Visit from a stalwart
Once upon a
time, substantial chunks of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado were to be
the scene of massive industrial development. Oil shale, aka the
"rock that burns," was to be mined and crushed, with the resulting
hydrocarbons liquefied and then refined, freeing the U.S. from
servitude to the Middle East.
It was to be
gargantuan. In western Colorado, Exxon proposed diverting part of
the Missouri River into the Colorado River, and scattering
50,000-person cities across the landscape. The residents of these
shale towns were to service huge, rectangular pits. These pits were
to literally "roll" across the West, because dirt would be dug out
of the leading edge of the pit, processed, and then dumped at the
rear of the pit.
Western Colorado was to be a
"national sacrifice area," but those who lived here would live
happily ever after, because we'd have well-paying jobs and every
acre of land would be worth at least $10,000. It was the Western
dream come true.
In response to the threat posed
by oil companies backed by Jimmy Carter-era federal subsidies, most
environmentalists concentrated on either all-out opposition or
attempts to divert these moving pits from their favorite places.
Kevin Markey was an exception. The Grand
Junction, Colo., staffer with Friends of the Earth under David
Brower took the radical step of attempting to understand the inner
workings of the energy industry, always with an eye to showing how
things could be done better, or not done at all. He was a
big-picture person who gloried in details, and he soon knew more
about oil shale and its regulatory structure than most of the oil
company executives and government officials he dealt with.
Perhaps thanks to his work, oil shale died a
quicker death than it would otherwise have. In any case, that was
long ago. Oil shale is now an arcane subject, flaring only
occasionally in proposals to use it to pave roads.
The death of oil shale, at the hands of Exxon's
board of directors on May 2, 1982, sent Kevin back to school, and
when he came through Paonia recently with spouse Candice Miller in
early January, he was Dr. Markey, an employee of Berdy Medical
Systems, Inc., in Boulder, Colo., and a specialist in voice
Does he miss activism? No, says
Kevin. He is not enthusiastic about much of today's environmental
scene except for his former colleague, Amory Lovins of the Rocky
Mountain Institute, who continues to take an analytic approach to
But Kevin does not rule out a
return to environmental work. First, however, he needs to develop a
system that may someday allow doctors examining a patient to
dictate their observations, diagnoses and prescriptions to a
computer for immediate transcription.
Jeff Lucas is a reader but not a
subscriber, and that's been weighing on him. So when the Boulder
resident found himself near Paonia, he came in to contribute to the
Research Fund, "like paying your dues to public radio." He is a
seasonal employee of the United States Forest
Eliot Gerth and Kendra Robinson, along
with Keith Kistler and Katie Cecil, stopped by for a quick chat
while on their way to Crested Butte to ski. Their hometown, Roslyn,
Wash., was the scenic backdrop for the television show "Northern
Exposure." It may also have a new claim to fame: a 7,000-acre
resort called "Trend West."
"Skip" Edwards is one of two persons to receive the 1997 Sol
Feinstone Environmental Award. The former river ranger for the
Bureau of Land Management on the Westwater Canyon stretch of the
Colorado was honored for his protection of an 1,800-acre piece of
land threatened by mining (HCN, 10/16/95). Westwater is part of the
larger struggle over the fate of wilderness lands in southern Utah.
Friends of Westwater Canyon can be reached at: P.O. Box 2011, Grand
Junction, CO 81501; 970/245-7613.
of the Jackson Hole, Wyo., area was one of 15 Americans who
received the Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton on Jan.
15. Her work helped bestow federal protection on millions of acres
of Alaska wilderness.
John and Diane Josephy Peavey (Diane is
an HCN board member) are busy turning lemons into lemonade in the
area around Ketchum, Idaho. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the
couple is concerned that their sheep drives through the urbanizing
area will be banned eventually because of traffic delays and road
apples. So this fall, the Peaveys' created a "Trailing the Sheep"
program, and more than 20 people "bundled up in winter clothes and
walked for miles in chilly dawn temperatures behind a flock of
The Peavys hope the event will
become an annual one in the Wood River Valley. The 1997 event
included a showing of photos and paintings of sheep at a local
But traffic is only part of the
problem, said Diane, a few weeks after the couple had to go to an
upscale house to retrieve a sheep that had tumbled through a window
into the basement, doing some damage to a plush carpet. Sheep have
a reputation for not being overly bright, but Diane believes this
one may have been seeking refuge from a predator. So the next time
you see a big house way out in the country, don't think of it as a
trophy home: Think of it as a safehouse for sheep.
Winter intern J.T. Thomas gets around. "My
symbol for the New Year is a stick of superglue," he says. "It will
remind me to anchor my butt to a chair and write about the places I
love to explore." After graduating from the University of Colorado
in Boulder, J.T. taught wildlands studies field courses in
McCarthy, Alaska, and wilderness canoeing for the Chewonki
Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. As a member of the International
Honors Program, J.T. also spent a year traveling in Europe, Asia,
New Zealand and Central America, where he studied sustainable
development, sampled as many beers as his jet-lag would allow and
collected antique tools.
Last summer, J.T., the
Connecticut native visited High Country News on the way to an
18-day hike along the Continental Divide. The hike took him through
the La Garita and Weminuche wilderness areas, and it was then, he
says, that he decided Paonia would be his next adventure. Waxing
poetic, he calls himself a "metaphorager," someone who deviates
from a trail to forage for words in the backcountry. J.T. says this
winter he's also looking forward to cooking in an actual kitchen
and brewing a strong winter stout.
* Ed Marston
for the staff