Dear Friends

  • Patricia Nelson Limerick - photo courtesy C

    oulder Office of Public Relations

Thinking out loud

Patricia Nelson Limerick, the bane of the Old West's historians - those (usually) white men who said white folks brought civilization as they rolled over a mostly empty, heathenish continent - came to Grand Junction, Colo., recently. During the afternoon she talked informally with members of the Western Colorado Congress, a coalition of groups concerned about making a sustainable living in the area. In the course of an almost two-hour conversation, she touched on many controversial issues facing people who live in the contemporary West. Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest, is a director of the University of Colorado-based Center for the New West, which sends her out to the hinterlands.

A sampling: The "tragic paradox of environmentalists," she said, "is that they're anti-urban." The thinking that living in wide open spaces is necessary to become whole persons leads to ranchettes, she said, while living closer together, the way people in cities do, would help keep the West open.

Researching the creation 125 years ago of Yellowstone National Park, Limerick said she was astounded by the giddy joy people felt at the federal government's move to deny greedy developers the bounties of the park. Like Mighty Mouse saving the day, she said, centralized government was hailed as the savior. These days, she said, the West may be at the heart of many books, but you find few federal agents as the good guys. As for her heroes, Limerick said she likes the notion of fallible types - "sustainable heroes" - along the lines of "I'm not OK, you're not OK, and that's OK."

Asked to look ahead 125 years to see what environmentalists might be wrong-headed about in the 1990s, Limerick noted historian Roderick Nash's description of do-gooders at a great remove, a phenomenon he labeled "full-stomach environmentalism." What are the issues environmentalists have not addressed? "Race, ethnicity, class," said Limerick.


Congratulations to Steamboat Springs, Colo., rancher Jay Fetcher, who recently received a $50,000 grant from the Catto Foundation along with the national conservation award from the Conservation Foundation. Fetcher helped establish the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, the nation's first land trust set up by ag producers, and with his family donated a 1,300-acre conservation easement to help preserve wildlife habitat and open space (HCN, 11/27/95).

And congratulations to the staff here at High Country News for winning a media award for fostering partnerships in environmental education. The award was made by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.

Hats off, too, to staff for cooking up the third-place winning chili, "Interns' Revenge," at the occasionally annual Paonia Chili Cookoff. Sara Phillips and Jason Lenderman assembled the red chilies ê la Rita Murphy's hot, hot recipe.

Violent Green

Usually no one says "Blam," "Twip," "Ting" or "Urrgh" except comic book heroes; we're reminded of that because a comic book called Desperadoes, "1st bullets flying issue!" recently arrived in our mailbox, along with a letter from its creator, Jeff Mariotte. "You probably never expected to be plugged in the pages of a comic book," he wrote, but this comic includes a reading list, and High Country News is on it. Here's what he writes about HCN: "When I need to know where a proposed mine is going or what the latest moronic statement from Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth is, or what the status of the Animas-La Plata water project is, HCN is where I turn. It's a biweekly newspaper written by people who care about the real West - and those are my kind of people." You can reach Mariotte at Homage Comics, 7910 Ivanhoe, Suite 438, La Jolla, CA 92037 or [email protected]

Fall visitors

Not everyone on the more and more crowded roads in western Colorado is a hunter; it just feels that way. Some were visitors to this office, including Lonely Planet guidebook author Nicko Goucharoff, who was doing some fact-checking on High Country News. Goucharoff told us he's been on the road updating four of his books since June of last year, but when he's home it's in Boulder, Colo., where "I have a P.O. box and a storage unit."

Adam Reeves, another visitor from Boulder, stopped in to renew his subscription. He'd been camping "in the mud" on 8,755-foot-high McClure Pass, 20 miles east of Paonia.

Rob Marin, an Outward Bound instructor in Denver, stopped in to tell us he is developing a 40-day course on Western environmental issues and hopes to drop in with students for an informal seminar.

From West Yellowstone, Mont., the funnel through which a few million tourists pass to the park every year, came Jan and Cal Dunbar and their daughter Dusty, who is executive director of the Colorado National Monument Association, based in Fruita. Jan recently published a first book of poems, The Overlay of Random and Order.

Margaret Gorski and Skip Kowalski, of Montana's Bitterroot Valley, were heading for a Wildlife Society meeting in Snowmass, Colo., when they stopped by for an office tour. We also chatted with Monte and Enid Harper of Bakersfield, Calif., who'd taken a long and beautiful detour through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to find their way to Paonia.

Just so you don't think this area of western Colorado is heaven on earth, here's a quote from a recent book by Greg Leichner, the man behind "poodle-free Montana" T-shirts, postcards, a political party of the same name and now a printing press. In his new book, Man Alive!, Leichner describes a disheartening trip through "Montrose, Delta, Hotchkiss. We have taken a big lick of what we didn't want: coarse towns, dumb movies, polyester bedspreads." For information about Leichner's book, which is subtitled, Flight of the Errant Boomer, contact him at Box 1011, Placitas, NM 87043.

Other new books by readers include a revised edition of the classic Battle for the Wilderness by Michael Frome, published by the University of Utah Press, and a collection of essays by David Petersen, The Nearby Faraway: A Personal Journey Through the Heart of the West, published by Johnson Books in Boulder.

We did not see Tom Ela on his trip from Santa Fe, N.M., but received a note that he'd gotten as a far as Hotchkiss to visit retired judge Bill Ela, "my little brother." Nor did we see Glenn Gilmore, a designer of metalwork from the appropriately named Brasstown, N.C., since, he writes, "we'd been on the road 34 hours to Ridgway, Colo., to install two sets of screens' and just drove on through.

Reader Ann Root tells us by e-mail that during a trip through Nevada she came upon a message that reminded her of our summer essay issue about signs of the West. Spray painted on a utility box, it read: "ZPG ASAP."

*Betsy Marston for the staff

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