she’s come out and disavowed the Neiman Marcus catalog ad or the numerous press releases that went out about it. Since I’m not really a journalist, but a blogger and a fiction writer (which probably disqualifies me right there) I was hoping that a dispatch from the field might tempt a “real journalist” out there to pick up the story and see what’s going on. Especially since Alice’s people never answered my mail.

  23. Pete says:

    Here are further examples of bogus marketing by Ameya Preserve and some questions Alice might want to ask as she checks further into the business venture that is using her name for promotion.

    Marketing sound bites indicate that Ameya Preserve is “on nearly 11,000 acres of magnificent wilderness”

    Ameya Preserve is the former Bullis Creek Ranch, which consists of 9,125 deeded acres, not the “nearly 11,000″ claimed by Ameya’s promotions (see Fay Ranches website: or check with the Park County Courthouse). Alice should ask how Ameya can claim to set aside 10,000 acres, as promoted in Livingston and Bozeman newspapers.

    The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” I don’t believe a 300-home development and infrastructure meets that definition. Do you?

    Alice should ask how Ameya can validate their statements about “unprecedented standards in conservation? ” The advertised building sites “on the edge of a meadow, in the shelter of aspen stands, or bordering wetlands…” are in three of the most important wildlife habitats in the Rocky Mountains. Aspen stands in our region are limited in abundance and distribution, as are wetlands. I don’t believe developing in these important wildlife habitats constitutes “unprecedented standards in conservation.”

    Building a luxury resort of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or more homes in a remote fire-prone landscape that is important wildlife habitat is, by definition, a waste of resources – not conservation of resources. (I hope my class envy isn’t showing!)

    Ameya claims that residents can fish 20 acres of lakes and ponds for native brown trout and other species. Alice should ask how that is possible. Currently, there are no lakes and ponds on the Bullis Creek Ranch (maybe one small stock pond). Constructing ponds/lakes will waste a substantial amount of water through evaporation in our semi-arid environment. This certainly is not conservation of water. Also, are you aware that brown trout are native to Europe, not North America? Apparently, Wade is not aware of that factoid. The only salmonids native to the Yellowstone River basin are Yellowstone Cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish. In fact, Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a species of concern and Montana and has been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. One of the primary threats to their persistence is competition with non-native species, like brown trout. Also, brown trout eat cutthroat trout eggs and young. Ask any fisheries biologist.

    Ameya, in partnership with The Conservation Fund, claim to “offset all of the CO2 generation for all families of Ameya Preserve during their entire lifetimes” by planting trees on 1,700 acres in north-central North Dakota. Does that sound possible? Alice, ask Wade for a copy of the projected carbon budget. I asked The Conservation Fund for a copy last July – they didn’t have one.

    Meaningful CO2 budgeting would take into account all of the homes owned by individuals, other possessions created with the use of fossil fuels,and all travel to and from these various homes inside and outside this country and other non-work-related travel. Ask Wade if his CO2 budget takes into account this information? Then there is all the energy expenditure in developing the property and building the infrastructure. If you think 1,700 of trees will account for all of this, I’ve got a bridge that I’d like to sell you.

    Perhaps the tragically uninformed may believe the planned Ameya Preserve will do wonderful things for the environment. However, a little thought and contemplation (think globally, act locally) will demonstrate that Ameya’s marketing hype represents a bastardization of the concept of conservation.

    Think about it.

  24. J. Prieto says:

    All of us at Ameya Preserve are strongly committed to conservation, culture and a sense of responsibility to the larger community beyond our boundaries. Our core mission is to build a community development that will save and protect a substantial proportion of land and wildlife. We are committed to utilizing off-site wind power, green building practices, organic gardens and a complete carbon-neutral footprint.

    We’re extremely fortunate to have people such as Alice Waters, Jack Horner, Peter Oundjian and Craig Mathews – all visionaries in their own fields — who understand and support what we are building at Ameya Preserve.

