The loooooong view
One of the joys of working at High Country News is getting caught up in the excitement of ideas. Our interns often tell us that their four-month stint here feels as much like an intensive graduate course in Western issues as it does an introduction to journalism. No one gets more excited by the currents of thought than our publisher, Ed Marston, who often pulls staffers aside to bend their ears about the latest mind-blowing thing he has learned. Ed and his inquisitive mind are largely responsible for this week's coverage of the West's ecological history, from the mysterious extinction spasm of 13,000 years ago, when we lost (or perhaps wiped out) mastodons, saber-toothed tigers, sloths and other large mammals, to the current global invasion of weedy species. Taking the long view, as historian Dan Flores and biologist Michael SoulŽ suggest, doesn't mean we quit fighting to protect the non-human wild West because change is inevitable; it does mean that "restoring" the West is not as simple as returning it to conditions as they were before Columbus arrived.
Jon Waldman coasted into town last week, hungry, smelly, and sore after three weeks on the road. Having already driven across the country a dozen times, Jon wanted to see it at something less than 70 mph. So he hopped on his bicycle in Washington, D.C., and started pedaling (and, on occasion, hitchhiking) westward. A brief cold snap in West Virginia left him with frozen fingers, toes, and waterbottles, but that was nothing compared to his trials in Kansas. There, shortly after a highway patrolman handed him a ticket for trespassing on a private road, he weathered a tornado in an abandoned car.
Jon has pursued the path of adventure ever since he graduated from Dartmouth College two years ago with a degree in environmental journalism. He has worked at a small natural-history museum in Vermont, Boston's Museum of Science, and National Public Radio's environmental news show, Living On Earth. He's also spent three months living in Zimbabwe, a winter in Vail, and a summer up in Tincup, Colo. Just before the bike trip, he was in Mexico, where he climbed the 18,000-foot volcano Pico de Orizaba. This fall he'll return to a big East-Coast city for graduate school, but before going back to sea level he plans to entangle himself in a few more adventures. The staff encourage him to enter the July 4 rodeo. Having worked throughout the Southwest as a contract archaeologist and ethnographer, new intern Laura Paskus has decided to try her hand at environmental journalism. In short, she'd like to continue her habit of pursuing unstable, low-paying careers that drive her family crazy.
Laura's consulting work has afforded her a wide perspective on the West. She's worked with American Indian tribes from California to Oklahoma, chatted with ranchers throughout the Southwest, worked with a variety of federal agencies from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and during a recent stint as a cocktail waitress, tirelessly argued New Mexico water politics and endangered-species protection with somewhat confused - and occasionally inebriated - customers.
Laura's hoping a summer in Paonia will help her tie all those different perspectives together into a coherent vision of the New American West. At the very least, Paonia will ease her transition between New Mexico and Missoula, Mont., where she's planning to take classes in the fall.
Wrong Sand Creek
Local reader Dick Guadagnowrote to tell us we got our history wrong on last issue's back page essay, "Muscle Car of the Prairie" by Jeff P. Jones (HCN, 4/29/02: Muscle car of the prairie). "Unfortunately, the Sand Creek east of Aurora, which Jeff drove his hotrod to, is not where the Sand Creek Massacre took place," writes Dick. "This blot on our state's history actually occurred along Big Sandy Creek in Kiowa County, not far from the Kansas state line. But considering that Colorado probably has a couple dozen Sand Creeks, this is an understandable error."
You might notice that the reader survey and spring Research Fund letter arriving in your mailbox look different this year: They're very colorful. Nowadays, printing in color costs only a few dollars more than printing in black and white, and we're pleased that we can finally show the true colors of our talented in-house artist Diane Sylvain. Instead of decorating your refrigerator with the survey, though, we hope you'll fill it out and return to to HCN.
It's not often that you get visited by the president of a Western state. Maybe it's because they don't exist. At least not yet. Daniel J. Pearlman, of Taos, N.M., stopped by the office on the last day of April to tell us of his vision: a political future in which states become more like sovereign countries, only loosely affiliated with the U.S. government. Pearlman, who was returning home from a speaking engagement at an alternative high school in Glenwood Springs, Colo., has some experience with long-shot causes: He has run under the Green Party banner for governor of New Mexico, and he threw his hat in the ring against Al Gore and George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000. "I finished 15th or so," he says. "Not too bad, really."
Rancher and reader Ken Slyziuk stopped in to say hello on the way to renew his grazing permit. For the past 13 years, Slyziuk and his wife Kiki have run cattle on the Bell Ranch just out our back door.
If wolves have not been reintroduced nationwide, it is not the fault of subscriber Joyce Weldon, a recently retired elementary school teacher from Smithtown, Long Island. During her 27 years in the classroom, Joyce had her students learn about wolves, host visiting wolves in the classroom, write letters to elected officials nation-wide urging wolf reintroduction and organize wolf-support walks.
In a recent column in the Smithtown Messenger, looking back on her teaching career, Joyce wrote that many of those she taught at Dogwood Elementary School were surprised to learn that Long Island once had wolves, and the old time Long Islanders didn't care for the animals any more than Westerners did. In fact, she said, the Long Island town of Islip passed the following law in 1683: "Whatsoever Christian shall kill a grown wolf on Long Island, he shall be paid twenty shillings."