When Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young decided to leave the Beltway to hear opinions on changing the Endangered Species Act, he set no House (Natural) Resource Committee hearings in what we think of as The West: Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, or South Dakota.
Young selected mainly small towns such as Boerne, Texas, where the one environmentalist invited found himself surrounded by "flaming rhetoric about a law (viewed) as unfair, largely unnecessary and detrimental to farming," according to the San Antonio Express News. Only the scenery changed when Young's committee got to Bakersfield, Calif. Eight hundred attended and the two environmentalists on invited panels were jeered and booed in an atmosphere the local press called "angry."
But just as we went to press April 24, a hearing on the Endangered Species Act was taking place in Vancouver, Wash., which conservationists think may set a different tone. Monica Bond, regional coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation in Portland, Ore., tells us a dozen or so environmental groups have banded together to get the word out about the rights of other species. Fishing boats bearing signs and a rally were planned; 1,000 partisans of the embattled law are expected. See the next issue of High Country News for a report.
Names in the news
Congratulations to Joan Nice Hamilton, who has just become editor in chief of Sierra magazine. In the 1970s, Joan was editor in chief of High Country News, when it was in Lander, Wyo.
And best wishes to former HCN staffer and intern Mary Moran, an outdoor educator, on her recent marriage to boatman Dennis Silva in Tucson, Ariz. As the wedding party gathered at Catalina Mountains State Park, the sun shone, the couple was radiant and a little girl - a born mountaineer in a lovely party dress - slowly climbed a muddy seven-foot ditch bank. Her course was so quiet and deliberate few noticed; those who did marveled not only at the climber, Kitty Lombard, 3, but also at her parents, who kept close but never seemed anxious. A fine symbol for a beginning marriage.
In the congratulations-small world department, former intern Bonnie Hall was featured in the March 9 Boulder Daily Camera for her video of orangutans in Borneo. The article was written by Katie Johnston, the daughter of Rita Murphy, who works in HCN's business department.
We owe money
Business manager Kristy McFarland wants to give money to deserving people, but doesn't know where to send it. The people are deserving because we owe them. If you know where the following free-lance writers and photographers are, please send us their addresses so we can mail out checks dating back to 1992 and ranging from $8.43 for Daniel Conner to $150 for Albert Dickson. Others on Kristy's list: Vanessa Naumann, John McComb, Jerg Kroener, Roxann Moore, Roger Holcomb, Dan Miller, Will C. Wright, William Payne, Marilyn Stewart, Bob Lyon, Scott Graecen and Jim Hughes.
Thanks for telling us
Thanks to the 800 people who have responded to the Spring 1995 survey and Research Fund appeal. The replies are both useful and interesting. So much so that we would appreciate another few thousand replies. That's especially true if you can think of some positive environmental news. In response to that survey question, we've gotten answers like: "You're kidding, right?" and "I'm thinking ..." and "The West is in environmental meltdown." We posed the question because in previous surveys readers chided HCN for not being more positive. So it's only fair that now we should be chided from the other direction.
Among the 800 respondents was William Hall, who was good enough to include a recent copy of the Helena telephone book with his survey.
Jim and Ann Brauer came through on spring vacation. The two teachers from the tiny town of Indian Springs, Nev., say they are protected from growth because they're surrounded by public land. Of course, they add, that's a mixed blessing, since the public land is used for bombing runs and was used for nuclear tests.
Emil "B.J." Clausen of Battlement Mesa, Colo., visited by telephone to order 20 issues of what he calls "your slavery issue' - the stories on ski workers. The retired magazine distributor and Rush Limbaugh fan wants to send copies to governors and others to let them know what the New West is all about.
Chekhov on conservation
Arthur Dye of the Portland-based Ecotrust sent us the following excerpt from Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya to show that Russia in the late 19th century is not that different from the U.S. West in the late 20th century.
Dr. Astrov: "Now look at this. It represents this part of the country as it was 50 years ago. The light and dark green coloring represents forest; half of the entire surface area is forest. Where the green is hatched with red, there were elk and wild goats ... I've indicated the fauna as well as the flora. On this lake there were swans and geese and ducks, and what the old people call a power of birds of every sort - the place was swarming with them. Apart from villages, look, you can see a scattering of various settlements and small holdings, little monasteries, watermills ...
"Cattle and horses were abundant. They're marked in blue. This district, for example, was thick with blue; there were complete herds, and two or three horses per farm. (Pause) Now let's look down here. As it was twenty-five years ago. By this time only a third of the surface area is under forest. The goats are gone, but there are still elk. The green and blue are paler now. And so on, and so on. Let us move on to the third section - the district as it is today. There's green here and there, but it's not solid, it's only in patches; the elk, the swans, the capercailzies have all vanished ... Of the former settlements, smallholdings, monasteries, mills - not a trace.
"Overall it's the picture of a gradual but incontrovertible decline, which by the look of it will be complete in another 10 or 15 years. You'll tell me that the civilizing factors are at work here, that the old life must give way to the new. And, yes, I see that if these ruined forests had been replaced with roads and railways, if there were factories and schools here, then the people would be healthier and wealthier and wiser - but nothing of the kind. The district still has the same swamps and mosquitoes, the same poverty and typhus and diphtheria and fires ... What we are faced with here is a decline resulting from the unequal struggle for existence, a decline brought about by stagnation, by ignorance, by a total lack of awareness, by frozen, sick, and hungry men who, to preserve the last flickers of life, to save their children, instinctively grasp at anything they can use to relieve their hunger and warm themselves."
* Betsy and Ed Marston, for the staff
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