Dear Friends

 

About this issue

Writers for this special issue about the Forest Service's Framework for the Sierra Nevada's 11 national forests researched and wrote their stories while taking a course in environmental journalism with Ed and Betsy Marston, the publisher and then-editor of High Country News. The couple taught the course at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this year. Students were divided evenly between master's degree students in journalism and doctoral candidates in environmental policy - a mix that spiced things up, the Marstons report. The course has been supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation since 1998.

Dog days of summer

Late summer can seem so tranquil in a small town like Paonia. Pears and apples blush in the orchards, there's a second cutting of hay in the irrigated fields, and everywhere the insistent chirping of crickets lulls the population into a general torpor.

Yet energetic things are happening here. Like a tug-of-war over growth. On July 31, town residents were asked whether to uphold or revoke a flagpole annexation approved by the town council earlier this year. The landowner, who owns the local lumberyard, wants to build a 34-house subdivision on the property, which lies a few hayfields from the current town border. But a newly formed citizens' group challenged the annexation, claiming the council failed to consider the comprehensive plan (which called for the area in question to remain rural) as well as the full cost of providing water and other infrastructure to the property.

The debate got contentious. Citizens wearing "What's The Rush" buttons packed town meetings to demonstrate that they were not just a vocal minority; the mayor and a majority of the council members resolutely stuck by their conviction that growth is exactly what Paonia needs.

The final days before the vote saw a flurry of activity: The mayor and other pro-development council members went door-to-door in defense of the annexation. Members of the citizens' group made hundreds of phone calls urging a largely apolitical citizenry to vote. The end result: the annexation was defeated by a narrow 39 votes, with nearly 500 people voting, as many as voted in the presidential election.

Does the vote mean the battle over growth is settled? Nope. More likely, it was just another salvo in the ongoing debate over how this community should grow. The real question is whether town and county officials will now sit down with citizens and start a real dialogue.

Visitors

The dog days of summer are also a time when unfamiliar vehicles park in the streets of Paonia, many with license plates from distant states. Some are driven by HCN readers and even former staffers.

Former HCN associate editor Peter Chilson dropped by en route from Aspen, Colo., to Idaho with a truck full of books. He's not a Bookmobile librarian - the books once belonged to his father, and Peter was in Aspen, his hometown, picking them up. Since leaving HCN, Peter has become an assistant professor of English at Washington State University in Pullman, where he heads the undergraduate creative writing program. He lives across the state line in Moscow, Idaho.

Peter says the job suits him well, and we're sure the students love him - at HCN, he was a favorite among the interns. He's also finding time to do a lot of writing of his own. His book Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa is in its second printing, and he was recently nominated for a Pushcart award for his short story, "English Lessons." He's working on two new books at present, one a collection of short stories, the other a series of essays connecting West African and American West landscapes.

Holly Jaycox, who works at Wolf Park, a captive-wolf study and educational facility in Battle Ground, Ind., dropped by to talk shop. She told us that reintroducing Mexican wolves into the Southwest is harder than bringing the gray wolf back to Yellowstone, because the Yellowstone wolves were wild Canadian creatures, while the Mexican wolves are captive-bred, and therefore "stupid" in the ways of the world. A number of the reintroduced lobos have been shot near roads or while chasing cattle. She predicts that the real recovery will begin once wild-born pups begin running in the Southwest.

We also saw Carol "Griff" Griffin and Heather Kubiak, who had escaped Grand Rapids, Mich., for a summer romp out West. Griff is a professor of natural resource management at Grand Valley State University, and was collecting slides of coal mines and clear-cuts to show her students. Heather works in occupational safety and health for Meijer Inc.

Tributes

Subscriber Fred Rabe wrote the following to us about the death of his mentor, Charles Wellner.

"Charles 'Chuck' Wellner, 90, died June 5 in Olympia, Wash. From 1933 until 1973 he worked for the U.S. Forest Service. After retiring, he began a second career as a Forest Service volunteer, establishing a system of Research Natural Areas in Idaho. When he started in the mid-1970s, there were less than 20 RNAs in Idaho. By the early 1990s, there were more than 100 sites proposed or on the books, due mostly to Chuck's dedication and stubborn hard work. Today there are over 200 established and proposed RNAs on Forest Service lands in Idaho, western Montana and Utah. Chuck touched many people in and out of the conservation circle. He received awards from The Nature Conservancy, the Society of American Foresters and the Natural Areas Association, as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Idaho."

Congratulations to the Pacific Southwest (aka California) and the Intermountain Region of the Forest Service for receiving the Sheldon D. Gerber Merit Award from the Western Planning Association for "excellence in environmental planning" for the Sierra Nevada Framework Project (see lead story). The award was accepted by planner Steve Clauson, leader of the Framework planning team in Sacramento, Calif., and planner Dave Loomisof the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California and Nevada on behalf of the two regional foresters.

Axing the fax

Staff recently went through a stack of recent fax messages piled up next to our trusty Canon: They were mostly ads for cruises and concerts, and press releases about appointments to agencies we never heard of, or agencies we've heard of sending us information we don't need. Like the U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C., office, letting us know that the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., uses 360 tons of green granite quarried from Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Or that Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald postponed an Evergreen (Colo.) town meeting because of a conflict with a parade. The senator "encourages everyone to attend the parade."

The problem is not just the waste of paper and ink. It's also that needed faxes tend to get lost between sheets of paper that read: "Test 1 - Please Disregard," and "Test 2 - Please Disregard."

So when Writers on the Range editor Betsy Marston suggested pulling the plug on the fax and turning it on only when we knew a needed fax was coming, acceptance was unanimous. If you need to send us a fax, please call first. And if 970/527-4897 is on your fax list, please remove it.

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