Dear Friends

  • Cartoon of HCN goat flooded with dollar bills coming outof a mailbox

    Diane Sylvain

The reporter's life

There's nothing like being on the ground to really understand a story. Just ask HCN Northern Rockies editor Ray Ring, who wrote this week's cover piece on the turmoil in West Yellowstone, Mont., the self-dubbed "Snowmobile Capital of the World."

Ray is no stranger to digging for the deeper angle. A few years ago, he broke a story for us on how a handful of companies recruit workers from West Africa to come clean toilets and change sheets in Vail, Colo. (HCN, 4/17/95: The New West's servant economy). To cover the West Yellowstone story, he dragged along an aging and, according to Ray, "wimpy," older model Polaris snowmobile. Ray says sledding around town and in Yellowstone National Park gave him an important insight into the community, but presented a few logistical problems, especially when it came to photography.

"I really wanted to get some action shots, so I went out to an active trail. There I would wait for groups of snowmobilers to pass, then take off after them," says Ray.

The trail was rough, and Ray says he had to run his sled at full throttle just to keep pace with most of the riders. Beyond that, though, was the problem of actually taking the shots. Ray says he tried a variety of shooting methods: with gloves; without gloves; left-hand shots with right hand on throttle; right-hand shots with left hand on throttle.

"After a half-dozen tries, I was almost frozen - it was under 10 degrees out - so I gave it up and went into town for some coffee." Ray's action shots didn't make the cover, but we thought one deserved a place in this column.

The talented West

We've spent the better part of March interviewing candidates for a couple of positions (senior editor and business manager) and have, so far, come away from the experience impressed with the pool of talented people willing to consider a move to Paonia. Not too long ago, we labored under the impression that we couldn't quit because no one else would move here to do the job. We were wrong.

Administering tests and meeting several candidates vying for a single position has become a regular procedure of this growing institution. That's a little sobering, but mostly exciting; we're eager for the new ideas and experience that will soon be in the office.

Here came the judge

Greg Hobbs visited Paonia to talk about water law to the staff of High Country News. Greg, a long-time HCN subscriber, a poet, an associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, and a former "water buffalo," was in Delta County to speak to the annual three-part water workshop put on by the Gunnison Basin/Grand Valley Water Forum, held this year in Delta.

The workshop was founded by a former HCN subscriber, the late Ruth Hutchins of Fruita, and is run by Greg Trainor, head of utilities for the city of Grand Junction. On the program with Greg Hobbs was Larry MacDonnell, a Boulder attorney. Hobbs gave an overview of Colorado water law, which he claims more as environmentally advanced than any other Western state's, due to an in-stream flow program, an active water-trading market and nine water compacts with adjoining states that require Colorado to leave water in its major rivers.

MacDonnell had the tough job. He talked about federal reserved rights to a paying audience of 120 or so, most of whom ranged from skeptical to hostile to the idea.

In the audience was Ralph "Butch" Clark, a Gunnison resident who has proposed building a $2 billion to $5 billion straw to pump Colorado River water back from the Utah-Colorado state line to the Continental Divide. After its 210 mile-long trip, the several hundred thousand acre-feet of water would be dumped into the South Platte drainage, the Arkansas drainage, or back into the Colorado, so that we who live on Colorado's Western Slope can watch it flow by again. It's a way to provide for the millions of new people likely to move to Colorado in the next 15 years, as well as deny California the use of Colorado's share of the Colorado River's flow.

For more information on the plan, see Zack Barnett's informative article in the March 17, 2002, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Gosh, Hawk, we're sorry!

The debate over the identity of a hawk pictured in our cover story on sage grouse (HCN, 2/4/02: Last dance for the sage grouse?) just won't quit. The latest letter comes to us by way of Alan Seegert of Denali Park, Alaska, who is the co-author of the soon-to-be published Birds of Denali Park:

      Dear HCN:
      I AM THE GOSHAWK! It is with shocked consternation that I find a sleazy red-tailed hawk being mistaken for MYSELF by one of your contributors. Dude! Dost thou thinketh I sit around in the open like a stupid buteo, where every dumb redneck with a .223 can take a pop at me? Nay, nay, I am a bird of the noble forests, I am legend, I am ferocity and perseverance incarnate!
      Furthermore, Mr. Beeny should never have been given that shovel. Persisting in his wrong-headedness, he maintains that the retrix bars on a redtail are "thinner and more numerous than are the goshawk's." True, true, true, and the bird in question has too many bars for any of MY tribe, not to mention that the tail is too dang short, and the supercilium shown by our young is absent, ad nauseum.
      Digging deeper yet, he disappears from view entirely by asserting that "you should have seen him take off and nab a mouse." BAH! I spit upon your mice! I dine on grouse, hares, and similar fare, not stinking microtine rodents. ...
      If Mr. Beeny wishes to avoid further defamation, the Sibley guide has adequate paintings of goshawks and lowly redtails alike. I trust no further action on my part will be required.
      Submitted by my humble servant, Alan Seegert

Ask and ye shall receive,

especially if you ask High Country News' shockingly generous family of readers and friends.

Recently, High Country News invited its readers to join in Spreading the News, an ambitious plan to strengthen our intern program and bring the voice of HCN to many more people. In just the first 10 days, checks from readers have filled our mailbox, bringing us $18,000 closer to the $2 million goal. Today the total rests at just under $1.1 million. We thank you for helping HCN become a Westwide media service that reaches readers of the region's newspapers, public-radio listeners and World Wide Web surfers.

For more information, contact Robyn Morrison, [email protected] or 970/527-4898.

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