Dear Badger: How do we keep Big Sky from becoming a company town?
What happens when a certain group in a growing community takes over businesses, local housing, and more… and there’s no one in charge to stop them? Raising rents, lowering wages, making up their own rules while the rest of the community suffers, moves away, or just keeps placating them. How can we fight back and save our homes/lives?
Dear Usually Not But Boy Howdy Are You Now Confrontational,
I frequent areas of Big Sky where gossip flows (which is literally everywhere) and I’ve heard of such things happening in our community. This is a fun question, as the other ones have felt like easy prey… a field mouse vs an ermine. So, I’ll start with a story that comes to mind. One of my cousins, a Yellowstone National Park badger, had a family of foxes set up a den very close to her sett (an underground badger home) in a very public area. The foxes became celebrities. Tourists loved seeing those fluffy tails, baby foxes, and fox family dynamics. They were adorable, but my badger cousin just saw them as annoying snacks. Badgers have never cared for celebrities. My cousin was used to a quiet home. The foxes brought camera crews and reveled in the attention. So my cousin formed a plan. She fought the mother fox one day and went into the cave with a cub. The camera crews were crushed, as they thought the badger had done what badgers do… lured prey underground to eat them. But my cousin only ate the food stash the foxes had put aside. The cub came out to spectators’ cheers. My badger cousin felt that the warning was heard. Move out, frilly folks. Well the frilly folks just set up another den 30 feet away. The cameras flashed and the badger’s temper flashed as well. My angry cousin then scampered over to the new den and ate the fox cubs to the horror of the camera crew. Milquetoasts. It’s nature, people. This stuff happens every day in the wild. I think we’re seeing that it’s also happening in Big Sky.
Companies saw what Big Sky could become and did what large corporations do: Followed a plan. Part of that plan is to make all the businesses in town profitable, which means taking the humans out of the equation and making it just that—an equation. I’m sure they’re not sitting Scrooge McDuck-like behind a pile of money laughing as people suffer. I’m also sure they’re not weeping for them either. I think when you’re that deep into a project you just see the project and try to keep as many people happy as possible. Lots of local businesses pay higher wages and don’t have a high profit margin as a result. And that’s just fine because they aren’t in it to make tons of money. But larger corporations are, in fact, in it for the money.
You need to ask whether this is the town you want or the town you’re stuck in. Higher rents, increased property values, multiple exclusive clubs, and construction traffic are all part of the current plan. It was always going to happen, just like it’s happened in other ski towns.
I’m just watching it all from my sett, wondering who’s the fox and who’s the badger? I’ve seen it time and time again: The most vicious wins. Sometimes the vicious one is a big corporation with nothing to lose and sometimes (though rarely), it’s the little revolutionaries. The corporation can force the employees to accept lower wages because they know that some other kid will take the lower wages and employee housing. I’ve heard folks outside of my sett say, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Listen, I’m just a badger but I think it’s both. We have a ton of helpful community organizations, leagues, sports scholarships, and free concerts. We even have free mental health counseling, which I know most mountain lions use.
I’ve seen decades of young humans come to this town and live on low wages in employee housing. This usually isn’t their last stop. We must realize that, like the wildlife, lots of people are being driven out of Big Sky because their cozy dens are no longer cozy or affordable. My only bit of badger advice is that you decide whether you want to start a vicious fight or accept what’s happening as inevitable.
Are you a fox or a badger?