It’s hard to believe that just over three weeks ago we got a call from nearby Telluride, Colo., saying an avalanche had wiped out the town’s power supply. Kelly Hearn, managing editor of The Telluride Watch, told us that the area’s main power line was buried under 20 feet of ice and snow, and while Telluride was getting electricity through a secondary line, power company officials were implementing rolling blackouts because the line couldn’t handle the load.
Now, down in Paonia (which, contrary to the title of this publication, sits in the high-desert foothills at a mere 5,600 feet), apricot trees and forsythia are blooming.
Temperatures have been in the 60s in the daytime, and nights have been warm enough to leave the bedroom window open. A few optimistic newcomers have even been out planting their gardens. The more seasoned residents snicker at this, keeping their starts inside. Winter is due to return this weekend.
The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club recently gave Ed and Betsy Marston, HCN’s former publisher-editor team, the John Wade Award "for longtime leadership and achievement in the environmental arena in Colorado." Ed, who retired in 2002, is currently involved in revitalizing downtown Paonia, where he is turning a defunct diner into a Mexican restaurant and bar. Betsy, of course, still runs our Writers on the Range column syndicate, and also writes the column, "Heard around the West."
A weekend in Eugene
It was our neighbor from Moab, Utah, Ken Sleight, who got the honors at the 22nd Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Ore., in early March. The model for Seldom Seen Smith in Ed Abbey’s book The Monkey Wrench Gang, Sleight was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the public-interest law students who put on the conference.
Their theme this spring was "Rousing the Restless Majority," and Sleight began his speech with a gesture — shaking his fist in the air — which drew cheers. He ended by wishing the group "happy monkey-wrenching."
The conference drew the spectrum of the environmental movement in the West — including EarthFirst! members, anarchists, tree-sitters, directors and members of grassroots as well as national environmental groups, land-trust advocates, journalists, tribal leaders, the founder of PETA, and lots of working and wanna-be environmental lawyers.
One of the 11 keynoters, Betsy Loyless, a lobbyist for the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., gave the group a new verb, when she urged it to "Re-defeat" George Bush, adding that people should not throw their votes away on Ralph Nader. One man loudly walked out after she made that pitch.
The conference featured over 120 panels on everything from the Native American trust doctrine and its use in environmental cases to "They get the gold, we get the shaft" — about the new gold-mining boom in the West.
As for Eugene’s weather, it featured incipient rain, actual rain, and no-longer-raining — and the air felt wonderful.