‘Yellowstone’: How the Duttons Major Issues Would Be Solved in Real Life

by Lauren Boisvert
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Over the seasons on “Yellowstone,” the Duttons find themselves in some tough scrapes, and that’s an understatement. They’ve gone up against corporations, activists, the Broken Rock Reservation, and their own family members; they use deadly force most of the time to solve their problems. Or backhanded schemes, or just sic Beth on it.

But, outside of Taylor Sheridan’s world, how would these problems get resolved? Thanks to Reason Magazine, we know that these issues need careful planning. Additionally, sometimes they need official interference, and a little help from the markets.

There’s an instance in the series premiere where a group of land developers from California have come to Montana to discuss building a subdivision next to the Dutton ranch. The conflict is, they’re looking to dam a river to divert it from the ranch to the subdivision; while they claim that when they own the land, they can do whatever they want with the river, in reality, there are ordinances in place to subvert this kind of conflict. In fiction, John Dutton dynamites a canyon in order to divert the water away from the subdivision.

Montana has a “First in Time, First in Right” policy when it comes to natural water resources. The oldest claim on the water, whoever owned the land first, can technically do what they want with their allocated water, of which they have the most. Subsequent claims are allocated less water. So, through prior appropriation, no one owns the whole resource, but they own offshoots of it. With this ordinance, the subdivision would most likely receive their own allocation of the water, and wouldn’t have to divert from the Duttons.

‘Yellowstone’: Can’t Use Deadly Force in the Real World

Another issue that the Duttons run into involves wild animals. Most often, wolves. The Duttons share land with the wolves, and “Yellowstone” depicts a real problem among rural ranch owners; they provide land for threatened species, but bear the brunt of the economic toll of doing so.

These moments on “Yellowstone” depict the urban-rural divide of so many Western states. Those who live in urban areas usually don’t take into account the cost of having wild, usually endangered species in your backyard. The endangered species sharing land with ranches and farms create a liability for people living in those rural areas.

According to the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), property values plummet with the addition of endangered species. The government slaps people with land-use restrictions and hefty fines. The endangered species list is federally regulated, so this brings unwanted government attention if something goes wrong. Landowners are often penalized if their land doesn’t suit the species initially, but the government provides no incentive to create the new habitat. Therein lies the problem: incentive. If there’s no incentive to create these habitats, and only punishment, landowners will reject the endangered species on their land.

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