NEW BOOKS: BARGAINING FOR EDEN
words and photographs by Stephen Trimble
(University of California Press, 2008)
Awards:2008 Utah Book Award in Nonfiction
2004 Utah Arts Council Literature Program Nonfiction Book Award
Purchase: IndieBound, Powell's, Amazon
We all love special places—but who should decide their future? In Bargaining for Eden, Trimble tracks down the motives that inspire passion on all sides in two iconic places in The New West: a Utah mountain and its historic ski area and a redrock mesa on which Trimble builds a home. This is Trimble’s most innovative foray into literary non-fiction, incorporating ten years of fieldwork and writing—and the transition to the 21st Century for the shrinking open spaces of America.
Bargaining for Eden follows citizens in two communities grappling with change on extraordinary public lands in their backyards. Conflict grows from the tension between grassroots values and greed, politics, ownership, and patriarchy. First comes Mount Ogden and the history of the Public-Lands West, from overused commons to reclaimed national forest to ski area—all community-based. The beloved ski area then loses its sense of community as the mountain develops into a resort that hosts the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The lens for this story is billionaire resort owner Earl Holding, whose power and money bring him what he wants, despite the anger and agony of local people trying to preserve their special relationship with the mountain.
In the second story, the author forms the lens, turning from observer to actor, buying land in southern Utah redrock country, splitting the property, and facing Earl’s values within himself. The author deals with the ethics of ownership, the same issues confronting every New Westerner hoping for a piece of paradise—housebuilding, conservation easements, stewardship, sustainability, and the “devil’s bargains” of tourism.
KUER Radio West interview with Doug Fabrizio:
Credo: The People's West
"Stephen Trimble is the only honest writer in America." The Oregonian
"Trimble begins his story about 30 miles outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and ends up right at the dinner table of everyone who has ever wanted to put up a fence."
"Every so often a book is published that brings the larger world into clear focus through a well-polished, high-quality lens directed at one small part of that world. Bargaining for Eden is such a book, and everyone who is interested in the human condition and the natural environment and their connections to and effects on each other will be well served by reading it. Stephen Trimble’s skills and perseverance as an investigative reporter honor the craft of writing and serve its readers by bringing integrity, honesty, intelligence, humility and hope to a story that is about their antonyms. Stephen Trimble has offered us a way beyond hatred with a great and shocking story of the past and a template for the future."
Dick Dorworth, Mountain Gazette
"Trimble's book is hard to classify—a mix of reportage, history, memoir, and advocacy. Its urgent, compassionate voice reminds me of the essay-writing modes of Wallace Stegner, Charles Wilkinson, and William Kittredge. Like High Country News, the public conscience of the New West, Bargaining for Eden is presentist yet historically literate, environmentalist yet rurally conscious."
Jared Farmer, Western Historical Quarterly
"Trimble's book takes a courageous look at the ethics of landownership and the price of paradise."
Jennifer Winger, Nature Conservancy Magazine
"Bargaining For Eden is not just another depressing illustration of the corrupting influence of power, but a vibrant montage of unusual suspects expressing quirky aspects of individualism, camaraderie, and Western ethos. Trimble's softspoken integrity puts the reader at ease. In the end, I could not escape the feeling that the author's essential honesty and kindness overshadow even his larger-than-life subjects. Steve Trimble is harder on himself than on anyone else in this book, and that's saying something. It is therefore the one book about the changing West that every American should read."
Kevin McCarthy, Amazon.com
"With this masterwork, Stephen Trimble has given us the most reasoned and moving account of how and why the West becomes developed and its lands fragmented. As wise as it is heart-breaking, Trimble's story challenges us to sign on to supporting a new ethics of land use in the West... "
Gary Nabhan, author of Renewing America's Food Traditions and Cultures of Habitat
"Combining remarkable investigative research with his skills as a poignant essayist, Trimble has favored us with an extraordinary account that inspires as it challenges our values, our commitment to action, and our sense of connection with place, community, and the essence of who we are as inhabitants of this wondrous planet."
