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May 24, 2007

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Pete Feigley, Ph.D.

Dear Philip,

I am an biologist living in Livingston, Montana. Morals are definitely not part of the advertised development.

I recommend that prospective buyers take the time to educate themselves relative to environmental issues, both locally and globally, prior to swallowing a clever marketing scheme. There is a bumper sticker from the early environmental movement - “Think Globally, Act Locally. This adage sheds light on the folly of the Ameya’s marketing scheme.

Ameya Preserve is marketed as an exquisite luxury development that is both green and a boon to conservation. A recent full-page ad in our local Livingston and Bozeman, MT newspapers boldly claims: “This project preserves natural resources that couldn’t be preserved by any other means.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

First, building 2nd, 3rd, or more luxury homes in sensitive wildlife habitat, such as elk winter range or bear habitat (black and grizzly) is nothing more that an extravagant waste of natural resources, not a preservation of natural resources; no matter how you look at it. (Think Globally, Act Locally!) Second, you should do some reading on the problems associated with displacement and habituation of wildlife. The risk of mortality increases dramatically for bears that are displaced and/or habituated to humans. Natural Resource Defense Council considers “people and their houses” as the biggest problem grizzly bears face.

Concerning claims of zero CO2 emissions and the Conservation Fund’s involvement in this project, you should also educate yourselves about CO2 emissions accounting and seriously question mitigating CO2 from Ameya Preserve by planting trees in north central North Dakota. Are you aware that most of north central North Dakota is glaciated plains, consisting of grasslands? Secondly, do your really think that growing 1,700 acres of trees in what may be best suited for grassland will really offset all of the CO2 emissions from the construction of 300 luxury homes and associated infrastructure, not to mention all of the trees cut down to provide the building materials for those homes? How about the diesel fuel and gasoline consumed by all the heavy construction equipment? Then there is the asphalt to pave the roads and all of the other petroleum-derived construction materials and household items.

Homes at Ameya Preserve are not designed to be primary residences. How many homes do the prospective clients of Ameya Preserve own, and how large are they? Think of how much jet fuel and gasoline is wasted by the ultra-wealthy and their families, while bopping between their various vacation homes and other vacation resorts. True CO2 budgeting requires a careful examination of the behavior of each individual in the family. Imagine what would if all third-world inhabitants were brought up to our level of consumption? Think Globally, Act Locally!

Note that some of the photo’s on the website are color enhanced. The environment in the valley and foothills south of Livingston is semi-arid. The area is green for perhaps 3 months out of the year. The rest of the year, the grassland vegetation is light brown. Oh, yeah, did I mention the area is also prone to wildfire?

So, you may feel that Ameya Preserve is very cool and sheik, but it is far from GREEN. While it is hep to be green, being green requires being aware.

Sincerely,

Pete Feigley

Phil

Pete, thank you for the local environmental perspective. I was struck by the grandiosity of the scheme, and the daunting luxuriousness of the marketing materials. The philanthropic or socially conscious angles seem to have been carefully considered, but it is hard from a distance to sort out which bottomline is driving which bottomline. That there are buyers for such deals is also striking. One senses a rising "class" of socially conscious ultra-wealthy people who can afford luxury, including moral luxury, and need to have the conscience assuaged, as well as other appetites. My reference to a world class fool as an amenity was meant to flag such issues. "Trimalchio is East Egg" was the original working title of the Great Gatsby. Maybe we now have Trimalchio in North Dakota? (Trimalchio being the wealthy host of the splendid dinner in Petronius's Satyricon.)

Pete Feigley

Dear Phil,

I appreciate your response to my comment, along with your insightfulness. You pegged this project for what it really is.

Unfortunately, there are many people and organizations that bite on the cleaver marketing scheme and take the bait for gospel (hook, line, and sinker).
For example, I had never heard of the World Wildlife Foundation (not to be confused with the World Wildlife Fund). The World Wildlife Foundation is a British conservation organization. I found their website while searching for Ameya Preserve on the internet. They posted a color-enhanced photo and grabbed snippets of the marketing hype about greenness and conservation, and posted it on their “news” webpage. I emailed a comment to them, chastising them for promoting Ameya Preserve as a conservation project. Here’s their response.

“Dear Mr Pete Feigley,
I haven’t spoken with any of the developers of the Ameya Preserve. Browsing through the internet I got to their page and remained astonished by the beauty of the pictures and places…
Reading further, I got to the lines I’ve chosen to use on the blog to sustain the pictures in the slide show. I sincerely have no idea what Ameya Preserve really is or is not. The World Wildlife Foundation’s News tries to educate people, to show the virgin beauties and sensitive wilderness of this world. Thank you for your comment and hope you’ll keep on reading our pages.”

