ONE YEAR AGO: Analyzing the Land Use Debates in the Show ‘Yellowstone’
Originally published: Dec. 29, 2021 / Republished: Dec. 29, 2022
Is it over the top? Yes. Does it accurately depict the ranching lifestyle in Montana? No. But the characters and the imagery in the show are captivating. And, there are some underlying themes in the hit TV show Yellowstone that are definitely spot on.
PERC, a Bozeman-based think tank, actually compiled a 56-page report analyzing some of the real-world Western issues that are raised in the show Yellowstone. PERC is a free market environmentalist think tank which stands for the Property and Environment Research Center.
I spoke with CEO Brian Yablonski about the show and some of the themes. One of my favorite phrases that PERC has zeroed in on over the years is the concept of "the bootleggers and the Baptists"- a concept that, of course, weaves its way into the show.
Brian Yablonski: You have a developer named Dan Jenkins, who has moved in from California...it's supposed to take place in Paradise Valley, this show Yellowstone, and he wants to do a golf development there and he's trying to thwart John Dutton, his neighboring rancher, and so he actually gets together with the environmental organization and they're going to file some lawsuits against against John Dutton for endangered species violations because they're trying to get John Dutton's water and they're trying to get John Dutton's land.
Without naming the basin, he also described one other scene from the show where John Dutton confronts a tour bus full of Asian tourists who trespass on his land to view a grizzly bear.
Brian Yablonski: There's actually a basin outside of Yellowstone National Park. It's mostly private ranches, and that's why I'd rather not rather not name it, but you go up this dirt road, old county road, about 12 miles up in this basin. And at particular times of year, generally in August and September, grizzly bears come out of the national forests and national park nearby to actually dig for something called caraway root that is found in some of the fields in the ranches up there. And to the grizzly bears that caraway root is like crack cocaine, they love it - it's almost like guaranteed grizzly bear sightings. And I live part time in Paradise Valley, and when I first moved into the valley there, you could go up, it was mostly locals. It'd be a handful of cars pulled up along the road there watching the Grizzlies. You go up there now, on a summer, fall evening, and you'll have 30 to 50 cars lined up like the big tailgating exercise happening up there watching these grizzly bears.
Click here for the full PERC report. And here's the full audio from our conversation: