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Know the West

Dear Friends


An Olympic-sized hangover

HCN associate publisher Greg Hanscom, who hails from Park City, Utah, went home during the middle of February, to experience the greatest sports show on earth. He and other family members helped officiate the Winter Olympics' cross-country ski events, but those duties left plenty of time to revel in Olympic mania and to send us a field dispatch.

"Despite dire predictions that Utah would be overrun with humanity, tangled in traffic, and shocked, simply shocked, by the rowdy and oft-colorful international sports fans," Hanscom writes, "the Beehive State has put on a pretty great show.

"Downtown Salt Lake City is hung with huge banners of speed skaters and slalom racers wearing really, really tight pants. There's live music and reveling in the streets every night. The official Olympic car manufacturer, drink maker and long-distance phone company have set up distractions - and house-sized TVs called jumbotrons - everywhere. Oh, and the skiing/skating/sledding/ boarding has been spectacular, as well."

Hanscom says he isn't surprised that Utah hasn't melted under the spotlight. Park City is a veteran international tourist town. But he predicts a doozy of a hangover: "For starters, there's the money. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the group that brought this circus to town, has promised to pay back $59 million that Utah taxpayers spent on ski jumps, bobsled runs and the rest. That may or may not happen, but regardless, keeping these facilities up and running will cost many millions each year. And the ski resorts are already asking the Legislature for marketing money to avoid a 'postpartum' economic slump."

Other issues may also rear up: The controversial 1996 land trade that landed billionaire oil and ski resort mogul Earl Holding 1,375 acres of prime national forest at the base of Utah's Snow Basin is back in the news. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is looking for ammunition in his battle for campaign finance reform, has seized on the cash that Holding channeled to Utah Rep. James Hansen, U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch and others. McCain has called for a federal investigation of the trade and the rest of the $1.5 billion in federal tax subsidies that laid the track for the 2002 games.

And then there's the Olympic Scandal, the first one. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee has done its best to gloss over the scandal, which involved its highest officials bribing International Olympic Committee members in hopes of winning the 2002 games. A judge acquitted former SLOC higher-ups late last fall, but the federal government, which brought the charges, will appeal this spring.

Name that bird

Several readers have contacted us to tell us our bird-spotting skills are slipping. They say Lance Beeny's photograph of a hawk, accompanying Hal Clifford's story on sage grouse (HCN, 2/4/02: Last dance for the sage grouse?) was a red-tailed, not a goshawk. Beeny says the angle and the black and white image are misleading. "There are immature red-tails that have barring on the tail, but the bars are thinner and more numerous than are the goshawk's," he says.

"Like all birders, I have strong opinions. But I'd say, you should have seen him take off and nab a mouse."

A heartwarming letter

The following letter came with a gift to the Research Fund:


High Country News,

      Dad was an embodiment of the West. He made a living off its federal lands, securing leases that he in turn could lease to others who wanted to drill for oil. As a result, royalty checks arrived in Dad's mail every month.
      At the same time, he fell in love with the land that truly defines the West. As an oil scout for Continental Oil, living in Durango from 1949 to 1951, Dad put tens of thousands of miles on the company car traveling the dirt roads of the Four Corners region. Later, he went out on his own as an independent petroleum landman, and settled in the Evergreen area west of Denver, where he learned to love the Front Range and the continuum of mountains farther west.
      As his son, my childhood memories are filled with fishing, backpacking trips, and terrifying four-wheel-drive expeditions. These things, I think, are what made Dad truly happy.
        Though we never talked about it directly, I know Dad was troubled by the contradiction of the royalty checks that arrived each month and his love for the unspoiled wild areas of the West. His long-running subscription to

High Country News

      was one of the symptoms.
        In his latter years, he couldn't read anything except the headlines due to failing eyesight. He knew I read


        , so he resorted to quizzing me over the phone. It must have been during one of those discussions that he told me that I was to contribute a part of my inheritance to the


      Research Fund.

Paul F. Catterson died June 25, 2001, at his home in Evergreen, Colo. He was 80 years old. Please acknowledge this donation in his memory.

- Dave Catterson, Olympia, Washington