“Virgin beauties and sensitive wilderness?” Not for long. The marketing propaganda is not appropriate educational material about conservation.

Another concerned Park County resident and I took them to task for their poor judgment (http://news.worldwild.org/ameya-preserve-where-nature-meets-culture/#comments) – still they insist on leaving that junk online. Sadly, other websites that promote supposedly green products and lifestyles have done the same.

A week ago, I emailed the Conservation Fund (President of the Foundation and person heading their “Go Zero” initiative) and requested a copy of their carbon budget for Ameya Preserve, and asked specific questions about how this project could possibly qualify as a zero carbon emission project. I have not yet received any information concerning the details of how they determined Ameya Preserve to be a zero CO2 emissions project. I, and several others, don’t believe the claims of zero emissions can be supported and wonder why the Conservation Fund would promote a luxury development in sensitive wildlife habitat as a model zero emissions project.

There’s much more to Ameya Preserve than is apparent from their website. Plans change constantly. My latest conversation with a Park County Planner indicated that Ameya’s developers suggested that the development could possibly expand well beyond the touted 500 acres. Team Ameya’s interest in conservation is very shallow, at best. For example, neither the “the “country’s foremost conservation land planners” nor their ace fishing guides corrected the false statement on their website, i.e., that residents at Ameya Preserve can fish for native brown trout on their 20 acres of ponds and lakes. Brown trout are native to Europe, not the Yellowstone River basin. There are only two salmonid species native to the Yellowstone – the Yellowstone cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish. The Yellowstone cutthroat is a species of concern in Montana, primarily due habitat loss and degradation, and competition with non-native species, such as brown trout. One would think that the avid fly fisherpersons and conservationists of Team Ameya would have known that! Also, the construction of lakes and ponds will constitute a waste of water (not a conservation of water) through the increased evaporative surface in a semi-arid environment.

Ameya Preserve’s developers are to be commended for not carving the property into 1,000 10-acre lots, which is within is legal right to do. (Planning is a 4-letter word for Park County and much of Montana). Other local developers would be happy to maximize their profits with a poorly planned development. However, the claims of greenness, environmental sensitivity, and model conservation project are a gross misrepresentation of this development. It is simply better than the norm around here.

Thanks again for letting some folks know that Ameya Preserve not all that its marketing would have you believe.

Sincerely,

Pete Feigley, Ph.D.

Phil

If Ameya staff or representatives would like to have their views reflected here, please provide whatever relevant info or links you think appropriate.

tom

Something of a free associative leap here: I was recently walking through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, London - the fabled "lungs of the city," and the nobility of the gesture - miles of open, green land in the midst of a crowded urban stonescape - astonished. How many high rises, gated communities, thinktankoriums, senior university schemes, planetary exploratoria, high-minded Shambrations die like lovebugs on the windshield of this gift each day? How unlike the redundant exclusivity of these ontologically capitalized playgrounds for the uberwealthy, open to every flavor of idealism except one that would incarnate the restraint of actual sacrifice, abnegation, vision.

Phil

Free association, yes, but you are talking about a public good, Tom. We were talking about private goods. What you have in London is like communism with park, or socialism. In an ownership society we want enlightened owners to give a few poor people something they can own too. That way it all comes out even, at least in symbolism.

tom

hence the perdurability of the symbolic order? I suppose the habitat homeowners could look after the mail, lawns, of the part-time stakeholders - keep the real estate value copacetic.

Phil

"Mixed use" is the term. It creates a healthier environment to raise wealthy kids. They need to have some contact with people from other walks of life.

tom

The hologram of diversity is enhanced when those "otherwalkers" have been exposed to a healthy diet of The Jeffersons and Cosby.

Phil

Carlos Slim Helu, richest man in the world, worth 7% of all Mexico, might need a place to vacation. I would be happy to mow his lawn on the off chance of being asked to Plan his Morals for him.

tom

That's one way. You'll be competing with other guides for Mr. Slim's attention :

There will be resident MacArthur Fellows to think big thoughts. And resident farmers to grow great food.

Phil

Right, I know all that, but I did not see a single Fool mentioned, did you?

tom

Mentioned, no...

Phil

Well, the role of art is to hold the mirror up to nature, as you well know, so the Wise and Virtuous can admire their own faces.

Saluk

Land ownership in Britain

Phil

They do know how to do "upperclass" well in Britain.