    We are grateful to the many people in Montana, and specifically in the communities of Livingston and Bozeman, who have welcomed us, taken the time to hear our plans, offer their suggestions and keep an open mind. We respect divergent opinions as long as they are based in facts and welcome constructive input.

  25. T. Leight says:

    This is an interesting discussion. Too bad Ms. Waters hasn’t posted.

    If what I’ve been reading about Ameya Preserve (Ameya website, Ameya ads, and numerous blogs) is true, conservation and sustainability are really not what Ameya is about. There are an estimated 6.6 billion people on this planet and projections suggest that there will be 9.4 billion inhabitants by 2050, baring a major pandemic. Mr. Prieto, what does this say about conservation and sustainability? Americans consume roughly 25% of the worlds resources, while making up about 5% of the worlds inhabitants. Second or third homes are a luxury, not a necessity. What you’re really saying is that majority of the world’s inhabitants (the larger community beyond your bounds) are required to live in poverty so we Americans can consume, consume, consume. We’re all part of the problem, and luxury homes in previously undeveloped areas are not a solution. Think about it. There really is nothing sustainable about Ameya Preserve. That is a fact!

  26. Sharon says:

    Dear J. Prieto

    Did it ever occur to you, Porter Novelli and Team Ameya that your factless advertising is what has raised everyone’s ire? You suggest that you “respect divergent opinions as long as they are based on fact. But, your posted statment contains nothing more than the similar empty hyperbole found on Ameya’s website. Why don’t you address with FACTS the questions and criticisms raised by Charlotte and Pete?

    I went to the recent sales page of Fays Ranches website – guess what, the Bullis Creek Ranch consists of 9,175 deeded acres – That is a fact. Perhaps Porter Novelli reps and J. Prieto would like to tell us how, in fact, Ameya Preserve sets aside nearly 10,500 acres?

    Alice, watch your step.

  27. Ted says:

    J. Prieto doesn’t seem very informed regarding the views of Bozemanites. Check the latest issue of Bozeman Outside – Southwest Montana’s Outdoor Journal.

    The Champs & Chumps section identifies Ameya’s developer, Wade Dokken as a chump. See why.

  28. LivingHereNow says:

    J. Prieto your PR machine is pathetic and transparent. Dokken & Ameya is a sham and everyone in L’ston knows it, or will know it soon enough. The whole scenario up there is so easily investigated and local media is catching on fast. National media will follow and this will be another example of someone exploiting the environment for their own ends.

    Just the other day at the Bozeman Airport I was taking my elderly grandfather to the gate and the folks at the gate desk called for the first class passengers to board. They called three names, one of them Wade Dokken. The other two folks showed up and boarded and I noticed Dokken sitting at the back of the assembled crowd on his cell phone chatting away as they called his name again and again.

    Finally, they invited folks who needed extra time to board to come to the desk. This group included my 90-yr-old grandpa, a single woman with two small kids, a lady in a wheelchair and an older man with a walker. These passengers were all lined up and starting to board when Dokken busted through (having completed his important phone call), virtually pushed his way through the young and infirm (actually glaring down my grandpa to get out of his way) and boarded the plane.

    My grandpa and I laughed at him (which Dokken tried to ignore with the snooty “I am important!” look) as he pushed his importance ahead of everyone else. When he had walked on, my grandpa smiled and winked at me, “Don’t worry, he’ll get his. They always do.”

    Dokken is the kind of jerk who is trying to snow our community into thinking he is doing something green and sustainable. I think we would all have a lot more respect for him if he had just come right out and said, “I am building a development for rich people,” but instead he and his PR monkies are trying to convince our community (and the communities across the country in such ecologically-minded places such as Dallas and Houston) that this is a “green” development and that somehow, by buying a plot of land in his private national park, rich people can offset the wasteful life they lead. And no matter what covenants he imposes on the land up there, those millionaires will want manicured lawns and sprinkler systems and whatever they want they will make sure to get because they have earned it.

    Alice Waters is probably just taking the $500,000 donation Ameya handed to Slow Food and planning on putting it somewhere worthwhile. Just like Jack at the Museum of the Rockies et. al.

