A town rebornIn the last issue of High Country News we told you about a mining town - Eureka, Utah - in a death spiral.
This issue features Leadville, Colo., also a moribund mining town, but one that is climbing out from the tomb of its mining past.
The author, Leadville-area resident Steve Voynick, writes that although mining often left indelible scars on the landscape, and the mining life was incredibly tough, the industry gave his town an identity that bound residents together. Creating that same sense of community and purpose, without a single-minded reason for being, is easier said than done.
Still, Voynick, who worked in the Climax molybdenum mine during the 1970s, says he doesn't miss the work.
"Every morning, I get up and look out my window at the peaks and think, 'Thank God, I don't have to do that anymore,' " he says. "Mining work was great for young people, but you get old faster doing it. It was cold, hot, muddy, dirty, and noisy from explosions and drilling. It was heavy, heavy lifting. It's a tough way to make a buck."
The torch is passedClose to 100 readers and current and former staffers wedged into the HCN offices during the first week in December to visit with outgoing publisher Ed Marston and the new chief, Executive Director Paul Larmer. Attendees ranged from stalwarts who have subscribed to the paper since its early days in Lander, Wyo., to fresh young faces who've found the paper only recently - apropos for a crowd that helped mark the end of one era, and the opening of another.
Since Ed announced his plans to step down as publisher, the praise has been rolling in, most notably from a few prominent members of the Udall clan. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sent us a copy of a speech he made to the U.S. House of Representatives honoring Ed and his wife Betsy, the longtime HCN editor who runs our Writers on the Range column syndicate.
"As publisher, Ed Marston has worked hard to provide space for diverse voices and diverse views of people who share a love for the West, even though that love takes different forms," said Udall. "At the same time, the paper never lets its readers forget that these perspectives are part of a larger context of issues related to proper management of our public lands and the need to protect them while preserving the opportunity for people to make a livelihood from them."
Mark's brother, Randy Udall, who directs the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen, Colo., wrote an ode to the Marstons. We've printed the poem in the letters section on page 7.
Whoops!Thanks to reader Ron Force, our Heard Around the West column stands corrected: It was Western State University's student paper in Pullman that had to print a retraction about the name of a Spanish boat that came to California (HCN, 10/28/02: Heard Around the West). Apologies to Western Washington University.
Brian Baird is a Democrat from Washington, not Oregon, as we mistakenly wrote in "Condit Dam removal hits some snags" (HCN, 12/9/02: Condit Dam removal hits snags).
And here's one we beat you to: Intern Joshua Zaffos discovered that in the story "Report slams BLM's land-exchange process" (HCN, 11/25/02: Report slams BLM's land-exchange process), we called Ray Brady the Bureau of Land Management's "chief of Lands and Reality." That should be "Lands and Realty," though wouldn't you agree that every agency should have a chief of Reality?
See you next yearThis will be the last issue of 2002. After we send the paper to press, the staff will take a two-week break to recharge our batteries, celebrate the holidays with family and friends, and get out into the mountains for some frolicking in the snow. Look for the first issue of 2003 to arrive in your mailbox Jan. 20.
Looking ahead: more intense, strengthening debateBy Paul Larmer
The days are so short now that I'm getting pretty good at doing things in the dark. Like getting dressed. And watching for hesitant mule deer poised to make a dash across the road as I drive home each evening. Darkness has its upside, though. It constantly reminds me of how nice light is, even in small doses. Lately, I've enjoyed the cheery colors of Christmas lights around HCN's hometown; the cool luminescent blues of moonlit snow on the mountains; and the warming yellows of the gas furnace in the living room, illuminating the faces of my sleepy children as they wake up for school.
The contrast is a kind of metaphor for the remarkable year this institution has gone through: On the dark side, we've said goodbye to half a dozen fine employees; we've seen our leader of 19 years, Ed Marston, step down; and we've wrestled, like most nonprofits, with the uncertainty of a plunging stock market and economic recession.
On the brighter side, we've hired a half-dozen fine new employees; we've pulled off a smooth transition to new leadership and given the old leader his job as a journalist back; and we've had an incredible outpouring of financial support from you, our readers, that has put HCN on firm footing for the year to come. We can't thank you enough.
So what's in store for next year? More darkness and light, no doubt. Environmental conflict is a growth industry, as they say, so we will never run out of dark material. But there will also be good news to report, as we uncover stories of people and institutions that are finding solutions and charting a new course for the West.
This week, our staff will meet to set our editorial direction for the next 12 months. We'll undoubtedly come up with some surprises, but here's the basic idea: We're going to do the things we do well, even better.
That means more in-depth, balanced coverage of the important environmental and cultural issues facing the West. That means more provocative essays and more insightful analysis.
We'll continue covering the high-stakes battles over public lands, water and wildlife, but we will also focus more energy on the impacts of population growth and sprawl on our increasingly chopped-up private lands.
We'll continue to look at the strengths and weak spots of the environmental movement in the West. And we're going to continue reporting on how the Bush administration's environmental and energy policies are playing out on the ground. HCN will not swing dramatically to the political left or right. Our journalistic independence is our most valuable asset, and we will continue to use it to provide you with solid information that helps you make up your own minds.
That doesn't mean we will be bland. Our goal ever since Wyoming rancher Tom Bell started this enterprise 32 years ago has been to get people to think and argue and ultimately act. Your calls, e-mails and letters to the editor - whether they appear in the paper, or surface in Radio High Country News or in Writers on the Range - are a critical part of that.
I like to think of High Country News as the place where people of all persuasions can come for a civilized, spirited debate. The exchanges are intense, but you feel stronger - more connected with the West - with each passing round.
So take heart. Gird your loins. By the time you read this, the days will already be getting longer.