Dear friends

  • Fall interns Meg Krehbiel and Chip Giller in a Paonia orchard

    Cindy Wehling
 

Rockin' and rollin'

The rural inland West is going out of its way to make Californians feel welcome. First we had summer fires that blanketed the area in smog. After the fires came the mud flows, including one that blocked Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Then on Sept. 13, moments after midnight, western Colorado was shaken by an earthquake that hit 4.6 on the Richter scale. Someone working late in the HCN office ran outside to see what hit the building.

Lifeblood wanted

Once a year High Country News asks readers to keep the paper alive for another year. Real newspapers depend on Safeway and Chevrolet and Preparation H for their lifeblood. HCN depends on readers, who contribute about 60 percent of the paper's revenue through subscriptions and another 30 percent through tax-deductible gifts to the Research Fund. (Foundations, bake sales, T-shirts and classified ads make up the remaining 10 percent.)

The Research Fund evolved out of the paper's early years, when readers time and again sent emergency checks to rescue the paper from the financial troubles that afflict a small outfit that tries to cover 1 million square miles on a shoestring. In the late 1970s, the paper institutionalized these emergency rescues by making the Research Fund appeal an annual event.

In brief, High Country News cannot survive without Research Fund gifts, just as other publications cannot survive without advertising. However, HCN prefers to put its fate in its readers' hands, rather than in advertisers' hands. Each year, approximately 25 percent of all subscribers contribute to the Research Fund.

Readers who are federal employees can contribute to the Research Fund through the Combined Federal Campaign. HCN's CFC number is 1059.

Board meeting

The board of the not-for-profit High Country Foundation, whose sole business is owning and operating High Country News, converged on Logan, Utah, for its fall board meeting Sept. 17. Because the meeting was within driving and railroading distance, a huge chunk of the staff attended, almost overwhelming the board.

The main business was planning for HCN's next long-range planning effort. The last five-year plan, which expires this year, filled or over-filled its goals and numerical quotas. During that five-year period, HCN built a building, expanded its circulation to over 10,000, instituted a sabbatical policy, created a more balanced board in terms of gender and ethnic background, and extended its editorial reach into the Northwest. Board member Michael Ehlers is in charge of planning for the next planning effort.

The board also talked about whether the organization needs directors' and officers' insurance (maybe), whether staff needs a pension plan (maybe), and how to celebrate the paper's 25th anniversary, which occurs next year. The working proposal has HCN revisiting issues, such as the surface mining of coal and the building of power plants, that dominated its first formative years. The plan is for both a special issue and a public event in Lander, Wyo., the paper's birthplace.

Board members attending were Karil Frohboese, president, of Park City, Utah, Maggie Coon of Seattle, Geoff O'Gara of Lander, Victoria Bomberry of Stanford, Calif., Lynda Taylor of Santa Fe, Michael Ehlers of Boulder, Farwell Smith of McLeod, Mont., Mark Trahant of Fort Hall, Idaho, and Andy Wiessner of Vail, Colo.

The meeting and Saturday evening potluck were held in the main building of the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. Dean Joe Chapman of the college hosted a dinner for board and staff on the preceding Friday. Normally, staff and board scramble to set up the various aspects of a meeting. In this case, Mary Lu Roskelley of the dean's office took care of almost everything. We are grateful to Utah State University for its help and hospitality and to the very lively group of subscribers who came to the evening potluck. The only note of criticism we can summon up is that Logan needs better bars. The White Owl in downtown Logan issued its "last call" about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

The next meeting will be held in Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, on Jan. 21, followed by the spring meeting on June 10 in Paonia.

Survey

Three thousand of HCN's 15,000 subscribers responded to last spring's survey, giving us an excellent picture of what gets read (only half of readers always read this column, for example, although only 94 never read it), what people care about, why long-time subscribers continue to renew, and which of their friends are potential subscribers. On this last, readers supplied us with almost 2,000 people to sample, of whom 31 have thus far subscribed. That's a 1.6 percent response rate, which in the subscriber recruitment business is very good indeed.

HCN's readership is very much free enterprise, with 31 percent in private business. Another 16 percent are educators, 14 percent work for the federal government and 5 percent for environmental groups.

The survey asked readers if HCN is "comprehensive, balanced, yet passionate?" Eighty percent said yes, 17 percent said sometimes and 3 percent said never.

Thanks to those who took the time to respond.

Fall interns

New intern Chip Giller has had a busy year since graduating from Brown University in 1993. Most recently, he interned with The Nature Conservancy's Rhode Island office, where he explored ways to help towns preserve land and manage growth. He also spent five months on an organic vegetable farm in western Massachusetts.

Chip, who grew up in Lexington, Mass., has a strong interest in land conservation. For his senior thesis in Brown's environmental studies program, he evaluated a Rhode Island town's efforts to preserve its remaining farmland.

His most intimate experience with land occurred one summer when he lived alone in a tent alongside New Hampshire's Appalachian Trail, managing a shelter for hikers. A memorable part of that stint was maintaining the shelter's outhouse - composting its contents while fending off flies - a job he describes as "a gruesome feast for the senses."

Intern Meg Krehbiel joins us after spending the summer searching for traces of grizzly bears in Colorado's southern San Juan Mountains. From June to August, she worked as a field researcher for Doug Peacock's group, Round River Conservation Studies.

"It's the kind of work that puts your ego in a pill box," she says. "Seeing a 300-pound black bear charge across a snowfield in your direction is a sobering and unforgettable moment."

Meg says her interest in wildlife conservation brought her to Colorado and has led her halfway around the globe. A year ago she went to Kenya for three months to study the wildlife of the Maasai Mara and while there climbed Mt. Kenya (16,320 ft.). She'd like to exercise her English/environmental studies degree from Dartmouth College by writing for a newspaper in the West.

* Ed Marston, for the staff