    I’d like to think if someone handed me a chunk of cash I would not abandon the work I do here in Livingston and the integrity going along with it. But who knows? Maybe the money would give me the freedom to continue my work elsewhere with a wider scope.

    The problem with everyone involved in this greenwashing scam is that they are not researching who this Dokken character is, finding out where he came from and what his previous businesses associations were before. I suggest they go do it.

    Dokken, whether acting like the lowest form of life at the airport, at a Yellowstone river access being rude and pushy to us local folks and embarassing his own family, knawing on his veal bones while staring lecherously at teenage girls on Main Street through the Adagio windows or convincing our “resident farmers” (read SERFS) to be part of his sham is NOT part of our community or the type of person this little town will endure very long.

    He may plan to bring a bunch more of these hypocrites to the Livingston area but we’ll make short work of them. Or, as grandpa said, “He’ll get his. They always do.”

    Alice Waters if you can find your way to these comments, take this one to heart. We could sure use more sincerely involved professionals in our community…but how about a sustainable cooking school in conjunction with local non-profit Corporation for the Northern Rockies? Livingston has a lot more to offer as a community than the shameless liars at Ameya “Preserve.”

  29. Jan says:

    It is unfortunate that Alice Waters seems to have fallen prey to a clever, but fallicious, marketing scheme. J. Preito and colleagues at Porter Novelli, and Wade Dokken have much to learn about valuing the community beyond their boundaries. We’ve had to endure full-page newspaper ads touting all the wonderful benefits Ameya Preserve will provide the local economy (Livngstion and Park County). But, actions speak louder than words. Here are a few more facts for J. Preito to verify.

    Where does Wade Dokken live? Bozeman, Gallatin County.
    Where is Ameya Preserve’s Office? Bozeman.
    Where does J. Prieto live? Bozeman?
    Where’s Porter Novelli located? Far, far from Livingston.
    Where are Ameya’s engineers located? Bozeman.
    Where is Design Workshop based? Colorado.
    Where’s Ameya’s consulting wildlife biologist from? Colorado.
    Where Slifer Designs from? Colorado.
    Where is Synthesis Realty Group located? South Carolina.
    (How many trees must Ameya plant in North Dakota to offset the CO2 emissions from the travel budgets of these people?)

    What do these groups know about our community? How are they involved in our community. What do they contribute to our community? Yes Team Ameya, you have much to learn about being part of a community. Being part of a community has much to do with honesty and caring, and has little to do with MONEY! You would do well to take Phil Cubeta up on his offer to be your Morals Tutor
    If you don’t, perhaps Alice will be able to provide some morals guidance.

  30. J. Prieto says:

    Just for the record, I am not an employee of Porter Novelli. I am one of the principals at Ameya Preserve. Porter Novelli was retained by us earlier this year, but we are no longer working together. They are a great firm, and not “PR Monnkies” (sic). We appreciate their efforts on our behalf.

  31. Jan says:

    Dear J. Prieto,

    Thanks for providing the first, albeit relatively irrelevant, fact concerning your employment. Just because you say that Porter Novelli a “great firm, provides no assurances that Ameya’s marketing material promoted on the web and news is legitimate. We’re still waiting on responses to the valid questions raised in the comments posted above. Or, shall we infer that the absence of meaningful information coming from you is indicative of the absence of facts in Ameya’s marketing hype?

    Many of us really would like to hear honest and truthful information rather than the greenwashing.

  32. amy says:

    here is your chance to ask alice about her involvement

    book signing in san francisco on Dec 2, 2:00-4:00pm
    cost plus world market
    2552 Taylor Street
    San Francisco, CA

  33. Mike says:

    It’s tempting to vilify people whose behavior we dislike and don’t understand, but I think what’s really going on here is a simple culture clash.

    We Montanans are down-to-earth folk who value substance over artifice. Meaningful relationships, interesting and exciting experiences, connection to the land, and solid values (integrity, loyalty, honor, etc.) are what’s most important to us. Money and the arts are great, but only insofar as they integrate well into our existing community and lifestyle. We cannot subsist on it, nor do we want to; if we did, we’d probably live somewhere that had a lot more of it. We’re not afraid of adversity.

