by Greg Hanscom, Betsy Marston, Michelle Nijhuis and Jodi Peterson
LOCAL GRASSROOTS ACTIONWSERC ("wuh-serk"), this valley’s local environmental group, has been called many things, including, of course, berserk. For a small group started around a kitchen table, the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council has accomplished a lot in its 29 years: It stopped a major powerline through the valley, convinced local coal companies to install railroad crossing gates, and started a conservation-easement program.
But its board decided that the group needed a new name, and at the organization’s packed annual meeting in March, it proposed one: Mountain Valley Conservation. Not so fast, said most attendees, some of whom thought the new name more appropriate for a yogurt company or a subdivision. After lengthy discussion, the change was tabled.
WSERC also gave an award to a remarkable homegrown success, Chaco Sandals, which started in 1989 and employs 120 people in the valley. Founder Mark Paigen puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to sustainable building and support for conservation.
The North Fork River Improvement Association also held its annual meeting in March. Over the past 10 years, this local watershed organization has worked with riverfront landowners — and a sturdy corps of volunteers — on a broad array of river restoration projects.
At the meeting, longtime residents recalled growing up along the North Fork River. Before an upstream dam tamed the river in the early 1960s, fierce spring floods sometimes shaved acres off riverfront property, swamped orchards, and swept horses and their riders downstream. Local farmer Robert Lund said his brother used to tie one end of a string to a riverside cottonwood, and the other end to a cowbell in his bedroom. If a flood felled the tree at night, he reasoned, the bell would alert him in time to escape the rising water.
VISITORSIn February, Cindy Purcell and Ron Mitchell of Drake, Colo., stopped in on their way back from Zion National Park, where Cindy was a backcountry ranger for six years. They were headed to Rocky Mountain National Park, where she’s now the east district ranger.
Pam Fitzpatrick and Paul Dix of Livingston, Mont., came by while touring the country to present a talk titled "Nicaragua: Living with the Consequences of U.S. Policy," about the long-term effects of the Contra war of the ’80s. Locals Jack Miller of Ridgway and Chris Jarus, from Montrose, accompanied them.
Joe Dyer, a dogsled musher in Snowmass, Colo., and Laura Davis, a Fulbright scholar headed for Chile, came over from Aspen to try grilled banana bread at the local diner.
Nan Floyd, a Forest Service firefighter from Winthrop, Wash., dropped by to check out our internship program on her way to visit friends in Durango.
FROM THE "WE SHOULD BE SO LUCKY" DEPARTMENTHere at the office, we recently received a marketing flier addressed to "Bruce Babbitt, Secretary, High Country News." Bruce, if you’re reading this, we could use some help with our filing.
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