Rocky Anderson, Former Mayor of Salt Lake City
"Stephen Trimble, a spiritual descendant of Edward Abbey, put together, over ten years, a chilling indictment of insider power in Utah and Washington, D.C., leading to the bald-faced appropriation of public land for private profit. It is both a piece of dogged investigative journalism and a soul-searching confessional. We are all part of the problem. And we need to come to grips with that fact, as the author has in this important, harrowing and revealing self-examination."
Peter Shelton, Telluride Watch
"We mourn the sacred places in the West that have been bargained away for the American dream and Steve Trimble’s new book reveals today’s deeper challenge: that every community has its own Walden Pond that is threatened. Trimble eloquently tells the story that we are not just bargaining for Eden but bargaining for our own souls. In this mature and poignant book, Trimble urges passion and self-awareness and that no conflict arises totally outside of oneself."
Peter Forbes, director, Center for Whole Communities, Vermont
"This thoughtful and thought-provoking story is representative of what happens in every state in the United States. This is a critique of democracy. ...the writer crafts his story as if he's Everyman, fraught with questions and puzzles. And Stephen Trimble ought to be Everyman—the person who cares what will happen to our fragile, beautiful and irreplaceable world."
Kent Nelson, Utah Arts Council Book Awards judge
"Make no mistake: Bargaining for Eden is a brave and important book. It's a page-turner of a story about powerful men, unspeakable wealth, and Olympic gold-medal mountains. But it's also a Jungle–in the tradition of Upton Sinclair, a disturbing story of how politics and capitalism worked hand-in-hand against the common good and our commonweal of wildlands. If we are ever to learn how to live on the land and at the same time protect its heart, maybe we can start here, in Trimble's beloved Utah mountains."
Kathleen Dean Moore, author of The Pine Island Paradox
"...interesting, intelligent, and well voiced...the case Trimble makes is troubling testimony to the speed with which a birthright is now slipping away."
Rick Bass, Boston Globe
"Bargaining for Eden often reads like a novel, filled with charming character portraits, even though some of the characters are less than charming. With an even hand, Trimble lays out the facts, and respectfully tells a story of people with values different from his, of opposing groups who can look at one piece of land and see two very different worlds of possibilities. Trimble’s style of journalism moves forward with the pacing of a soap opera, each chapter bringing forth new plot points and character quirks."
Audrey Webb, Earth Island Institute Journal
"Bargaining for Eden ultimately asks what we are doing as landowners, neighbors, and citizens to ensure that our changing communities are rooted in, not greed, but generosity."
Joshua Zaffos, ORION magazine
"A book about the real West. The author's construction of a second home in southern Utah's redrock country puts him at the virtual Center of the Universe of rural and public land politics—extraction vs. preservation, locals vs. transplants, conflict vs. consensus."
Janine Blaeloch, Western Lands Project Update
"This is an important book. In intertwining, frequently complex narratives, Trimble uses personal observation and metaphor to make larger points about the fast-changing West ....These are wise words, and one can imagine Wallace Stegner...would be proud."
Barry Scholl, Entrada Institute
Haynes & Gale Fuller, Eden, Utah, from "Bargaining for Eden"
Mt. Ogden and Snowbasin from Huntsville, Utah, from "Bargaining for Eden"
Finish line for the Men's Downhill at Snowbasin, 2002 Winter Olympics, from "Bargaining for Eden"
mural on grandstands, Snowbasin, 2002 Winter Olympics, from "Bargaining for Eden"
Wheeler Creek—reclaimed by local citizens in the 1930s, Snowbasin, Utah, from "Bargaining for Eden"
What is a mountain for? Resort construction beneath Strawberry Peak, Snowbasin, Utah, from "Bargaining for Eden"
What is a mesa for? Framing the perfect view for the author's bedroom, Torrey, Utah, from "Bargaining for Eden"
Hay barn, the Cockscomb, and Boulder Mountain—the view from the author's home, from "Bargaining for Eden"