The bears are in townSummer in Paonia has been an absolute bear. Cool mornings fairly burst into flame once the sun rolls over the top of Jumbo Mountain. Daytime temperatures hover in the 90s.
The heat has sent many of us hiking for the high country. But even the mountains are dry, and that has local black bears coming down country in search of food.
The trails above town are strewn with serviceberry branches, stripped of their fruit. The roads along the irrigation ditches are scattered with berry-packed scat. On one of the main ditches, the Fire Mountain Canal, locals regularly have seen a bear. At the coffee shop, Mary Hogue told us she watched a bear swimming in one ditch, and another local did a double take when he saw a bear perched in an apple tree, feeding its face and looking quite content.
Human visitorsIt was bears that brought Linda and Frank Brandt, subscribers from Flagstaff, Ariz., through town this summer. The Brandts stopped by on their way home from a course on bears at the Yellowstone Institute. The bears had moved to high ground with the warm spring weather, but the Brandts did spot a few bison, which they don't find many of around Flagstaff.
Beating the Arizona heat motivated Betina Mattesen of Sedona, Ariz., and her grown son, Jade, of Tucson; the two had just camped in the Mount Sneffels area before hitting HCN, and were on their way to backpack in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Betina, who works for a boarding school in the winter and a natural history gallery in the summer, purchased an HCN subscription for the Sedona Public Library. As a bonus for libraries, we throw in a free second subscription for the archives. Call us if you'd like to sponsor HCN in your local library.
Greg Kern, a copy editor for the Coloradoan in Fort Collins, and his fiancee, Donna Cavallini, who telecommutes to her job at a law firm in Atlanta, were actually looking for heat this summer - hot springs, to be specific. Donna was especially taken with the town of Glenwood Springs and its hot pools.
Howard and Ursula Booth, subscribers from Boulder City, Nev., were more interested in cold, white water. They had just spent seven days paddling through Cataract Canyon. Howard told us about the Hoover Dam Bypass project. On busy days, traffic crawls across the top of the dam, which is the main thoroughfare between Las Vegas, Nev., and Kingman, Ariz. Road builders have proposed a new four-lane highway and a bridge just below the dam. Howard fears the road will have dire effects on the Lake Mead Recreation Area and the historical value of Hoover Dam and his hometown. He advocates widening the road and existing bridge through Laughlin, Nev., instead.
Reed Benson, director of Water Watch in Portland, stopped by on his way to give a lecture in Gunnison. He reports that in the Northwest, salmon, backed by the Endangered Species Act, are forcing states such as Idaho and Montana to look seriously at instream flow rights. "States that have been stonewalling can't stonewall anymore," says Benson. "I'm cautiously optimistic."
Patrick Regan, Kristen Hanson and their 18-month-old son, Will, of Kansas City stopped by. They had just attended a wedding in the San Luis Valley, and were in the middle of a camping tour through the Western Slope.
Marvin Hegge found HCN while looking for a ranch to manage. The practitioner of Allan Savory's Holistic Resource Management doesn't expect to own a ranch. "Ranchers don't buy ranches any more. Rich people buy ranches," he says. Hegge isn't bitter, however, because the transition in ownership is consistent with the history of the West. "Let's face it. We live in a conquered nation. Somebody lived on this land before we did."
Bill Corcoran of the Los Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club said hello on his way to interview conservation biologist and Hotchkiss, Colo., resident Michael Soulé. The interview will be part of an upcoming conference focusing on protecting 35,000 acres of open space in Orange County. The land, a linkage between two larger chunks of wildlife habitat, is threatened by a proposed county toll road. "There's still something to save in L.A.," says Corcoran.
Barbara Hawke, a former Michigan resident, says she's been using High Country News to read up on the West. She now lives in Boulder, Colo., and was in the neighborhood visiting Nature Conservancy staffer and HCN board member Caroline Byrd.
Patti Fenstermacher and Bob Berger of Schnecksville, Penn., came through on their way to a national meeting of the Sierra Club. Bob has been a member of the 600,000-person organization since 1970; Patti is membership chair of the Pennsylvania state chapter of the club. She took over that position from Barbara Hays, who with her husband, Sam, author of Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985, have moved to Boulder, Colo., Barbara said.
Rob and Ann Modice of Tucson, Ariz., stopped by with Matt, Debbie and Jamie White. Terry Marquez and Catherine Gockley visited from Boulder, Colo. Barb and Gene Goffin dropped in to tell us that they've moved over the hill from Evergreen, Colo., to nearby Crawford. And finally, Judy Jacobsen and John Firor were in the valley visiting their son, who is an orchardist in Hotchkiss.
"Know Thine Enemy"Columnist Bill Beck in the Cutbank, Mont., weekly, Western Breeze, rails against the rash of environmental initiatives in the West. He calls programs such as the initiative to protect roadless areas in national forests "a disease, a malaise, a condition, a state of being not unlike an inefficient, bloated, and corrupt government that slowly but surely sucks the joy of life out of its citizenry." Beck endorses publications that he finds "committed to the obliteration of the environmental blizzard," including the book War on the West by Perry Pendley.
But Beck tries to keep an open mind. Under the headline "Know Thine Enemy," he advises readers to check out High Country News, and includes our address. We look forward to any dialogue this provokes; if anyone wants to reach Beck, his e-mail address is 1Beck@cut-bank.mt.us.
Oops and congratsIn the Aug. 14 issue of HCN, we goofed, of all things, on the Wilderness Act. A sentence in the story "Who speaks for the sheep?" should have read, "The Wilderness Society and its legal council, the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, admit that wildlife-related habitat improvements are not prohibited if they are necessary to preserve wilderness resources." Apologies for the error.
Speaking of the Land and Water Fund, congratulations are in order. The fund turns 10 this year. Founded by Boulder, Colo., attorney Kelley Green, the Fund provides pro bono legal council to grassroots environmental groups. It also takes on issues of its own, ranging from protecting roadless areas and old-growth forests, to pushing for more clean solar and wind-generated energy. Ted Zukoski, who directs the group's public-lands fights, is inundated with requests for help, writes Executive Director Bruce Driver in the Fund's newsletter. "Three hundred e-mails a week? No problem, he'll get to them."