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The Nation | COLUMN ONE

`Natural Family' Feud

The City Council of Kanab, Utah, resolved to promote the nuclear family unit. It ended up sowing discord in a once close-knit tourist town.

June 24, 2006|Stephanie Simon | Times Staff Writer

Suspicion of outsiders is still very much alive. In particular, locals are wary of the "dog lovers" who come from around the nation to work at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Located in a red-rock canyon just outside Kanab, Best Friends is the county's biggest employer. But fifth-generation ranchers don't know quite what to make of the shelter's vegetarian buffets, its bunny rescues and its commitment to saving even the mangiest stray.

"It's a different group," said Truman Lynch, 79, who raised five children in Kanab. "Different standards. Different lifestyles."

The newcomers haven't much changed the look of Kanab. An espresso bar sells veggie burgers and stocks its magazine racks with the New Yorker. "But there are no New Age-y stores. No people walking around in freaky clothes," said Catherine Ives, 65, who moved here from New York City in 1985 and still considers herself an outsider.

To Kanab natives, however, the threat is clear. They've already lost control of their land and their economy. They don't want to lose the core of who they are.

The natural family resolution is one way they see to push back.

In a letter to the editor this spring, JoAnne Honey took the newcomers to task for rallying against the resolution with the slogan Take Our Community Back.

Noting that she has lived in Kanab for 78 years, she wrote: "Maybe (just maybe) when you have lived here even a fraction of that time, perhaps you will have earned the right to call Kanab 'your' community. That hasn't happened yet."

From the newspaper office, editor Brunner chronicles the bickering with wry wonder.

"They are good people here, and that's all there is to it," she said. "But sometimes, I pull my hair out."

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