Congress may be learning to live with, if not love, the MX. And the nuclear freeze movement may have thawed considerably. But that doesn't mean there isn't organized public opposition to the MX, especially among folks in the shadow of the new, big intercontinental ballistic missile's planned home.
''They're looking at where we live,'' says Rodney Kirkbride, a Wyoming cattleman whose ranch is just a short horseback ride from three missile silos. ''I've gotten used to the Minuteman, I guess,'' he says in a telephone interview , referring to the missiles that have been nearby for years. ''But they want more land, more water, more everything for the MX.''
The US Air Force has just issued a draft environmental impact statement concluding that, in general, putting 100 missiles in existing silos in Wyoming and Nebraska won't disturb too many gophers or cause a boom-bust cycle in local communities.
But opponents say this is a superficial ''public works'' reading of the impact, which ignores a worst-case scenario of war or accidental detonation. In a lawsuit soon to be argued in the US Court of Appeals here, they assert that the Air Force cannot ''continue to treat the MX like just another runway extension or base closure,'' and that the full study and reporting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act must be met.
Meanwhile, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, and church and peace groups are lobbying their Rocky Mountain government representatives and neighbors about the likely effects of 100 MX missiles on water resources, wildlife, community services, and cultural values. And while they realize that Utah and Nevada successfully stopped the race-track basing mode for the MX, which was favored by the Carter administration, they also know that the battle is likely to be uphill.
''This is a conservative state, and many people aren't in the habit of questioning the federal government,'' says Tim Strand, a young optometrist from Cheyenne, Wyo., and chairman of Western Solidarity, an eight-state coalition of anti-MX groups.
While the governor and congressional delegation in nearby Colorado oppose the MX, most officials in Wyoming are for it.
In Nebraska, elected representatives are split on the issue. US Rep. Virginia Smith, a Republican rancher who generally supports the Pentagon, is opposed to the MX missiles, some of which would be housed in her district. Rep. Hal Daub (R), whose district includes the Strategic Air Command headquarters near Omaha, favors the MX.