We're still not used to the sudden disappearance of staffers at the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service. Humans all over the West once answered our annoying and time-consuming questions; now recordings announce: "Sorry, due to a lack of budget appropriations, this office is closed." Then a Denver Post story Nov. 16 revealed what some agency people were doing on their enforced furloughs - -sneaking" chances to catch up on their jobs at homes. Sneaking, since by law they cannot legally work during a shutdown.
Meanwhile, news continues to break with or without federal officials on official duty, and just beyond our office windows the bank's temperature-clock reads a spectacular 70 degrees. This does a lot to relieve our resentment of ever-shorter days and hastening nights. In addition, hunting season finally wound down, which means we no longer have to walk to work past a bucket of blood that lingered near the meat locker next door. The owners apparently tired of all that blood and deer and elk gore too; they've announced they're not going to work with game anymore. Which leads us to urge readers not to miss the next issue, which will focus on hunting, its ethics or lack thereof, and its place in the West.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my
Perhaps it's the mild weather, more likely it's a desperate shortage of food in the high country and a declining deer population, but lions and bears seem to be converging on the mesa "suburbs' of Paonia, which sits just below 6,000 feet in a long river valley. One lion homed in on a flock of sheep on Lamborn Mesa and killed six sheep in a week before owners caught on. Some five miles west, five black bears ripped into a peach and apple orchard before moving up into the high country.
Kirk Madariaga, who works for the Colorado Division of Wildlife here, says the sheep rancher will be reimbursed by the state and the lion tracked by dogs and shot. Relocation isn't an option "since there's really no place to take it in Colorado." Because both cougars and bears shun people and are naturally elusive, many of us don't usually notice how closely we live among big predators. Not that we're worth much as prey: Madariaga says only one person in Colorado has been killed by a lion in 80 or so years. Perhaps the real danger from wildlife, as rural residents can attest, is where deer or elk seem to materialize: in front of your car on a dark, two-lane highway.
We missed Brett LeCompte because he rolled into town on a Sunday. But we did find the note he left about his 700-mile bicycle ride through Colorado's mountains. He was in his 12th day, on the stretch leading back home to Mancos. Brett writes for an HCN compadre: the San Juan Almanac in Durango.
Katherine Hunninen, Norman Frank and their dog Roja dropped in to tell us of their battle against developers in Georgetown, Colo. Four days later they called to say they had just bought a house in Paonia, having given up on Georgetown after seven years.
Keith Waller, an intern here in the mid-1980s, came through with spouse Carol, and Hayden, 5, and Madison, 2. They were on vacation from Laramie, Wyo., where Keith is an engineer specializing in environmental problems.
Lawrence Gibson, who lives in Sewanee, Tenn., stopped by to say hello while on vacation.
* Betsy Marston for the staff