Heard around the West

  • alluring trees

 

Why did a logging company "rape 30,000 acres of virgin forest?" A satirical magazine on the Internet, The Onion, says the answer can be found in the provocative behavior of the trees themselves: "If you're going to tease, openly flaunting your abundant natural resources, don't be surprised by the consequences.

"It's only natural for any red-blooded American developer to get ideas in its head when it's presented with that kind of untouched beauty." In an imaginary trial for the alleged rape of natural resources, the loggers' lawyer added, "Just look at where the forest was at the time of the incident: It was in a secluded, far-off place, nearly 25 miles from the nearest road. What were those trees doing in that kind of remote spot if they weren't looking for trouble?" What's more, the attorney continued, the forest floor was covered in alluring, fragrant flowers that were "clearly meant to attract." Summing up his case, the lawyer said: "At some point we've got to start asking ourselves who the real victim is - our nation's promiscuous, manipulative forests or the good, decent developers out there who are just trying to make an honest living razing the land."

When filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, were honored recently with a posh reception, many balanced shrimp while talking on cellular phones. The Salt Lake Tribune says a waiter began to mock the high-intensity crowd by circulating with an opened stapler, one end pressed to his ear, the other to his mouth. He talked animatedly into the stapler, issuing commands such as: "We need more lobsters right away!" No one caught on.

Pity Arizona. Its former Republican Gov. Fife Symington has just been sentenced to two and a half years in jail for fraud; he lied to get millions in loans to shore up his dissolving real estate empire. And in the state capital of Phoenix, the city's former vice mayor said if she were elected secretary of state, she'd make sure the government produced evidence she believes it is concealing, that "alien beings have arrived on earth." Her campaign manager said her campaign is not just "the road less traveled:" "This campaign is going to be the road never traveled." On a less alien level, the city experienced an unexpected eruption of down-to-earth passions. When Internet surfers punched in the keywords "mayor," "Phoenix" or "Scottsdale," " they had the chance to link to sites that inveigle browsers to "ogle naked celebrities like the Spice Girls." A city spokesman told the Arizona Republic that he was "having trouble envisioning" how that happened. More serious news emerged from Tucson, where a two-acre pocket of groundwater under the city is so contaminated that cleaning it up would only spread the poison. "We'll contain this pocket forever," said the Environmental Protection Agency. Dubbing the pocket a "Technical Impracticability Zone," the EPA says it's loaded with toxic chemicals, including cancer-causing TCE to the tune of 74,000 parts per billion. The federal limit is 5 parts per billion. Parties responsible for paying the containment bill - estimated at up to $23 million - include the city of Tucson, Tucson Airport Authority, McDonnell Douglas Corp. and General Dynamics Corp.

Still, there's terrific news in Arizona if you're a golfer and like low greens fees, though owners might not want the news ballyhooed. Thanks to Democrat Rep. Ken Cheuvront's spilling the beans, we now know that most of the state's 300 golf courses pay astoundingly low property taxes. The Arizona Republic reports, in fact, that vacant land far from Phoenix is assessed as much as 50 times higher than golf courses. In Maricopa County, for instance, the Fountain Hills Country Club's 118 acres is assessed at a mere $59,044. Similar acreage nearby is assessed at $10 million. Cheuvront says it's time Arizona treated everyone equally.

In the days of the Old West, water filings listed in those blindingly small, 6-point columns of unrelieved gray type were to grow alfalfa or run a mine. Times change. A Jan. 31 Public Notice in Grand Junction, Colo." s Daily Sentinel included filings not only for a golf course but also for "a polo field."

In Ketchum, Idaho, property owners turned out to say "no" to a proposal to build affordable housing for ski-resort workers. Distressed, resident Mickey Garcia told the group, "Simply put, you're being selfish. ... I'm violently opposed to the people who are violently opposed." According to the Idaho Falls Post-Register, Garcia also said the workers who made recreation businesses go weren't there to speak up; they were driving to or from their jobs at Sun Valley.

Press chat about Denver International Airport has been glowing recently - no blizzards, no lapses in radar, baggage moving right along - but then we read Heard's foreign mail (one letter). Writing from Dorchester, England, Edward Symonds says his Cycling Touring Club rather embarrassed the airport recently by revealing a planning lapse: no bike lanes. A brigade of Brit bikers had unpacked their cycles and were pointing them toward Denver when they discovered that the airport's access road barred two-wheel traffic, reports the Dorset Cyclists Newsletter. Buses would not take all the bikes, and alas, Symonds points out, no rail line links the airport to the city. Saving the day was the arrival of two police cars from Denver, which escorted the bikers for six miles "with all lights flashing" out of DIA's jurisdiction. On the way back the touring club got the same big-wig treatment, only this time they tooled right up to the terminal itself.

In a recent report to its thousands of workers, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory noted it had made the "Tonight Show's' gaffe segment, thanks to an Idaho Mountain Express story from Ketchum. The headline said or didn't say it all: "DOE to do NEPA's EIS on BNFL's AMWTP at INEEL after SRA protest."


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 [email protected]

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