After World War II, the federal government, utilities, and developers embarked on a project to build dams, mines, power plants, and high-transmission lines across the Interior West in order to electrify and deliver water to the cities that were sprawling across the desert. The intent of what scholar and law professor Charles Wilkinson called “The Big Buildup” was both to meet the demand created by the huge post-War migration, and to create new demand — to lure more people, and therefore more money, to the Southwest. The likes of Phoenix and Las Vegas as we know them today were made possible by the Big Buildup, and the Big Buildup, in turn, was enabled by theft of land, cheating tribal nations out of royalties, government subsidies, and lax regulations.
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