SUMMER BREAKThis will be the last issue of HCN that you’ll receive for a month. The staff is taking an issue off to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the sunny Paonia summer. Look for the next issue to hit your mailbox around July 25th.
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONSWe’d like to make the following corrections and clarifications to Ray Ring’s story on conservation easements, "Write-off on the Range" (HCN, 5/30/05: Write-off on the Range): First, the story did not intend to imply that Reid Rosenthal has done anything illegal.
We reported that Mr. Rosenthal took Ring on a tour of five of his ranch projects, which total more than 18,000 acres. In fact, Ring didn’t see the smallest project, which runs 500 acres. We also reported that each project has a few homesites. But in fact, the two smallest projects, totaling 1,500 acres, now have only one house each, Mr. Rosenthal says. And in the newest project, Ruby Lake Ranch, the total number of homesites is not yet set.
In the 2,250-acre Three Creeks project, the first conservation easement covered more than 20 tracts, including old patented mining claims, which could have been homesites without going through county subdivision approval. That easement alone, preserving about 600 acres of wildlife habitat, generated more than $1 million in tax benefits for the investors, according to court records. Subsequent easements cover more Three Creeks land, including lots that were subdivided; Mr. Rosenthal declines to discuss any tax benefits generated by those easements.
Also in Three Creeks, we reported that most of the land is now for sale in three parcels, for a total price of more than $5 million.That price actually includes four parcels and a house, according to a brochure presented by Mr. Rosenthal.
We cited a Rocky Mountain News story which stated that Mr. Rosenthal had defaulted on millions in loans in Colorado. Mr. Rosenthal says the loans were actually made to several of his former development firms, which faltered after he resigned as chief executive officer. He says that he got sued over those debts; that his 1996 bankruptcy filing listed $1.9 million in unresolved debts; and that he resolved the issue with the creditors within eight months.
While Mr. Rosenthal, or his businesses or partners, have been involved in more than 30 court actions in Montana, as we reported, he says most stem from "four or five core disputes."
We reported that Madison County filed a misdemeanor criminal charge — stalking — against Mr. Rosenthal, that a jury found him not guilty, and that he sued the county for malicious prosecution. But in fact, in that misdemeanor case, the Madison County attorney turned the files over to the Montana attorney general’s office, and the attorney general’s office filed two misdemeanor charges — stalking and trespassing — against Mr. Rosenthal in 2003. Some of that case had to do with a dispute over water rights and irrigation practices. The state’s prosecutor eventually dropped the trespassing charge, and took the stalking charge to the jury; the jury then acquitted Mr. Rosenthal.
The county made a different attempt to prosecute Mr. Rosenthal, in 2002, on a misdemeanor charge of violating Ruby Valley Conservation District regulations, and that case was also thrown out. Both those prosecutions led to Mr. Rosenthal’s filing a lawsuit against the county attorney and the state, charging malicious prosecution and defamation. That lawsuit is still active.
We reported that many people say Mr. Rosenthal’s projects have made it harder for the public to access private land and the Ruby River, for hunting and fishing. It should be noted that Mr. Rosenthal put together a plan in 1995 for landowners to provide access for fishing, with strict limits to be set by the landowners. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks rejected it, because the agency did not want to allow the landowners such authority. Mr. Rosenthal has run ads in the weekly Madisonian, publicizing how people can get permission to go on some of the private land.
In a paragraph about the importance of sagebrush habitat, we reported that experts say Mr. Rosenthal’s plantings of alfalfa and crested wheatgrass benefit cattle more than wildlife. Those interviews and studies refer generally to the effects when any landowner converts sagebrush to nonnative plants. Mr. Rosenthal says that he’s cleared only several hundred acres of sagebrush.
We’ve received a lot of questions on one observation in "Write-off on the Range": We reported that using a conservation easement to limit subdivision on ranch land can appear to increase the land’s value, because wealthy buyers prefer big pieces of land. A clearer way to state it is that such easements often don’t appear to inhibit soaring land prices.
Some experts believe easements can cause an increase in prices. A little-known Internal Revenue Service study in the 1990s, for example, looked at the effect of easements that preserve historic buildings. It found that such buildings often sell for higher prices than buildings that are not protected by easements. It said those easements can "appear to confer some sort of status with the ownership of such property."
Laura Paskus’s story on wind energy, "The Great Energy Divide" contained a map showing wind power in Western states (HCN, 5/02/05: The Winds of Change). The map showed Oregon’s wind potential as 263 megawatts, the same as its installed capacity, but it should have read 4,870 megawatts.
