Rep. James V. Hansen of Utah spent 24 happy years - he didn't know how happy - in the U.S. Congress as a minority member. Then, a year ago, Republicans won the House, and Hansen became chairman of a subcommittee. With the appearance of power came trouble. His bill to sell Forest Service mountainsides to ski companies ran into a tree. His attempt to close down some national parks brought jeers from around the nation. Even a modest proposal to give BLM lands to the states seems stalled. Perhaps most embarrassing, a bill that should have sailed through this Congress - an anti-wilderness wilderness bill for southern Utah - is, well, wandering in a legislative wilderness.
problem, it turns out, is worse than aliens: it's a New Yorker.
Hansen's frustration spewed out in a column by his state director,
Steven T. Petersen, in the Salt Lake
"Who, or what, is SUWA (Southern Utah
Wilderness Alliance)? They are hardly mainstream Utah. The leaders
of this cultist-like movement consist mainly of out-of-state
individuals and wealthy contributors, like the Fingerhut family of
Ohio. Ken Rait (a SUWA staffer) is a New Yorker who presumes to
come to Utah on SUWA's payroll to speak for all Utahns on the
After citing a closed mill in
Utah, Petersen concluded: "These job losses can be laid directly at
Ken Rait's feet. Then again, why should he care about that? He's
being well taken care of by wealthy out-of-staters. Spokesman for
Utah, Ken Rait? No thanks."
The funny thing is,
Rait isn't really an Easterner; he's from Buffalo, which, thanks to
New York's peculiar shape, is practically in the Midwest.
New Yorkers are persona non grata in Jim Hansen's Utah, they are
lusted after in Wyoming. At a secret meeting of chambers of
commerce from Yellowstone National Park's gateway towns, one
representative said the park is so crowded local people shun it.
Nevertheless, the five chambers - Cody, Jackson,
West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Park County - agreed to push for
bigger roads and more entrance stations. The rationale, we infer,
is that the park is still too empty to attract - you guessed it -
New Yorkers. The representative from Cody said:
"'Crowded" is a subjective term ... for a New
Yorker you can't put enough people in Yellowstone to make them feel
The minutes, as reported by Todd
Wilkinson in the Cody Enterprise, reveal the chamber reps to be
pretty savvy: "If it is perceived that we are strictly "cut new
roads and damn the environment" then we will be subject to a
massive campaign against our proposals." They were prescient. Since
the minutes became public, and revealed that the chambers would use
political force against the park's superintendent if he opposed
expansion, some people, presumably not crowd-loving New Yorkers,
have suggested boycotting certain gateway communities.
always whine that "their" elected officials get co-opted by
Washington, D.C. Now it's Republicans who are getting co-opted. The
Republican Congress started bravely enough, with plans to gut the
Endangered Species Act, turn the nation's surviving swamps into
parking lots, chop down forests so hunters would have better shots
at deer, and convert the Environmental Protection Agency into the
Environmental Pollution Agency.
The Alaska and
Utah delegations are still standing strong, but other Republicans
look to be buckling. A memo from the House Republican Conference
urges its members to go home and plant trees, clean beaches, join
zoo boards and garden clubs and even get together with members of
the "National Audobon Society." Environmentalists told the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer that they won't be convinced the co-option is
real until the GOP learns to spell Audubon.
after year, perhaps decade after decade, Shelley, Idaho, holds a
fall potato festival. And year after year, perhaps decade after
decade, local reporters get migraines inventing new ways to cover
This year, the lead photo shows
two people wrestling in a 12-foot by 12-foot pit filled with potato
slurry. (If your town wants to do this, shovel 1,000 pounds of
potato flakes into a cement mixer, add 600 gallons of water, spin
for an hour, and start wrestling.)
But as any
journalist knows, you can't cover something as big as a potato
festival with a single photo. You need to go in depth. So while the
Idaho Falls Post-Register photog was at the potato pit, a reporter
was digging in the library. She learned that Tom Jefferson caught
heck from a Puritanical John Adams for fancying up the White House
menu with french fries, and that 1928 Idaho license plates were
first in the nation to sprout a saying. They said "Idaho Potatoes;"
today they say "Famous Potatoes."
Lewiston, the Morning Tribune ran a story about Miles Willard, who
invented, among other things, O'Boises (ask for Roysters when in
Europe, Ozacks in Japan). As if America's collective belly weren't
large enough, at this very moment Willard has 20 people in Idaho
Falls inventing new lives for
architect Michael Leccese writes from Boulder, Colo., to tell us
that walkers have been promoted. Leccese, who attended a three-day
pedestrian conference (that is, a conference on pedestrians) in his
town, reports that Portland is now officially "pan-modal." That
means "pedestrians are considered an equal mode with bikes,
vehicles and transit."
Deciphered, that's good
news. The bad news is that "traffic calming," the science of
slowing down drivers, usually with speed bumps, has hit potholes.
Drivers, it seems, hate any approach that says, "If you don't slow
down, we will break your car."
So planners are
turning to soft-path traffic calming by enticing people out of
their cars with "urban amenities': roadside coffee stands, park
benches, shade trees. It's an attempt - new to the United States -
to make the world outside of cars more attractive than the world
inside cars. If they beat Detroit, the pan modalists and traffic
calmers may next try to make real life more interesting than
of videos, it would make a perfect plot if it weren't unbelievable:
Wyoming, a state of less than 500,000 people, got 38 million
Italian visitors in late October. It happened when a truck carrying
480 hives from Italy overturned in the small town of Mills.
Volunteers and professional beekeepers saved 90 percent of the
California-bound insects, although that still meant almost 4
million bees died before they could make it west. The driver walked
away from the crash without a scratch - except for at least 20 bee
stings. He quickly saw the Hollywood angle. "It's like a horror
movie," Gary Peterson of the Happy Bee Trucking Co. (everything's a
specialty these days) of Rosholt, S.D., told Deirdre Stoelzle of
the Casper Star-Tribune.
protesters are gradually chipping away at baseball's use of symbols
and slogans they find offensive, according to Indian Country Today.
But some fans resented low-key demonstrations at a Cleveland Indian
World Series games. (The club's logo is Chief Wahoo.) One furious
fan told a protester at Cleveland's Jacobs Field that the Indians
were fair-weather activists:
"You guys are only
out here when we're winning," he shouted. "Where were you when we
stunk? Why are you ruining this for us?"
Heard Around the West
invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits
that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal
anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains
loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or