When Rebecca Clarren, fresh out of college and working as a maid in Alaska, decided to become a journalist five years ago, she never dreamed she'd soon be writing lengthy stories about federal water policy or the structure of Native American governments. How borrrrrring. She envisioned telling lively stories with fascinating personalities and dramatic twists and turns. But after three years at High Country News, HCN's associate editor has indeed found herself neck-deep in the land of wonks. Fortunately, she has discovered that even an outwardly dry story has a juicy interior, if you look deep enough.
That's certainly the case with her cover piece this issue on efforts to reform salmon hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. Not only does the tale have an intriguing history replete with ignored scientists and clashing fishermen, but it has a cast of unlikely characters who are leading the charge to reinvent the concrete fish farms that have for the past century mindlessly flooded the Pacific Northwest with millions of salmon.
Unfortunately, the story will be Rebecca's last major one for HCN,at least for a while. She has decided to move back to her native Northwest this summer, to pursue a career in daily journalism. The move will be a boon to whichever newspaper has the wisdom to hire her first, and a loss to this institution. The staff here will miss Rebecca's prolific pen, her eager nose for news, and, most of all, her warm smile.
An island in a commercial sea
While most publishing houses have been absorbed, conglomerated or merged into media empires, the nonprofit publisher, Island Press, has retained its independent roots and environmental mission. Founded in 1978, in Mendocino County in rural Northern California by Barbara Dean, Charles Savitt and Catherine Conover, Island Press continues to publish books about the environment that mainstream companies usually disdain because of a limited market.
One of the books that might never, without Island Press, have seen the light of day relates to Rebecca Clarren's lead story. The book is Salmon Without Rivers, by Jim Lichatowich. The author, a fisheries scientist, says he tried another publisher first, "but they wanted to make huge changes. Island Press accepted the book as it was." That was a smart decision. Many credit Lichatowich's deftly written history with spurring Congress to take the first hard look in over a century at hatcheries and how they affect wild fish.
Island Press can claim many other landmark books to its credit, including Fire on the Plateau, by Charles Wilkinson, Naturalist, by Edward O. Wilson, and Faith in a Seed, by Henry D. Thoreau, edited by Bradley Dean. For a complete list of backlist and new books for spring, contact Island Press' Environmental Sourcebook at islandpress.org.
They came in a huge bus, whose main advantage was that it had a bathroom. "They" were 22 students from Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, members of the Wildlife Field Studies class. Wildlife biologist Wendell Gilgert says that on past week-long class trips, the students traveled in three vans, and one person needing a bathroom led to a half-hour rest stop at some inconvenience store. The students had lunch at High Country News, and then heard a talk by Publisher Ed Marston. They had just come from the Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch, near Hayden, Colo., and were on their way to the Forbes Trincheria Ranch in southern Colorado. What was the best thing they'd done so far? According to one student, it was walking through the woods counting winter deer kill. We didn't ask what the worst thing was. Gilgert's colleagues on the trip were Del Benson and Julie Savidge, also members of the Fishery and Wildlife Biology Department in the College of Natural Resources.
Subscribers Bill and Pera Eichelberger of Denver stopped by after a "geocache" adventure in the Utah desert. Geocachers use a GPS (Geographic Positioning System) and a Web site that posts coordinates to find boxes of trinkets stashed around the country. The Eichelbergers say their quest for caches has taken them off the beaten path, but Paonia was outside even their virtual map: "You don't have any caches around here," they report.
Sometimes visitors come to HCN over a weekend and all we see of them is a note stuck to the door. Readers Jean-Pierre and Linda Georges of Boulder, Colo., wrote that they had a hard time finding our office: workers in the local grocery store and bar directed them to the High Country Shopper, the free local weekly. "But fortune smiled and we found an excited churchgoer who had heard tell of this 'little' paper. Keep up the good work!"
Doug Odell and Jenni Johnson of Whitefish, Mont., left us a message with news from the north: "The 'hate radio' thing is still going on, but citizens have rallied with a counter action called 'Hands Against Hate.' Also, locals are trying to fight off what could be the largest mall in Montana, located in the Flathead Valley. On another note, spring finally came last week when the temperature hit 50 degrees. Yahoo!"
And John Figler,of Lakewood, Colo., left us his card from the Tri-County Fire Protection Service, and this note on the back: "Sorry I missed you. But, after all, it is a holiday."
Grist for Chip's mill
For the past three years, former HCN intern Chip Giller has published one of the most interesting and entertaining on-line environmental magazines we know: Grist Magazine (www.gristmagazine.com) out of Seattle, Wash. With an eclectic mix of news, profile, opinion and humor, Grist has managed to make dire global environmental issues understandable, even while encouraging us to smile at our predicament. But Grist, which has been supported by Earth Day Network, is at a financial crossroads, writes Chip, and needs to tap a larger base of supporters to continue. It's a worthy cause. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Grist via the Web site or by mail to Grist Magazine, 811 First Avenue, Suite 466, Seattle, WA 98104, 206/876-2000, ext. 205.
Park City potluck
HCN staff and board will gather in Park City, Utah, June 14 and 15 for its early summer meeting. All HCN subscribers and friends are invited to join us for a potluck on Saturday, June 15, 6:30 p.m., under the gazebo at the south end of the City Park. Please bring a dish to share as well as your thoughts and ideas. We'll provide the drinks and table service. RSVP to Robyn at 970/527-4898 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A grave situation
Reader Scott Rogerson was recently driving down Albuquerque's "Big I," a massive $291 million interstate project set for completion on May 25, when he looked over the guardrail and caught a glimpse of a dusty graveyard, sandwiched beneath exit ramps. He ran home, then returned, camera in hand, to record the images of 100-year-old stone markers, wooden crosses and plastic pots and flowers. Rogerson, reflecting on the incongruity of the scene, described this last stubborn patch of Albuquerque history as "an impertinent emptiness that stymies the onward march of a burgeoning city."