Dear friends

  • Welcome: Winter intern Michelle Nijhuis

    Betsy Marston photo

Reading into 1998

The bad thing about taking a break, which we accomplished by skipping the Jan. 5 issue, is coming back to a towering stack of accumulated papers from Western cities and small towns, as well as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post Weekly. As we troll for story leads, clipping while skipping the ads, we try to ignore the 57th version of a media star's broken marriage and the knotty problem of what Bill Clinton will name his puppy.

Why don't we save ourselves frequent trips to the newspaper recycling center and read these newspapers on the Web? Some we do, but we're attached to the whole enchilada, where we can happen onto nuggets of Western life that we'd never find on the Web. We're also attached to the region's good local newspapers, which, in one issue, can tell you a lot about a place and what it is like to live there. You can't do any of that if you "call up" a specific story, or if you read only the larger papers.

So we page-turn through the stack, our fingers blackened with ink, and hope to catch up to mid-January any day now.

Take potluck with High Country News

The next board meeting of this paper is set for Tucson, Ariz., where we'll kick off our weekend meeting with a Friday night potluck. Please join us Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the historic YWCA, 300 East University Blvd. If you bring a potluck dish, we'll bring the drinkables. Call Linda at 970/527-4898 if you plan to come (no speeches, we promise).

Odds and ends

This issue of High Country News is part 3 of a special series on mining that was shepherded and reported by staffer Heather Abel. Heather came to HCN from California as an intern, stayed on as a reporter, and now, after two-and-a-half years, is leaving at age 25 to take the next step in what we predict will be a brilliant career. (HCN is a little bit like Lake Wobegon.) But whether she will step into law (her family's trade), documentary film or print journalism remains to be decided. Whatever she decides, we wish her well.

Thanks to Dave Bogdon and two other readers for telling us we were wrong about Richard Nixon. When Nixon went on television to defend himself against charges of accepting illegal campaign contributions, he did not show viewers his dog Checkers, as we wrote in Heard around the West recently. Instead, Nixon talked about his "little dog," and insisted he would keep it no matter what the nasty critics said.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain News for putting High Country News in its two-page listing of "Web Wonders." HCN's redesigned site, located at, made the Rocky's "Hall of Fame" category.

And thanks to the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming for initiating a year-long search for the quintessential "Wyoming Citizen of the Century." There are 10 possible categories; this newspaper's nominee, Tom Bell, fits into many of them: rancher, wildlife biologist, public school teacher, conservationist, political activist, historian and founder of two nonprofit institutions that thrive today, High Country News and the Wyoming Outdoor Council. Candidates must have made a "significant, lasting and positive contribution" to Wyoming. Nomination forms are available from the UW American Heritage Center, Box 3924, Laramie, WY 82071.

And to give proper credit, it was the Conservation Fund that presented the American Land Conservation Award from the Catto Foundation to Colorado rancher Jay Fetcher last year (HCN, 10/27/97).

New intern arrives

Winter intern Michelle Nijhuis (her Dutch last name sounds like "my house"), spent many evenings during her senior year at Oregon's Reed College dressed in hip waders. Doused by the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, she chased salamanders for her biology thesis on amphibian movement patterns.

Michelle headed for drier climates after graduation in January 1996, moving to Tucson, Ariz., to work on a desert tortoise research project at Saguaro National Monument. She spent this past spring in canyon country as an intern for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in Moab.

Last summer Michelle hiked through the Sierras in northeastern California, exploiting her amphibian-catching skills during a seasonal job with the U.S. Geological Survey. Then in September, she abandoned her car in Tucson and traveled to Guatemala and Honduras for two months, where she bumped into former HCN intern Carol Busch.

Michelle says that she - and her car - are glad to be back in the West for a few months, where her only concern is readjusting to bulky winter clothes.

* Betsy Marston