    Wade Dokken and J. Prieto, on the other hand, are classic big-city folk who live primarily for money and what it offers: comfort, luxury, and exclusivity. Reputations are paramount: They like art, but only that which is produced by famous artists. They like culture, but only that deemed “world-class” by established arbiters of style. Again, they focus on the superficial elements of life: appearances, impressions, material goods. Substance is meaningless, an anchor that impedes movement toward increased wealth and prosperity.

    What the Ameya folks are doing is not malicious or malevolent. They are not bad people. They are simply of the same ilk as the archetypal wealthy father, the busy executive who is never around but gives his daughter all kinds of expensive gifts and calls it love. He doesn’t understand why she’s miffed — “You ungrateful brat,” he tells her. “I bought you a $50,000 BMW for your birthday!”

    So, Ameya people, you need to re-think your approach. We welcome outsiders, but only those willing to adapt to our ways, or at least respect them and not try to change them. We don’t want your money; we want a human contribution to our community. We want substance: friendship, support, respect. Give us that, and you’ll get it back tenfold. We’re a generous people, but we reserve that generosity for those who deserve it — that way, it retains its value. So far, you have proven that you deserve nothing but disregard at best, and at worst, contempt.

  34. Diane Meucci says:

    When I was 16 and poor and workingclass, which I still am, I was able to travel the country and experience the wilderness. (this was 1972.) It opened my mind and saved my life. It defined how I live.

    It was open land and available if you had gas for your car. (@32 cents a gallon.)

    Last night I saw a special about current workingclass and inner city people and how the wilderness, when they are allowed to visit it, changes their inner voice.

    Will the wilderness in the future only belong to Kings and Queens?
    Diane M.

  35. To echo Diane, the 2000′s look to be a return to the bad old days of feudalism.

  36. Jack says:

    “Financially, local and sustainable is still a luxury. And the author’s knee-jerk assumptions- that gated communities have to be covered in log McMansions, or that farmers who are employees are part of some kind of high-altitude Potemkin village- have more to do with her own anti-elitist prejudices than with Alice Waters.”

    Very well put. I took the time to go through the ameya website and it seems to me that many of the questions folks like Jan asks are clearly answered. I’m also not very comfortable with a statement like “We welcome outsiders, but only those willing to adapt to our ways, or at least respect them and not try to change them.” So what you are saying is you accept people only if they will be like you? Are you going to require residents to participate in a minimum number of community functions? If someone doesn’t vote a certain way, pray to a certain God, or have the right ethnic background, they aren’t welcome?

    To me, it seems that many of the locals in this comment thread are the elitists.

  37. Jack says:

    One final point, I keep reading the phrase “I hate to be the one to point it out, but luxury and sustainability are contradictory values.” over and over and it makes me more upset everytime I read it.

    Has the author been to some of the slums in Caracas to see first hand how those people barely manage to survive? Has the author ever considered that her lifestyle would be seen as unobtainable luxury compared the vast majority of those who live in thrid world environments (or even the slums of Detroit).

    given her position in the above statement it seems that unless she’s willing to give up everything she owns and live like those in the slums of Caracas do, she shouldn’t go around making these sort of statements.

  38. Steve says:

    More than ever, I am glad that I live in Eastern Montana.
    Nobody wants to build anything out here…

  39. deepysix says:

    Wow!  A gated community in a pristine wilderness which will provide service industry Mcjobs and have a (cough) neutral carbon footprint!  How can anyone be opposed to such a wonderful thing?  I for one will soon be moving to Livingstone and hiring on at the new Applebee’s franchise so I can live in Ameya and brag about how my profligate ways are being offset by some trees which may or may not be planted in South Dakota.   Look for me L’toners, I’ll be the guy in the Humvee with California plates.  You can toss rose petals in my path if you wish.  Just don’t make any special orders at the new Applebee’s on a busy Friday night.  We line cooks have ways of dealing with you.