Calling all party animals

The year's first meeting of the board of the nonprofit High Country Foundation, which governs High Country News, will be held in Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 2-4. As is the custom with board meetings, we'll be hosting a potluck dinner for readers from the Phoenix area. These events, held around the West each year, always provide a wealth of good food and conversation.


The potluck will be held Saturday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m., at the Phoenix Zoo Auditorium, 455 N. Galvin Parkway. Call Robyn Morrison at 970/527-4898 if you plan to attend. Please bring a dish to share, and we'll provide drinks.


Beyond the revolution

Grizzly bears, national forests, natural gas, burgeoning metro areas, politically triumphant Indian tribes, Mexican immigrants, new national monuments ...


To steal from chambers of commerce everywhere, the American West has it all. At the center, managing the West's 500,000 square miles of federal land, are the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. For eight years under President Clinton, Interior's nine agencies and the Forest Service have been in the midst of a revolution - shifting from the old ways of mining and clear-cutting toward conservation and restoration. Now George W. Bush is president, and all bets are off.


For the next year, High Country News will follow the changing of the guard in Washington, D.C., and in the thousands of federal outposts in the West. We'll interview the Clinton team as they leave, and the Bush team as they enter. We'll track the fate of the new monuments, of on-the-ground agency leaders, of reintroduced wolves, of roadless forests, of the reborn Bureau of Land Management, and of the national parks.


Finally, breaking for the moment with our self-imposed geographic boundaries, we will watch the fight over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because as Alaska goes, so may go the West.


High country inspiration




Longtime subscribers Dian Sparling and Barb and Stu Krebs had an epiphany in a high-mountain ski cabin above Eagle, Colo., over the holidays. Dian Sparling is a midwife in Fort Collins, Colo., while Barb and Stu live over the hill in Montrose, Colo., where they're building a two-story earth, tire and timber home their kids call "the mother ship."


As at any gathering of High Country News readers, they said, the conversation turned to politicians. The room took on a gloomy air until someone said, "These people should be reading High Country News!"


Some politicos already read the paper, but for those who don't, the group suggested a sponsorship program - something like the "Adopt a manatee" program - only this one would allow folks to send their congressional representative, county commissioner or other elected officials a subscription to HCN.


Stu came up with the slogan: "If you can't buy one, sponsor one!"


If you're interested, send us your politician's name and address and $32. We'll send him or her a year's worth of High Country News. Call Gretchen Nicholoff to see if your politician already subscribes: 970/527-4898.


New interns




New intern Kirsten Bovee likes a good yarn. After graduating from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., with a degree in history, she was hired by a labor union for construction workers to travel the state recording the oral histories of crane operators and catskinners. Union old-timers regaled her with tales of mule-powered machinery, Pinkerton strike-breakers, and workers struggling for fair labor conditions and decent wages. These dialogues with highway pavers and dam-builders provided an eye-opening counterpoint for college years passed in enviro-friendly Portland and Eugene.


Last year Kirsten packed her Toyota to the gills and headed for Taos, N.M., bent on living the ski bum's life. Instead, she found work with the Western Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit outfit that represents environmental groups and Native American tribes around the Southwest. At WELC, attorneys on the frontline introduced her to the conflicts surrounding mining, forestry and clean water issues in the Southwest.


After a lifetime spent in the rain-soaked Northwest, Kirsten says she can't get enough of the high country sun. While haunted by memories of cedar, grunge bands and banana slugs, Kirsten plans on basking in this abundance of Vitamin D a little while longer before returning to the Northwest.


New intern Matt Jenkins grew up in Reno, Nev., where his father teaches ecology at the University of Nevada. He fondly remembers helping his dad chase cows out of research plots in the Sierra and back onto Forest Service land.


Matt attended Carleton College in Minnesota, but spent several summers moonlighting as a wildland firefighter in Wyoming and Utah. After graduation, he ran off to China for three years, where he taught and worked with Doctors Without Borders. He says that even in China, he could "never really get away from the West," especially since his mailbox was constantly stuffed with copies of High Country News sent by college friend Ali Macalady, now a radio staffer at the newspaper.


Matt celebrated his return to the United States with one last fire stint, this time working on a helicopter at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. After spending the summer buzzing around and plucking lost hikers from danger (and ruining more than a few Los Angelenos' wilderness experiences in the process), he says he's ready to spend some time reporting and writing in Paonia.


Contradistinguishing cows

E.T. Collinsworth III wrote recently from Arizona's San Simon Valley with a gripe about our Nov. 11 Heard around the West column, in which we referred to castrating cows. "Castration is the removal of the male testes," wrote Collinsworth. "Cows are female. Therefore it is biologically impossible to castrate a cow."


Alas, it's true. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary says a cow is "the mature female of domestic cattle." We were almost saved by the definition of castration, which can also refer to spaying a female. But we were still wrong, wrote Collinsworth, who has worked with cows (and bulls) for 20 years.


"Cowboys do not castrate cows. Cowboys castrate only bull calves, converting them into steers. The hormonal change makes them (the steers, not the cowboys) eat more grass and gain more weight. The result is a more efficient use of the cattleman's natural resources or further degradation of our public lands, depending on one's point of view."


Finally, this note came to publisher Ed Marston in response to a request for a donation to the HCN Research Fund. "Ed: If bullshit was snowflakes you, your staff and board would sure be a blizzard."


The writer didn't sign the note and apparently forgot to enclose a check.