Heard around the West

  • Collared cow emanates data

    Montana State University photo by Derek Bailey

Northern spotted owls are supposed to be shy and almost invisible in what's left of our ancient Northwest forests. This was not the case of a "dispersing juvenile" who chose to hang around Everett, Wash., a city of 70,000 close to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. After spending a day roosting unobtrusively in a tree, the bird - dubbed Spot by observers - was snared from a fire truck, despite the loud objections of several bird-lovers below.

They protested that the owl, now listed as an endangered species, should have been given the chance to pick its new home. But could the owl have found its way back to the forest? "Rumor has it that Spot's sex was confirmed as male, since he was lost and wouldn't ask for directions," says Pilchuck Audubon Society member Dave Ward.

Ever wonder where a cow wanders or what it does with its time? Wonder no more. It is possible to collar an entire herd with radio transmitters hooked into a Global Positioning System. That means every few minutes a satellite bounces back a cow's every move, right into a computer. Then comes the fun. For the last two years, Montana State University researcher Derek Bailey has gathered megabytes of data about the peregrinations of bovines, and after analyzing it all, he concludes that the cows he's monitoring separate into two types: hill climbers and bottom dwellers. Bailey, who grew up on a ranch in LaVeta, Colo., says he wants to know if the hill climbers really do use forage more evenly and whether they could be bred for that trait. The more willing-to-ramble cows might spare streams from trampling hooves and also save ranchers some money in fencing. Derek Bailey can be reached at 406/265-6115.

Recently, mountain climbers talked frankly to the free weekly, What's Up ... ?, in Walla Walla, Wash., about what they value most. When it comes to a choice between vertical challenge or protecting wilderness and the solitary experience Congress meant it to offer, climbing wins their allegiance handily. The issue is debatable these days, because the Forest Service is considering requiring permits to climb 11,240-foot Mount Hood, a snow-capped volcano that has become crowded with people and their gear. When asked if he thought Mount Hood would benefit from limiting access, gym owner Gary Rall said, "My personal opinion is that if you want solitude, go somewhere else. Mount Hood is not going to suffer from the number of people climbing up it." Another climber agreed, saying, "When I go up that south route" (which now attracts 400 climbers a day) "I'm not looking for a wilderness experience." The director of Mazamas, a Portland, Ore., climbing group founded in 1894, was also plainspoken: "Restrictions would take away a tremendous opportunity for a lot of people to reach a personal goal."

Speaking of limits, "Now is the time to think about camping next summer," say the Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers. The two agencies have created a National Recreation Reservation Service and warn that families should reserve campsites, lookouts and cabins early to avoid being shut out. Individual campsites can be reserved 240 days ahead, while group sites can be saved almost a year in advance. Every Wednesday, the service adds more campgrounds and other facilities to its inventory list, posted on the Internet at ReserveUSA.com. As of two weeks ago, sites could be reserved from the Web site itself, although a phone call to make a reservation is still possible, says Steven McQuinn, marketing manager for the service. He warns, though, that some callers will be "camping on a busy telephone." The number is 518/885-4282, ext. 2422. You can also reach him through e-mail at [email protected]

Two teen-age girls recently won a poetry contest at a private school in Murray, Utah, by writing a deceptively simple poem about trees. It started out this way: "I think that I shall never see /A poem as lovely as a tree." After the award for "original work" was announced, parents who pay $5,000 a year in tuition were outraged, and the teacher who failed to recognize Joyce Kilmer's famous poem was mortified, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The students, presumably, got an F.

'Tis the season for the annual deluge of Christmas catalogs in mailboxes, but recently, activists struck back by dumping loads of catalogs at the world's largest direct mail convention, in San Francisco. Waving a banner that read "Save our forests, stop junk mail," the EarthCulture group railed against the tons of unasked-for credit card applications, sweepstakes entry forms and clothing catalogs routinely mailed to millions of people. Surveys (probably mailed) show that much of the mail is little read and not recycled. Steve Holmer of American Lands says you can get your name removed from direct mail lists by writing Mail Preference Service, Direct Market Association, Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

The American Motorcyclist Association recently relayed some good news for motorheads. "Off Highway Vehicle recreation now has a college curriculum to call its own," reports the group's newsletter, the Westerville, Ohio-based OHV Planner. Colorado State University in Fort Collins has begun offering three courses on managing all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, snowmobiles, and four-wheel drive trucks and cars on public lands. Coming Up: Internet courses on motorized recreation, given through Marshall University in West Virginia.

Public schools in Colorado Springs, Colo., must really be hard up for money. A top administrator sent a letter throughout District 11 complaining that kids were drinking so little Coca-Cola that an exclusive contract with the company was jeopardized. Schools receive money from the Coke corporation if they meet consumption targets. Signing the letter "Coke Dude," John Bushey, executive director of school leadership, complained that although a 1997 contract requires sales of 70,000 cases of Coke annually, only 21,000 cases of Coke drinks were sold last year, reports The Denver Post. Faced with failure, Bushey proposed ways to get kids to gulp down more soda. He said students should be allowed unlimited access to Coke machines, which stand over six feet tall and feature giant photos of Coke products. "Location, location, location is the key." He also suggested allowing young people to drink Coca-Cola products while in the classroom.

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 bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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