HS

Beware Montana, the "brains" behind Ameya Preserve is the former CEO of an Insurance Company, who sold the firm to Prudential in a move that bank rolled his personal fortune at the expense of nearly 1000 employees. It was a firm that grew significantly under previous leadership. In May of 2000, he took over management control and preceeded over the rapid demise of the firm. He then invoked radical cost cutting that resulted in the termination of over 500 jobs. In an internal memo in 2001, he stated how he would not take any "current income" until the financial condition of the firm improved. And while it is true that he suspended his "salary" his bonus/package that year amounted to over $3 million. After two years of searching for a buyer for the firm, he struck a deal to sell it at a despiration price nearly 8 times less than the valuation of the firm he took over just 2 years earlier. However, while employees lost their jobs, he and his management team, comprised of personal friends, personally cashed in to the tune of over $120 million. So ask yourself two questions: 1. Does this sound like the background of an environmentalist or a crooked two-bit Capitalist? and 2. Do you want to be bilked like the 500 empolyees who lost their jobs in his previous "get rich" sceme? I am not sure a development based on Morals can be conceived by a Morally Bankrupt man.

Phil

I do wish the public relations firm who contacted me asking me to post on Ameya Preserve would leap into the comments section here with their perspective.

My plea to them here.

David Nolt

Phil and HS: I am a journalist in Livingston, Montana writing a story on the Ameya Preserve for NewWest.Net's Bozeman page. I would love to talk to you both about this. How can I get in touch?

My contact: davidnolt1@yahoo.com or 406-595-3250.

Thanks!

Phil

I did call David and decided not to be interviewed, since Ameya is not my expertise and I don't really have a stake in the outcome and I don't want to get caught up in some PR struggle or law suit. I am more interested in how the story is driven - whether through PR firms, the courts, the papers, or whether Dokken, "Mr. Dokken," as David Noite called him on the phone, may grace the comment section of my lowly blog with his presence, to say his peice, and build rapport and community here around the Dumpster. We ended up agreeing, David and I, that I would link to his story online, when it is published, and he might quote gifhub and its comments, if he sees fit.

As a Morals Tutor to America's Wealthiest Families, I have space for another client or two (not having any at the moment). My real hope here is to get Wade Dokken as a marque client. In that respect I don't want to scare him off too much, until I manange to set the hook and reel him in. He would make a great catch, like in Moby Dick. Not mabye Ahab's Great White Whale, but a big enough whale, spouting out the blowhole, and thrashing his mighty tail. In the old days, they made a lot of light from the oil in just one whale's blubber. And they made perfume from the ambergris in the whale's head. Hence they got "Sweetness and Light." I hope we can end on some such cordial note, trimming the wicks at Ameya preserve some evening, as we look out over the veranda at the peasants cottages in the distance, and dabbing perfume into the rich woman's surgically enhanced cleavage, and reading from the classics, as I improve the habits and morals of wealth, in my capacity as Fool in Residence, under the Genius Program that Wade has in mind as an amenity to attract his buyers.

I wonder how he did in English? Hey, Wade, did you ever read the Great Gatsby?

JJ Commoner

Gosh, I love reading this blog. I missed this post back in July, thank goodness for displaying recent comments.

For me it's like going to graduate school in a free-form seminar in the humanities, with all sorts of weird and wonderful case studies and riddles, without the pressure of assignments and / or exams, with the odd genius dropping by for a giggle or a snipe.

The perfect environment for learning, for me.

Phil

JJ, I can't help thinking of Diogenes as a real role model. He lived in his Dumpster in Athens, and like Socrates, just talked with or played sly tricks on those who passed by. But the points he improvised in these one off interactions have been passed down 2,000 years in an oral tradition. We are highly dependent here on "who shows up," but on a good day, there is real fun to be had interacting with the strangers, particularly those who come here to trick the Trickster.

Mark A. York

One problem is he's charging far above market value for the homesites, $2,300,000 for ten acres, so that's how he's preserving the rest of the land. That part is good, but the whole place will be off limits except to the few wealthy residents. Nothing new about that.

I'm a biologist myself considering moving to Paradise Valley and I'll have to live in something. I have to wherever I am. That's the hell of it. I'll tuck myself out of the way somewhere and dsign my own CO2 offsets. They'd be better off haulting proposed timber sales on the Gallatin NF for an offset because the ND thing is the joke Pete says it is. They won't grow except for cottonwoods on the river.

Land on Earth is finite. Homo sapiens are not.

