Dear Friends

  • Snow sculpture as seen in downtown Paonia

    Rebecca Clarren

Winter kicks in

The snow gods have smiled on Colorado's Western Slope. Falling steadily for a week, snow has blanketed apple trees, compost heaps and coal trucks. Farmers and ranchers have reason to hope their water rights won't be called this spring, and boaters are dreaming of a river season that lasts longer than two weeks. Snowmen are also popping up along Paonia's streets. These are not your average Frosty look-alikes; these are large and in-charge snow creatures, the likes of which haven't been seen in years.

While we stoke the woodstoves, Ed and Betsy Marston, publisher and editor in absentia, report that California is balmy, and that aside from worries of blackouts, academic life is a ball. Their graduate course in environmental reporting has about a dozen students, split evenly between journalism majors and Ph.D. candidates in natural resource fields.

"Half the class has never heard of the BLM and the other half are policy wonks," says Ed.

Ed and Betsy have even found a livestock fight over public lands in the big city. For years, urbanites have let their dogs run free in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but recently the Park Service has tried to limit this "multiple use" because of attempts to restore native vegetation. Dog owners are outraged, says Ed. "This reads just like a fight over cattle grazing or ORVs, but here you are in this dense urban area."

The Marstons will return this spring with more tales from the urban jungle.

Was it something we said?

In the last few months, marketing director Steve Mandell has used pizza to lure HCN's editorial staff into the office after hours for some extra reporting. The reason? While our subscriptions have hit an all-time high at over 22,000, renewal rates dipped in the last few months of 2000. To get a better idea of why some subscribers let their subscriptions lapse, we have been calling to ask for feedback and suggestions for improving the paper. We were surprised, and grateful, that no one took us for telemarketers. Instead, a number of ex-readers said they had to quit subscribing because they ran out of money. Others report that they love the paper, but are just too busy to read. Still others say that they found us too dense and depressing.

"When I get done reading the paper I feel like God just died," said one former reader. We were interested in the few suggestions we received. "Give me more comics," pleaded one reader in Arizona. "Get rid of Dear Friends," said another from New Mexico. If you have any ideas for ways to improve the paper, we would love to hear from you, preferably before you drop your subscription. Write us or give us a call, 970/527-4898.


Reader and writer James Bishop Jr. wrote to tell us that the Scottsdale, Ariz., poet and conservationist Geoffrey Platts died on Dec. 9. Platts, writes Bishop, "was that rare person who lived what he wrote, who recognized that elected officials work for the people but it is up to the people to keep foxes from the henhouse if the earth is to be defended."

We have been delighted, over several years, to use the amazing animal photography of

Sherm Spoelstra

in our pages. We've known that Sherm, 57, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was fighting cancer; now, we've learned from his wife, Norva, that he died Dec. 19. A generous man with a love of the outdoors and a great eye, Sherm had been a serious photographer for 20 years. We will continue to use the work he offered us, hoping to honor him, his wife, six children and five grandchildren.

High Country News Classifieds