Report from the trash patrol
Saturday morning spent cleaning up two miles of State Highway 133
created a variety of reactions among the participants. Some of us
came away satisfied. All of us came away hot and dirty. But Betsy
Offermann came away determined: "The next time I see someone
litter, I'm going to make a citizen's arrest."
Once done, the results of our work were clear:
32 stuffed orange garbage bags along the road, awaiting a Monday
morning pick-up. We also took back with us several boxes of
aluminum cans for recycling.
Marion Stewart said
the cleanup illustrated the principle that no good deed goes
unpunished. "It made me mad to see all the trash in the first
place. And now, three days later, I already see more garbage where
Intern Juniper Davis made out best
among the 11 of us: Someone lost a five-dollar bill, and she found
it. "I meant to spend it on a milkshake, but on the way to the
store my steering began to fail and I had to buy power steering
fluid instead." But she was philosophical: "It's my fault for
driving a nearly 20-year-old car."
was also philosophical. "At 50 miles an hour, you see countryside
and cows. When you bike or walk along a road, you see more details.
But when you pick up roadside garbage, you see what people eat,
what they smoke, and even what they shoot up." (Steve found two
syringes.) "They eat lots of candy and drink tons of beer. Bud and
Coors mostly - no microbrews or premium upscale brands in this neck
of the woods."
But Steve wasn't making a
socioeconomic judgment: "People with money do other kinds of
Greg Hanscom was most impressed by
the dozens of deer carcasses and auto parts. "You get a sense of
where deer cross the road." He also said that the "next time I see
people in orange vests along the highway, I'm going to stop and
give them cool drinks, or at least honk and wave."
Everyone had a garbage strategy. At first, most
of us picked up everything, including cigarette butts. That didn't
last long. Someone said, "By the end, I wasn't picking up anything
smaller than the side of a car."
Finds of note:
Penthouse magazine, and a scrap of paper about a wilderness Web
site. Thankfully, we spotted only a very few bottles of suspicious
yellow fluid. There was also one very old orange vest - just like
the ones we were wearing.
Signs along the highway
say the section of road, just west of Paonia, is maintained by
"Friends of High Country News," but at this first cleanup the only
reader who showed up was Paul Douglas of Paonia. The rest of the
participants were interns and staff: Juniper Davis, Gretchen
Nicholoff, Betsy Offerman, Michelle Allen, Marion Stewart, Steve
Mandell, Greg Hanscom, Gabriel Ross and Ed and Betsy
The rest of the
Four years ago, Elizabeth Manning wrote a
story for High Country News that led to the ending last month of
mining claims in Utah's Westwater Canyon (see opposite
Today, she's a reporter in Alaska for the
Anchorage Daily News. But she remembers the Westwater story
vividly. She had arranged to float Westwater with Skip Edwards, a
former BLM employee fighting to keep the canyon wild, but her
meeting with Ray Pene, one of two brothers who claimed a gold mine
within the wilderness study area, was quite by
"That's the strange part. Not too long
after the float trip, I took the train to Los Angeles, and for some
unexplainable reason, I decided to board in Thompson, a tiny
outpost just across the Utah border. I still hadn't contacted the
Pene brothers, but also waiting for the train was Ray Pene. I
figured out who he was after overhearing his
"We sat next to each other most of
the way through Utah, and he explained his side of the story.
Meeting Ray Pene in the town where he and Ron (Pene, his brother)
grew up helped me understand why they wanted to develop the mining
claims. Mining was the life they had known, and Ron was trying to
hold onto that life."
Elizabeth says the credit
for clearing the mine out of Westwater goes to the activists. "But
it's heartening to see how this particular story informed people
and spurred others to get involved. The best way to do that, I
think, is by telling the multiple sides to an issue, being fair and
accurate, and writing the most compelling story you can. After
that, you just hope people read your article before the newspaper
becomes fish wrapper."
Greg Trainor of Grand
Junction, one of the heads of Friends of Westwater, says that while
Elizabeth wrote an accurate story, she's wrong about where the
credit should go. "This issue only came to the forefront after her
article in 1995. It mobilized an entire group of people to do
something about an important place. It made the difference."
Ketelle, the Forest Supervisor of the White River National Forest
in Glenwood Springs, Colo., stopped by after talking with retired
Forest Service employees in Grand Junction. Her White River Forest
is home to many of Colorado's ski areas, including Vail, Aspen and
Breckenridge. Before coming to Colorado, she ran the Six Rivers
National Forest in northern California. And before that - and a
sign of the changing nature of the agency - she was with the
Tennessee Valley Authority.
Jane Hines in
Parachute, Colo., tells us that it is not methane seeps that are
causing crops to fail in her neighborhood, as reported March 13 in
the Roundup, "Oil wells in my backyard?" but the sheer number of
drilling rigs. Hines lives in Garfield County, where as many as 16
wells per square acre are allowed.
continue to fool us: The Idaho Fish and Game phone number is
208/334-5159. The phone number and not the fax for Janine
Blaeloch's Western Land Exchange Project is
Kathrin Day Lassila, editor of The
Amicus Journal and administrator of the John B. Oakes Award for
Environmental Journalism, wants to make a distinction between the
Oakes Award and the fact that it's housed at the Natural Resources
Defense Council in New Jersey. The Oakes Award to the Seattle Times
for its stories on land exchanges was made by an independent panel
of journalists, she says, and not by NRDC
The Feb. 15, 1999, review of the government
report, Water in the West, Challenge for the Next Century, said
that copies of the voluminous report were available from the
Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission at no
Now we hear from Peter Soeth of the U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation (303/445-3615) that the well has run dry.
Those wishing to read the report and its 22 supporting documents
can see it for free on the Web at http://www.den.doi.gov/wwprac/,
or you can contact the National Technical Information Service at
800/553-6847 or at www.ntis.gov. The CD-ROM is available, its Web
page says, for $69. It includes the central report and supporting
documents. If you're addicted to paper, the reports are also for
sale a la carte, but you will have to mortgage the family mansion
to buy them all.
* Ed Marston for the