We celebrate 30 years

As firefighting slurry bombers droned overhead, a boisterous, book-loving crowd of 125 showed up for the newspaper's 30th anniversary bash, Sept. 16, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research on a mesa above Boulder, Colo. In addition to bringing an incredible spread of food (including pumpkin pie that was out of this world), the partygoers brought their literary sensibilities and senses of humor.


Five writers with essays in HCN's new book, Living in the Runaway West, entertained the audience with tales of life in the West. Former HCN editor Dan Whipple, current associate editor Michelle Nijhuis, and freelancers Marty Jones and Hal Clifford read essays with subjects ranging from the friendless coyote to the angst of being single in a small Western town.


Longtime HCN contributor and Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen finished the round with an essay on why Western communities should discard their traditional summertime events for New West festivals, complete with SUV races and competitions in "bed-making, burger-flipping, lift-attending, drink-mixing - with a grand finale race for the hills when INS agents make a surprise appearance to round up undocumented immigrants."


Proceeds from Living in the Runaway West help fund our Writers on the Range syndicated column service.


The celebration included a visit from Bruce Hamilton, who ran High Country News with his wife, Joan Nice, back in the 1970s. Bruce is now the Conservation and Communications Director of the national Sierra Club, based in San Francisco. Joan is the editor of Sierra Magazine.


We want to thank longtime HCN supporter and retired NCAR scientist John Firor for helping us revel in one of Boulder's most spectacular settings, and Dan Luecke and Rosemary Wrzos for hosting an event the evening before at their home.


High Country history

Speaking of HCN's past, we recently received some interesting news - 25 years late. John Andrick dropped in to tell us about some waves HCN made back in the mid-1970s, when he was working for the Bureau of Land Management on the Platte River in northeastern Colorado.


The Bureau was involved in a proposal to build the Narrows Dam, but Andrick had another idea. The water could be stored underground in a nearby aquifer, he said, thereby saving the Platte a dam and the taxpayers a boatload of money. He didn't have much success with the idea until HCN ran a cover story on the project. Andrick sent copies of the issue to friends in high places. The next week, he says, two assistant Interior secretaries flew out from Washington to tour the site.


"No one ever knew why, but that was the last straw it took to end Narrows," he says. "I was still a government employee, so I couldn't tell High Country News."


Andrick is now making his Platte River water storage dream come true. He says he has diverted enough river water to create 1,250 acres of wetlands that feed their water back into the river slowly, allowing farmers and cities to use it throughout the summer.


Malin Foster's connection with HCN dates back to the early 1970s. Foster, who grew up in Hennifer, Utah, and now lives in Salt Lake City, worked with HCN founder Tom Bell on the Rocky Mountain Center on the Environment. The eight-state consortium of environmentalists, businesses and public utilities tackled issues such as energy development and wilderness.


"That was back when it was simpler," says Foster, who stopped by in September. "I may not live long enough to see another wilderness bill pass."


Then there's Chris Carlson of Madison, Wis., who just sent us a box with 383 back issues of High Country News dating back to 1982.


"I was turned on to the paper my junior year of high school in Evanston, Ill., by my government teacher," he writes. "Since then, as you can see from the address labels, the paper has followed me around from place to place as I attended college in Northfield, Minn., got my master's in Bloomington, Ind., went to work in Madison, Wis., returned to Bloomington for my doctorate, and finally returned to Madison to continue my professional service.


"I think every address I have had for over three months for the last 18 years is on a label in this stack. Over that time, I let my subscription lapse briefly twice - once in 1984 while I took a semester in Denmark, and once in 1988 due to lack of funds."


His letter closes with: "I hope High Country News continues on for another 18 years."


News, visitors and Suckling's first name

The word from former HCN staffer Elizabeth Manning, now in Alaska, is that she's married a bird biologist, John Pearce. Elizabeth now covers environmental issues and wildlife politics for the Anchorage Daily News.


"HCN was great training for what I do now," she says. "I've run into lots of HCN fans up here, and they all want you to cover Alaska!"


Subscriber Jim Grant from Longmont, Colo., swung through Paonia. Jim was taking a two-week break from his job as a software designer, visiting friends in Cortez and here in the North Fork. His traveling companion was a red agave cactus he picked up in Moab and plans to plant in his yard.


Subscribers Alan and Connie Patterson from Bend, Ore., visited. They tell us Bend is burgeoning: There are now 50,000 people in this once sleepy ski town, thanks to an airport with 10 flights a day to San Francisco and Seattle. Alan says many of his friends commute weekly to high-tech firms in these West Coast cities. All the newcomers have brought some of their urban problems with them - the schools are bursting at the seams and traffic is getting bad. They say Bend needs a good city planner with a background in environmental protection.


Imagine our surprise when subscriber Jeff Briggs introduced himself as "the guy who does the reclamation work for Molycorp' - a mine that critics had blasted in a recent HCN cover story for its reluctance to clean up its messes (HCN, 8/28/00: The mine that turned the Red River blue). Briggs says his company, Angle of Repose Reclamation, has been planting trees on the steep-sided waste-rock piles at Molycorp since 1996. He was surprised to read about heavy metals in the mine's dust, he said, and approached Molycorp, which has agreed to monitor the air on the job site. Eighty percent of the trees he's planted on the waste-rock piles have survived, he said, but "it's going to take a long time" for the land to fully heal.


Finally, we had a curious phone caller ask who the mysterious "Suckling" was in the story about The Nature Conservancy's late leader, John Sawhill (HCN, 9/11/00: Remembering an establishment revolutionary). Doesn't everyone know Suckling? His first name is Kieran, and he is science and policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz. We apologize for the truncation.