Twenty-five years ago, schoolteacher-rancher-activist Tom Bell of Lander, Wyo., had the nutty, impractical, unsustainable idea of founding a newspaper to cover environmental issues in the rural, inland West.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, Bell (who lost his ranch while establishing the paper) and scores of like spirits will gather in Lander, Wyo., to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his nutty, impractical and unsustainable newspaper - High Country News.
The event will be low-key, as befits a modest newspaper. Saturday will start with the annual HCN 5K run (annual with the exception of the brief period from 1983, when the paper left Lander, to 1994), and then segue sweatily into a leisurely conversation among a dozen or so Westerners - writers, activists, ranchers, elected officials.
The evening speaker will be Patricia Nelson Limerick, an historian at the University of Colorado, author of Legacy of Conquest and other books, and a 1995 recipient of a MacArthur "genius' grant. Professor Limerick will talk about the last 25 years and the next 25 years.
Invitations have gone to all of HCN's Wyoming readers. Consider this an invitation to all readers who might be able to drive, hitchhike or fly to the celebration (the nearest airports to Lander are at Riverton and Jackson, Wyo.). For questions or RSVPs, call Claire or Gretchen at 970/527-4898; $18 buys lunch and dinner, and we have information about accommodations and camping.
Please try to come. It is not everyday that a few permanent staff members; a board of directors; a few hundred free-lance writers, photographers and artists; and thousands of readers manage to keep a relationship going for 25 years.
Also, we're still trying to invite the following interns. Please let us know if you know their whereabouts. Annie Turner, pre-1979; Genny Dodd, 1979; Dale Roberts, 1981; Jennifer Walford, 1982; Jess Funk, 1983; Dan Gorham, 1983; Lisa McKhann, 1985; Jane Coumantaros, 1986; Michael Kustudia, 1986; Gus Wilmerding, 1988; Kevin Lee Lopez, 1988; Tom Mullen, 1988; Lisa Rathke, 1990; and Amy Onderdonk, 1991.
Photojournalist Jim Noelker, who worked for the Aspen Times recently, stopped in with his dog Dixie, and Steve Sesnie interrupted his cycling trip north from Quito, Ecuador, where he was a Peace Corps volunteer. After three years in South America, Steve says re-entry is tough, especially in supermarkets, where choice overwhelms him. He was headed home to Grand Lake, Colo.
A woman who may be the next Rachel Carson dropped by; she is biologist Theo Colborn of Paonia, Colo., and Washington, D.C. Her book on endocrine damage to developing fetuses is due out this winter.
Three generations visited a while back: Jim and Susan Hayes, along with daughter Erica, 3, and Susan's parents, Roger and Phyllis Duba of San Rafael, Calif. Roger says he wouldn't mind if we crossed the border to cover "just a few" California issues, such as the Mono Lake water saga.
Writer Philip Fradkin of Point Reyes Station, Calif., stopped by while doing research on - of course - the Colorado. He is the author of A River No More and other books.
Rick Stinchfield and Susan Salterberg of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls came by with 13 students. The Environment, Technology and Society class was spending two weeks in western Colorado talking to ranchers, coal miners, Forest Service employees and journalists.
Andy Stahl of AFSEEE (the Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, Ore.) visited us while on a swing through Colorado national forests. He also found time to talk to a local group, the Delta/Montrose Federal Lands Partnership, about ways to promote ecologically sound grazing on public land.
Kathryn Long, a carpenter for the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gunnison, Colo., and her friend Bill Keenan of Madison, Wis., with dog Rosie, visited on their way back from Ridgway, Colo. At RMBL, they told us, HCN resides where it gets read most: the outhouse.
David Bush, a retired railroad engineer from Laramie, Wyo., stopped by to say he used to take HCN, but dropped his subscription because the articles are too long. He visited to see where and by whom all those long, boring articles are produced.
Marty Durlin of Boulder, Colo., said hello while on her way to the 30th reunion of her Delta High School graduating class. Marty manages public radio station KGNU, which she says is "marked for extinction by Congress." KGNU interviews HCN staff and writers every other Tuesday morning.
Ken and Carol Casaday of Quincy, Calif., and Mike and Sally Yost of Taylorsville, Calif., came out of their backcountry camping to visit a paper that Mike and Sally have been subscribing to since 1980 or so. Ken said that The New Yorker and HCN are "the only two things we still read."
Anne Hayden dropped her kids off at the Paonia library and stopped in for a visit. The framer from Bellingham, Wash., told us about the Cascadia Restoration Society.
Intern Shea Andersen recognized David Abram the minute he stepped in the door. David had been a visiting professor at Colorado College, where Shea was a student. David's first book will be out in January: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More than Human World, from Pantheon.
Tabitha Gregory came from Anchorage, Alaska, to tell us that Alaska's Sen. Frank Murkowski and Rep. Don Young are jeopardizing 600,000 acres of now-protected fish and wildlife habitat. The pair's bill would turn the acreage over to five native corporations. "Judging from past actions of the native corporations, it's clear that they will clear cut," says Gregory. And although Alaska reader Frank Keim didn't come to Colorado, he did write to warn about a sentence in an upcoming appropriations bill that would allow development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
From HCN's home page on the World Wide Web we hear from Michigan reader Ed McGlinn, who tells us he looks forward to browsing the paper's back issues. And Evan Cantor of Boulder, Colo., who also found us on the Web, E-mailed: "... in the last ten years I've gone from scrounging HCN to subscribing to reading it on the net. Pretty cool ..."
HCN's Web address is in the lower left hand portion of this page.
Reader Beverly Cherner of Loma Mar, Calif., wrote of her horror at the photo of Joe Fontaine, head of the Yellowstone wolf recovery project, cuddling a new wolf pup (HCN, 6/12/95). She said that is not the way to help it survive in the wild.
When we called, Fontaine said Cherner's letter was on the mark. Wild animals shouldn't be handled. But "it takes a while for pups to imprint on people," and the Fish and Wildlife Service is careful to keep the contact well below that threshold. "They always scurry for cover when the guys come to feed them."
Loretta McEllhiney called with the following correction: Contact information for the last issue's article "Four-ton bandage applied to trampled peak" should be Loretta McEllhiney, Leadville Ranger District, 2015 N. Poplar, Leadville CO 80461 (719/486-0749).
Donald L. Ferry of Denver writes us re the Mount Graham story (HCN, 7/24/95): "... the real ironic issue is that this telescope is being built to observe planets around other suns ... find planets with unique life forms ... and go there and exterminate those forms for the same logic the telescope is being built."
The recent issue on land-grant universities led someone to ask if we knew what to do if an aggie handed us a pin. "Run like hell, because he probably has a grenade in his mouth."
* Ed Marston for the staff