Phil

"Get yours first," would be good advice, then fence it in, then hire Geniuses to come out to entertain your guests. The peasants don't get a vote, not really. Go along to get along; get with the program. The press releases are written for your edification. America is changing and this is the future in our ownership society.

Pete

Mark - thanks for pointing out the BS of planting trees in NODAK to offset CO2. However, the wood for building the luxury homes will come from somewhere. I'd prefer that the trees be cut in plain view of the fools who think building luxury resort homes in sensitive wildlife habitat is somehow sustainable. The Conservation Fund should be spanked publicly for promoting such foolishness. I wish more conscientious biologists would join the fray. If Ameya Preserve represents the new model for conservation, perhaps I should change careers and start peddling used cars.

Cheers

Daisy

As much as I would love to sit in a beautifully appointed ten-bedroom "western" log cabin with antique floorboards shipped from England beneath my feet sipping a rare vintage and enjoying the labors of the resident serfs (and geniuses...thinking for myself would be such a bore), I would much rather trade each of those luxuries to work for the integrity of civilization and instead respect the finite resources of Earth.

The discussions regarding the actions of Ameya Preserve plans in Park County represent a myriad of collective issues now facing mankind, rich and poor. It's not just the greenwashing of this development that creates the philosophical debates regarding the project, but the real-time and immediate effects of manipulation, intimidation and bribery of local and global organizations.

Throughout the process of purchasing this land and engaging in a complicated PR campaign, Ameya has paid off those who might be beneficial to their marketing scheme. The others (esp. locals) are of no consequence. Ameya founder Dokken actually referred to concerned residents in Park County as having "class envy" in the daily newspaper in Livingston.

Livingston, the nearest city at just ten miles from Ameya, is a small town and most of the town at this point is opposed to the development, although it is too late for any of us to do anything about it. I know a few stories have been commissioned locally but Dokken's stalling and intimidation tactics have prevented them from getting to press in a timely manner. It is representative of the stronghold his PR machine has on this community that the only investigative journalism in the works appears to be for a Bozeman (30 minutes away) publication, and at this juncture could be little more than an investigation into past history.

In Livingston, gossip is like wildfire and it just takes a few snide remarks or full-on lies 24 hours to turn into gospel truth. This fact has worked against Ameya in this community. As has been evidenced throughout history, these gossiping peasants eventually find a universal truth and stand up for themselves, ousting those put into positions of leadership or aristocracy with no integrity.

In reality, a developer like Dokken would benefit from good old "step back and view this from outside yourself" perspective counseling even if the extent of such counseling was to recognize that just coming out and saying "I'm building a development for rich people so deal with it" is infinitely better than constructing a complicated lie.

So what can a peasant like me do? Aspire to find enough capital to buy Dokken out? No. The best I can do is continue the gossip circle, seeking the universal truth which may one day bring an end to lies, manipulation of facts and bribery, at least in my own community.

I challenge the national media to do a hard news report about this sham and I encourage anyone looking for a second home in Paradise Valley, Montana to investigate other options outside of Ameya. If Dokken is willing to treat the existing community and wild lands with disrespect, how do you think he will be to new property owners after he trades their money for a scrap of pristine wildlife habitat in a semi-arid zone where everyone in the only small town for miles resents and despises them?

Phil

Daisy, thank you for your comment. Yes, gossip and satire are among "the weapons of the weak." I am surprised the national media have not picked up the story as a "sign of the times," but the national media are pretty subsevient these days to the Elite Ownership Class.

Seth

Your despise for Wade Dokken and visionaries like him really boils down to two things:

1) You correctly interpret the math behind the Ameya Preserve to be fuzzy at best
BUT
2) You have no understanding of how capitalism works

Don't demonize Wade Dokken. He is simply doing what someone less inspiring would have done anyway - and he is developing the Preserve meticulously.

phil

Right, I am still one fortune short of being a philanthropist myself.

WildOutWest

The parks of London were originally game reserves for the exclusive use of royalty. Imagine the rush of sport hunting wild animals over miles of verdant open rangeland on horseback in central London. The reason these lands were not paved over is BECAUSE they were ultimately private. Someone has confused poetic overuse of a Thesaurus with truth. #shambrations?

Phil Cubeta

So public parks should be privately owned going forward? And reserved for the exclusive use of nobility or, going forward, dynastic wealth? Or are you suggesting that expropriating the private estates of very wealthy people would be in the public interest since it would create public parks? I am confused. You are raising important issues that go beyond a Thesaurus. Wish I knew where you come out on all this.

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