In Kathie Durbin’s story on salvage logging, "Unsalvageable," we left out a phrase clarifying that the total acreage burned in the Biscuit Fire was nearly a half-million acres (HCN, 5/16/05: Unsalvageable). Also, the Clinton salvage rider was passed in 1995, not 1994.
OUR MAILBOX RUNNETH OVERJust in time for those long summer road trips, Lynn Matson, the inventor of Roadkill Bingo, says that as of Feb. 7, the company had sold 37,576 of the games; a sidebar to our article on roadkill reported sales of 25,000 (HCN, 2/7/05: Caught in the Headlights).
In the March 7 "Dear Friends," we quoted local anti-nuclear activist Chuck Worley reminiscing about a 1972 protest: "Those were the days before environmental organizations" (HCN, 3/07/05: Dear Friends). Reader Robin Tawney, from Missoula, Mont., commented in an e-mail, "It must have been news to groups like the Sierra Club, founded in 1892; Wilderness Society (1935); National Wildlife Federation (1936) …" We should have made it clear that Chuck was not talking about the nation as a whole, only about our own North Fork Valley, which at the time lacked organized environmental groups.
Two readers, John Brown Jr. of Washington’s Vashon Island, and Tim Cummings, a fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who lives in Vancouver, Wash., pointed out that the salmon pictured in our Columbia River story was probably not a sockeye (HCN, 4/18/05: Troubled — and shallow — waters on the West’s largest river). Two dams on the upper Columbia River prevent ocean-going salmon from migrating into British Columbia. Ours might have been a kokanee, which are frequently stocked in reservoirs.
Ed Quillen’s recent essay on devil place names in the West prompted subscriber Richard Miller, of Tucson, Ariz., to write us about another important Western place that bears a devilish name: "Devils Hole, in Death Valley National Park, is the sole residence of the minute — and endangered — Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis)" (HCN, 5/2/05: The devil made us do it).
Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion to the National Park, dropped us another "demonic" e-mail to say that "Yellowstone National Park historians have unearthed more than a dozen places where early visitors felt the devil must surely reign, including the Devil’s Hoof, which Quillen rightly thought ought to be around somewhere. The hoof, located just above famous Tower Fall in Devil’s Den, does truly resemble a split hoof and is made of volcanic debris."
Several readers commented on our wind energy story (HCN, 5/02/05: The Winds of Change). The West should focus on solar power instead, writes subscriber Michael Verkamp of Bullhead City, Ariz. "I can never agree with (former publisher) Ed Marston’s opinion that ‘wind machines added to the beauty of the land, as windmills add beauty to Holland’s coast.’ We need to reflect on what the Aztecs, Incans, Mayans, Hopi Indians, and other civilizations have always known … the power is the Sun!"
And longtime subscriber Mark DeGregorio, from Masonville, Colo., wrote: "The stereotype of unconventional environmental attorney Joe Santarella, who ‘talks with a mafioso New York City accent,’ really offended me (HCN, 5/2/05: The Winds of Change). I am a second-generation American whose four grandparents immigrated to New York from Italy and Sicily, worked their asses off to overcome total poverty and discrimination, and did so honestly."
Reader Lois Eagleton, from Umpqua, Ore., wrote that our recent mention of "mouth to beak" resuscitation on a chicken is nothing new (HCN, 5/16/05: Heard around the West). "I did this years ago, when living in Woodland Hills, Calif. One day, I found a drowning hen in the horses’ water. I grabbed her and proceeded to do "mouth to beak" resuscitation. Then I rubbed the cold, wet chicken vigorously with a towel to get her circulation going. Then I got out my hair dryer and blow-dried the now perked-up hen. She survived, but she was always a little strange."
And Greg Reis wrote to us from Lee Vining, Calif., to comment about our citing of the "old standard" that an acre-foot of water is enough for a family of four for a year (HCN, 5/16/05: On the Colorado River, a tug-of-war on a tightrope): "This used to be true, but nowadays that should be considered wasteful. Cities like Los Angeles that have invested in conservation are now stretching an acre-foot to serve 5.8 people."
In our story on mountain biking, we reported that bikes are banned in wilderness areas "under the 1964 Wilderness Act" (HCN, 5/30/05: Learning from Moab's example). Reader Jim Hasenaeuer of Woodland Hills, Calif., sent us e-mail to clarify that "bikes weren’t banned by the Act, but by 1977 regulations enforced for the first time in 1984."