Dear Friends


A high country jinx

We probably should have seen it coming. After a positively wilting June and July and reports from around the West of drought, heat and wildfire, we decided to run a special issue about the Great Drought of 2002. The moment we started work on the stories in this paper, however, we probably sealed our fate: As we prepare to send it off to the printer, around the West, the rains seem to have arrived.

In Paonia, we've had our first real rain since April. For two weeks, thunderclouds have come roaring in over the Uncompahgre Plateau and diving over Mount Lamborn. At first, we didn't take them seriously * clouds had rolled through earlier in the summer, but they only teased us with virga, which fell halfway to the earth, then vanished. But a few good soakings have made believers out of us.

Nonetheless, as Senior Editor Lolly Merrell writes in her cover essay, the rains don't mean the drought is over. Drought is something we've been living with in the West for a long time, and if climatologists are correct, it's something we'll be living with for a long time to come.

The essay is Lolly's first cover story. This is also the second issue produced under our new publishing team: Paul Larmer as publisher and and Greg Hanscom, who has jumped into the editor's chair after working for the past year on the $2 million Spreading the News Campaign. We hope you enjoy it, and that wherever you are, it's raining.

Here's to you, readers

"The lifeblood of any publishing endeavor is its community of readers." That was Paul Larmer's conclusion upon returning from a publishing course at Stanford University in late July. Larmer rubbed elbows with bigwigs from Mother Jones, Men's Health and everything in between, and says all of them were stunned by the loyalty and generosity of HCN's readers.

It's your subscriptions and gifts to the Research Fund that keep this place humming - and now you're helping us reach new audiences on line and on the radio, as well as on paper, through the Spreading the News Campaign. One East Coast publisher couldn't believe that, on top of all this, you turn out, with fantastic food and great ideas, at HCN potluck dinners three times each year. Lucky us.

And speaking of your bright ideas, we've been reading through the stacks of surveys that you have sent in over the past several months, and adding suggestions to the list of stories that we need to cover. Circulation staffer Amy Alanko, who has been entering your responses into a computer database, says she thinks we've received twice as many surveys this year as last year - and yes, we do read every one.


The Green Party's candidate for Colorado governor, Ron Forthofer, dropped in while beating a campaign path around the state. A former professor of public health from Texas, Forthofer wants to reform health care and campaign finance rules. He also thinks there should be tax incentives to encourage energy and water efficiency. He left us with the Green Party mantra: "I hope people vote their hopes and not their fears."

Longtime subscriber Jessie Gardiner and her husband, Jim, from Salem, Utah, said hello. Jessie summers as a wilderness ranger on the Uinta National Forest, where one of her jobs is saddling packhorses with panniers brimming with 150 pounds of gravel for backcountry trails. Jim engineers 11,000-12,000-ton coal trains from Helper, Utah, over Soldier Summit and into Provo. Just as in the old days, he says, getting a train over the 7,470-foot summit requires a helper engine or two.

Readers Cliff Clusin and Madelyn Evans found us while they were honeymooning and hot-springing. They were en route to Mesa Verde from Longmont, Colo., where Cliff is business manager for the Association for Experiential Education. M'lissa Story and Julie Homan came from Telluride to tell us about their latest venture, Green Media Works. The nonprofit organization does publicity and public relations work for environmental and social justice groups. Its first project was a workshop on environmentally friendly building. Hank Lacey and Deb Swift of Flagstaff, Ariz., dropped in with their dogs. Another Flagstaff resident, Norm Lowe, stopped by the office on the way to a family reunion in Breckenridge. Lowe's firm, EcoResults, works on range restoration projects with ranchers in the Southwest.

James and Linda Lester drove over McClure Pass from Redstone, Colo., to find peaches. Longtime subscribers Frank and Lois Abbott of Boulder stopped in en route from Redstone to Black Canyon National Park. And Mike Murphy dropped in from Minden, Nevada.


HCN is bidding adieu two long-time staffers, Marion Conger Stewart and Anne Miller.

Marion, who worked as a copy editor/ fact-checker/proofreader for more than nine years, decided to retire at the end of June. She has been both a talented wordsmith and a steady moral compass, though we're not sure how she duped the Social Security Administration into thinking she was old enough to retire. Her plans include spending time with one of her true loves: poetry.

Anne's title was Web technician/production assistant, but if we'd really described her job with a title, it would have been four lines long. After more than 13 years with HCN, Anne was a stalwart, steady presence. She was single-handedly responsible for keeping the Web site updated and alive for the past year. She leaves HCN to start the Cochetopa Weekly Shopper in southern Colorado's San Luis Valley.

We miss them both already.

Greg Hanscom for the staff

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