Skip to main content

Western Solidarity Records

 Collection
Identifier: 2017-54
Marla Painter, former director of the Foresta Institute for Ocean and Mountain Studies (1973-1982), accumulated these materials while working out of Foresta’s facilities in Washoe Valley, Nevada. After leaving Foresta in 1982, Painter went on to serve as an organizer and the interim executive director at Citizen Alert before moving on and joining Western Solidarity as an organizer and member of the Executive Steering Committee beginning in 1984.

Although Painter was based out of Nevada during most of her time with Western Solidarity, little of the material that she collected, which is the basis for these records, relates to the state of Nevada. The majority of it centers on issues and events that occurred in Wyoming and Nebraska, particularly organizing of anti-MX rallies and the initiation of lawsuits aimed at stopping the deployment of missiles in rural areas. This collections contains newsletters and memoranda from some of the localized groups in those states, such as the Tri-State MX Coalition and Nebraskans Opposed to MX.

This collection contains a variety of materials including news clips from various Western newspapers and periodicals, member listings, regional and local memoranda, organization newsletters, correspondence, notes, lawsuit and hearing briefs, and governmental studies and Environmental Impact Statement reports. Much of what appears here highlights the administrative activities of the governing boards and committees of Western Solidarity that worked to facilitate and collaborate with other grassroots and local organizations. In Nevada, Western Solidarity worked with organizations such as Citizen Alert and the Rural Alliance for Military Accountability (RAMA). As a result, familiar names associated with these organizations such as Bob Fulkerson and Grace Bukowski are present throughout the materials.

Dates

  • 1978-1989

Creator

Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Extent

5.25 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)

Overview

Founded in 1982, Western Solidarity was comprised of a coalition of concered citizens from eight western states that opposed the federal governments proposed deployment of the Peacekeeper missile experiment (MX). This collection contains a variety of materials including news clips from various Western newspapers and periodicals, member listings, regional and local memoranda, organization newsletters, correspondence, notes, lawsuit and hearing briefs, and governmental studies and Environmental Impact Statement reports. Much of what appears here highlights the administrative activities of the governing boards and committees of Western Solidarity that worked to facilitate and collaborate with other grassroots and local organizations.

Administrative History

Western Solidarity was founded in 1982 at a gathering of 80 citizen leaders from Western states including Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Western Solidarity’s creation came as a result of a collective feeling of unease amongst citizens of Western states who felt that their homelands were being encroached upon and sacrificed for expanded operations by the U.S. Military. The founders agreed that the proposed Peacekeeper missile experiment (MX) deployment was the most blatant misuse of western lands and resources, and further believed that fighting against it should be the initial focus of Western Solidarity’s mission.

In the 1960s, amid heightened Cold War tensions, the U.S. military transferred Minuteman nuclear missiles to underground silos in sparsely populated Western states such as Wyoming and Nebraska. By the early 1970s, the United States Air Force began developing the MX missile program. The new MX missiles were designed to be able to very accurately deliver large nuclear warheads to Soviet targets. With the specifications finalized for the MX project in 1972, development began a year later in 1973.

Development continued for several years until 1976 when Congress refused to fund the program further. It remained dormant until 1979 when President Carter authorized the deployment throughout Nevada and Utah of 200 missiles. Local opposition in both states was fierce and eventually garnered the support of Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt. Officials in the Reagan administration proposed several additional strategies for MX missile deployment, including a “dense pack” plan and the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison, which would involve trafficking nuclear warheads around the west on armored railcars. These proposals never gained substantial support, but in 1983, a compromised was reached to deploy new missiles to existing silos, deactivating older accident-prone Titan II missiles, and developing the new, smaller Midgetman missile.

With the close of the Cold War, the military slowly began deactivating and decommissioning the Peacekeeper missiles with the final missile being removed in 2005. Throughout the decades of planning and implementation, the federal government was often remiss in hearing from concerned citizens whose lives were impacted by these initiatives. In addition to the amount of land and cost associated with the deployment of nuclear weapons, there was an ever-present fear that Western states would be preferred targets for hostile nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union.

By 1985, Western Solidarity’s staff was expanding and ramping up efforts to oppose funding requests and deployment of MX and Midgetman missiles. Their interests and concerns began expanding into other areas including nuclear testing in the Nevada desert, the transportation and storage of nuclear waste, the rapidly deflating farm economy in Wyoming and Nebraska, which in some cases wiped out entire communities, and low-level flight testing of military aircraft in rural Western areas.

Western Solidarity’s goal was unique and involved building a strong regional network that shared information and resources, assisted local groups and provided a forum for developing strategies to combat abusive military operations in the West. This approach helped to regionalize local issues and localize regional issues, thus serving as a vehicle to empower concerned residents of the eight involved Western states. By the mid-1980s, Western Solidarity constituents numbered in the hundreds of thousands and included affiliations with ranchers, farmers, local anti-MX organizations, and religious and church groups. From there, they coordinated rallies, held workshops to prepare residents in deployment zones for Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) hearings, filed lawsuits, produced informative and educational literature, and organized and sponsored regional strategy planning meetings. The dialogue and activities initiated by Western Solidarity, helped bridge the gap between grassroots and regional groups to strengthen resolve against the disregard and abuse of Western lands and resources by the U.S. Military.

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received as part of the Foresta Institute for Oceanic and Mountain Studies Records (2001-01). Because of the nature of the materials and the possibility that they were collected by Marla Painter, employee of Foresta Institute, as an act separate from her duties there, materials were separated from the Foresta Institute Records.

Related Archival Materials

Related archival materials held by the UNR Special Collections Department:

Western Shoshone Defense Project Records (2013-10) Citizen's Alert MX Missile Papers (89-17) Sierra Club, Toiyabe Chapter Records (87-04) Rural Alliance for Military Accountability Records (97-29)

Related archival materials held by other institutions:

Andrew B. Reid Papers, Swarthmore College, Peace Collection Stephen Gary Erickson Papers, University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections Robert Sand Papers, University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections

Creator

Title
An Inventory to the Western Solidarity Records
Status
completed
Author
Edan Strekal and Jessica Maddox
Date
August 2017
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Contact:
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5665
775-682-5724 (Fax)