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Cheers for Jim Robbins 

One of the first Montana writers I ever encountered was Jim Robbins. In the mid-1980s I would read his dispatches from the Rocky Mountains in the Boston Globe. I was jealous. Here was a guy who got to live in the Rockies and write for a living. At the time I wondered why I couldn't do that. Eventually I stopped wondering and pursued my own path out here.

In the years since I've followed Robbins' career -- from the Globe to the New York Times, to a book on the environmental politics of the Yellowstone ecosystem and several on medical technology. I've also met him in person and once even played basketball with him. (Really nice guy. Pretty good mid-range jump shot.)

So I was delighted to see his new essay in the LA Times Magazine. One of Robbins' best qualities has always been to convey the thoughts and feelings of people who live in the West to those who live on the coasts. So while I myself didn't find anything new in the essay, I did find myself saying, "Yup, that's it. That's what we've been struggling with."

In his conclusion Robbins admits, "I don't know what the answer is." I sometimes go a step farther: fearing there is no answer. But hey, here's a guy who is effectively articulating a question, for an important (and paying) audience. Twenty years later, the word "jealous" no longer fits my attitude toward Robbins. "Appreciative" or "Thankful" may be closer.

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