While environmentally friendly resorts are bound to attract confirmed conservationists, they're also magnets for well-heeled folks who simply seek privacy and a view to die for. Leon Gardner, for one, says he's pleased there's a place for the endangered peninsula bighorn sheep to graze below his home in the La Mirada Resort near Palm Springs, California. But he's equally pleased that the developer guaranteed that his own spectacular view of the Santa Rosa Mountains would never be endangered by additional development. The resort encompasses 109 multimillion-dollar homes and building lots, a hotel, spa, and community center. MCO Properties has promised to protect a 1,500-acre swath of open space.

"I'm not a radical person ­demonstrating with a placard," says Gardner, whose ­primary residence is in Seattle, "but my wife and I are environmentally aware and we certainly appreciate what the developer's concern has meant for us - as well as the wildlife."

Like Gardner, Paul Thomas is quick to say he shouldn't be counted among the "tree huggers" either. But he says he can't imagine anyone appreciating the natural surroundings as much as he and his wife do. Why else would they leave balmy southern California to fly north in the middle of a Montana winter?

"We love watching the elk bed down and the flock of pheasants in the pasture," Thomas says. "Once … I looked up and counted 15 bald eagles … . I said to my wife it was like being inside a National Geographic special."           

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by mark kienzle
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