Dear Friends

  • SHE KNOWS HER PLACES: Diane Sylvain

    Dustin Solberg photo

Count those cows

Writer Perri Knize of Missoula was intrigued by a pair of numbers in HCN's April 27, 1998, issue. According to the article, "livestock" across the West had declined over the last 100 years from 20 million to 2 million. Perri, working on an article on grazing for the July 1999 Atlantic, wanted a reference.

She and her fact checkers finally figured out that HCN had compared apples to oranges across the two centuries. There were, she writes, 20 million range beef cattle in 17 Western states on public and private lands in 1886. There are 2 million cattle today on 11 Western states on Bureau of Land Management land.

To compare oranges to oranges, Perri says, there were 7.6 million range beef cattle on all lands in 11 Western states in 1886, and there were 6.7 million range beef cattle on all lands in the 11 states in 1992. Given that today's cattle are beefier than those of a century ago, the cattle industry hasn't been doing all that badly.

That impression is reinforced by Rick Knight, a professor of wildlife biology at Colorado State University. Perhaps because he is in academe, Rick has apparently not heard that Western ranching is dead, and he is organizing a massive conference titled, "The Culture, Economics and Ecology of Ranching West of the 100th Meridian."

Judging by the promotional material, he is attracting an all-star herd of speakers for the May 4-6, 2000, event. They include writers Linda Hasselstrom, Bill DeBuys and Drum Hadley; Holistic Resource Management creator Allan Savory; animal rights philosopher Bernard Rollin; economist John Baden; and ranchers Bill McDonald and Peter Decker. For more information, contact Rick at 970/491-6714, or fellow conference organizers Wendell Gilgert at 970/491-4340 and Ed Marston at 970/527-4898.


Writer Sam Western of Big Horn, Wyo., and Philip Stevens of Skaneateles, N.Y., came by. Sam writes for High Country News and is regional correspondent for the Economist. Phil is a World War II veteran of the Tenth Mountain Division and was revisiting Camp Hale on Route 24 between Vail and Leadville, Colo.

Former High Country News board member Michael Ehlers stopped by while on a sales swing through western Colorado's book stores.

Playwright Micki Panttaja of Moscow, Idaho, visited Paonia to interview staff about her latest project: a play - she calls it a "theatrical documentary' - on land-use issues in the West. Her research is being sponsored by the Rural Development Councils of Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Micki presently has a similar play touring the West titled Opening Windows, about rural teen health and social issues.

It's not uncommon for visitors to High Country News to visit Gene Reedy first. He and his wife, Wilma, son Bob and grandson Mike run a gas station and fix cars in Paonia. Journalism professor Len Ackland worked in a visit to Gene before seeing us. Gene, he reports, fixed his car so fast he couldn't believe it. "This would not have happened in Boulder," Len says emphatically. At the University of Colorado, Len runs the Center for Environmental Journalism, where one of next year's Fellows is Becky Rumsey, a former HCN intern and staffer. Her specialty is radio documentaries.

The MacIndoes, Richard, a firefighter, and Barbara, a high school science-teacher, along with Ellen, 14, James, 12, and Sean, 9, were visiting the high mountain town of Crested Butte when they decided to drive to Paonia to check out High Country News. The family lives in Pueblo, Colo., but their HCN subscription gets around; they pass issues on to Barbara's parents in the San Luis Valley, where her mom reads them aloud to her dad, who has eye problems. From there, the paper goes to the public library. More bang for the buck, we told the MacIndoes.

Since 1983, High Country News has worked with some 135 interns. They stay for three or four months to help put out the paper and then move on to "real" jobs. Now the interns have been joined by HCN's first "extern" - middle-school teacher Pauline Carr, from nearby Crawford, Colo. Her three-day visit to our office was part of a college course which sent its students to businesses all over the state. Pauline said she liked the collaborative work that a newspaper requires; she's planning to put out a newspaper, with 8th graders running the show.

She shared the spotlight

Writer and University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson came to Paonia on June 17 and Carbondale, Colo., on June 18 to attend dinners with HCN subscribers and to read from his latest book: Fire on the Plateau: Conflict and Endurance in the American Southwest. He is as warm and compelling a reader as he is a writer. Charles shared the spotlight with Diane Sylvain, who contributed 21 wonderful maps of the Colorado Plateau. The framed maps were displayed at the readings.

Those attending the readings in both towns were most intrigued by the maps' color, since they were reproduced in black and white in the book. Diane explained that while she was drawing the maps for the book, she was also drawing them for herself, and she likes to see her maps in color. Diane is HCN's very distinctive cartographer, a post she has held for a decade.

Odds and ends

We heard from Marty and Denise Stecher about the ingenious pick-up stick they sent us. Here's their deal: For each E-Z Reacher they sell, the couple donates one to an "anti-trash individual or group." Prices start at $30, depending on length; write to the Stechers at Box 181, Mancos, CO 81328 for more information.

Hats off to organizers of the recent week-long Environmental Journalism Academy, held at American University in Washington, D.C. Some 100 college students learned about the green beat, thanks to the nonprofit Center for Environmental Citizenship. HCN editor Betsy Marston attended as a trainer and says she found the group inspiring.

Hugh Kingery, editor of the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, says we gave too much credit to ornithologists in a book review (HCN, 6/7/99). While ornithologists did the writing, Kingery says, the birds were spotted by 1,200 volunteers, to whom the book is dedicated.

What an ad policy

This nonprofit paper has an unusual advertising policy. Over the years it has evolved, and lately, we've been trying to nail down a concise description. Feel free to comment on this latest draft:

"We ask all advertisers to become subscribers to the paper before placing an ad. Since we think of High Country News readers as forming a community, we expect advertisers to join us. We require real estate advertisers to own the property they try to sell; we also ask that they refrain from hyperbole and from exhortations to buy now! Finally, we reserve the right to turn down ads."

Time out

High Country News skips an issue during the hot summer. The next issue should be in mailboxes on Aug. 2.

* Ed Marston for the staff

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