An unlikely leadWhy, you might be asking yourself, would High Country News run a cover story on methamphetamines?
One reason can be found on the front page of a recent Grand Junction, Colo., Daily Sentinel. "Pot-meth bust leads to 5 arrests." Pick up any Western newspaper these days and you'll find similar headlines.
After reading story after story about police busts, stolen farm chemicals and abandoned drug labs, we decided meth was a story we couldn't ignore. There is a connection here to our traditional beat, the environment and the public lands: The abundance of wide-open spaces in the West gives meth dealers an ideal place to set up labs and dump their waste.
Equally important, the meth rage is straining the region's struggling small towns. It is the cheap, accessible drug of choice for many ruralites, and it is taking a toll on our social services and environmental agencies.
News from the EmpireWhile this issue may seem downright depressing, we have some good news about our syndicated column service (Writers on the Range) and Web site (www.hcn.org) - two branches of what we've dubbed, somewhat facetiously, the HCN Media Empire.
Writers on the Range has continued to expand this summer, reaching new and unexpected corners of the West. In July, the service added two New Mexico newspapers - the Las Cruces Sun-Bulletin and the Raton Range - as well as two newspapers from the Pacific Northwest - the Monroe Monitor in Washington and the Baker City Herald in Oregon. Currently, 61 publications regularly use Writers on the Range columns.
On Sept. 1, Fulcrum Press and High Country News will release Living in the Runaway West, a collection of the best essays from the Writers on the Range. The feisty little tome includes musings and rantings from many of HCN's favorite writers. All proceeds from the book will be used to support WOTR. Look for an order form in an upcoming issue.
Youthful though it is, Writers on the Range is already spawning offspring. In mid-July, reader Chris Reiter visited all the way from Purcellville, Virginia, to discuss his new column service for the southern Appalachian region. Modeled after Writers on the Range, it's called Blue Ridge Press, and Chris, who is the editor, has already started distributing columns by environmentally minded writers and thinkers to the South's newspapers.
Blue Ridge Press is funded by the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation. Shortly before he left, Chris surprised Senior Editor Paul Larmer with a check from Leggett for Writers on the Range. We appreciate the generous donation, and we wish Blue Ridge Press all the best.
Another generous check came from reader Merry Havens of Boulder, Colo. Merry stopped in with "Stele" Ely, collecting signatures for a growth-control measure that may land on Colorado's ballot this fall. She wrote us a check partially out of guilt, admitting that she has let her subscription lapse in favor of reading the paper on the Web.
Her donation will help underwrite the new HCN online archive. We've just finished feeding the archive, which dates back to 1993, into a slick Internet database. We'll spare you the details, but the final product is worth checking out. Searching the archive should be easier and more efficient (i.e. with the click of a button, you can see all the stories we've done on mining, wilderness or wildlife, and you can now search by author, date, subject or all of the above), and the whole site will have a clean, consistent look.
Gifts from folks like Merry allow us to keep the Web site and the archive free and open to a broad community of readers. Many thanks.
A pair of partiesThe HCN staff and board will be hoofing it to Boise, Idaho, in September for our fall board meeting and potluck. Readers from near and not-so-near are invited to join us for good food and conversation, and readings by Idaho writers Penelope Reedy, Rocky Barker, Steve Stuebner and Louise Wagenknecht from Living in the Runaway West.
The feast will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Log Cabin Literary Center, 801 S. Capitol Blvd. in Boise.
Just one week later, we'll be gathering again, this time in Boulder, Colo., for a blow-out bash to celebrate HCN's 30th birthday. You'll hear Colorado writers read from Runaway West, share in a potluck and cut a rug to music from Marty Jones and the Pork Boilin" Poor Boys.
The party starts at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, 1850 Table Mesa Drive in Boulder.
If you can make it to either party, call Robyn at 970/527-4898. We hope to see you there!