Urban Places/Empty Spaces: Big and Small Governments in the Great Basin

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Big and small governments, mostly small, govern the Great Basin Desert. The biggest, the US federal government, has a regional presence that permeates even the remotest corners of the Basin, largely because of the massive tracts of federally owned land and infrastructure spread throughout the region. State, county, and municipal governments are sprinkled here and there, often within the gaps and corridors left by the federal presence.1 The biggest local governments are the four cities that sit on the rim: Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada. Although they occupy a tiny proportion of the Basin's land area, they account for the vast majority of the population and economic activity. The big and small governments maintain an uneasy and sometimes hostile relationship with one another that makes the politics of the Great Basin often contentious and sometimes dysfunctional.

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