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Know the West

Dear Friends


Busting out

When High Country News moved into its new quarters in early 1992 (New Year's Day, to be exact), we assumed the 3,600 square-foot building would serve us forever. After all, we had come out of 1,000 square feet.

But when the architect who designed the building happened to be in Paonia, we asked him to talk to us about expansion. Like a good member of the building trades, Peter Dobrovolny pointed out that we could build an addition. But he also walked us through the existing building over and over until we saw ways to create work space here and there without disrupting the central space that makes the office so pleasant. We were especially taken with a plan to shield the hot water heater and furnace and turn the utility room into a private spot from which staff could do phone interviews.

But Dobrovolny's first impression of the office he hadn't seen in six years also stuck with us: "You're recreating the kind of office you had in the old place," which was polite talk for: "You're turning it into a crowded slum."

A week or so later, board member Tom Huerkamp came by and showed us why, despite having almost a tenth of an acre under roof, we had both a slum and a space shortage. In order to save on office furniture, we use church tables with folding legs. They're cheap, but they lack drawers and vertical shelves. The result is that staff wages wars of imperialism, annexing as much floor space as possible. One editor, for example, has 16 feet of tables surrounding him. By buying a desk with drawers and shelves above it, that 16 feet can be compressed.

Following the theory that an outsider can see things in a minute that an insider can't see in a year, we invited Arthur Dye, a vice president of EcoTrust in Portland, Ore., to spend two days in Paonia interviewing staff, to aid us in preparing a strategic and management plan. In addition to being good company, Arthur drew from staff ideas we didn't know we had. We now await his report.

Springtime visitors

Drier weather has brought a spate of visitors to our office in out-of-the way Paonia, Colo., including Ted Fickes from the Denver office of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. He and other coalition staffers were on road trips to meet with members around the state.

Visitors Tim Kyllo, Heidi Meihoff and Rick Barrilleaux were also on a road trip, talking to newspapers throughout Colorado about the "new" Louisiana-Pacific. The three L-P employees said they were well aware that the waferboard manufacturer's reputation has been badly tarnished by environmental irresponsibility. The good news, they said, was the EPA's lifting of its two-year ban against the company. The ban had prohibited L-P from buying trees cut on public land, an always controversial activity.

Kyllo, who has worked at the firm's Olathe, Colo., plant since 1984, said the three were spreading the word that L-P has been reshaped, with 28 of 30 top executives new to the company. As for the nearby Olathe factory, where an employee just went to jail for faking pollution-control results (HCN, 4/27/98), Kyllo said environmental controls are so stringent they're now "setting the standard for all 76 L-P plants in the USA."

The change will be welcome. For almost 15 years in Olathe, L-P's neighbors - who recently won million-dollar judgments against the company - complained about the plant's air pollution. Asked why L-P hadn't just bought out its Olathe neighbors, Kyllo said, "They should have. It was just stupid."

Nancy Herzberg stopped by during her vacation to tell us about a Wal-Mart megastore proposed for her town, Florence, pop. 6,100. The store would encroach on sand dunes, she says, and a new group she's part of, Citizens for Florence, wants the Bureau of Land Management to lease the dunes for preservation purposes. Citizens for Florence can be reached at Box 1212, Florence, OR 97439 (541/997-5432).

On a day full of feisty women visitors we also met Diana Martinez, who works with people who have disabilities, at the Center for Independence. The center serves 13 counties and is based at 1600 Ute Ave. #100, Grand Junction, CO 81501.

As the ski season wound down, Chip Wallace took one last run at Snowmass before returning to his home in Durango, Colo. He came by to subscribe for "delivery right to my teacup at home." He had been picking up the newspaper at Maria's Bookstore.

And John and Alice Hannahs - he's a retired Episcopal minister and she's a retired nurse - from Evanston, Wyo., stopped by while on their way to Santa Fe. The couple is what we think is a rarity: charter subscribers, dating back to the paper's 1970 birth in Lander, Wyo. In fact, they knew founder Tom Bell. John, who has been retired for 10 years, says, "I think I'm basically lazy. People ask if I don't miss work. I tell them: 'I have no desire to preach again.' "

Comings and goings

Former intern Michelle Nijhuis became staff reporter on May 4. But the editorial staff stayed constant in numbers with the departure of associate editor Peter Chilson to take a tenure track position teaching writing at Washington State University in Pullman. Thank you, Peter, and welcome, Michelle.

Dial us in, please

High Country News, which does business as High Country Foundation, is asking Working Assets, a long-distance telephone company, for a grant.

If you get your telephone service via Working Assets, we would appreciate your sending a letter of support to: Donations Manager, Working Assets, 701 Montgomery, #400, San Francisco, CA 94111. The deadline is May 31, 1998.

* Ed and Betsy Marston for the staff