« Return to this article

Know the West

Breaking all the rules


Breaking all the rules

Here at High Country News, we have a loose rule that we avoid stories that happen too close to home. We figure we can be more objective about things that don't fall - literally - into our backyard. And besides, the West is a big region.

With this issue, we're breaking that rule. HCN Northern Rockies editor Ray Ring writes about a fight to stop gas companies that want to drill for coalbed methane. Ray's story is based in his backyard near Bozeman, Mont., and staff writer Robyn Morrison's sidebar comes from ours, in Paonia. In the interest of full disclosure, we should tell you that we haven't been uninvolved in the local struggle: HCN staffers and our families and friends have spoken out against gas development, and taken part in the campaign led by the Grand Mesa Citizens Alliance and the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council.

But don't take this disclaimer as an apology. High Country News has always walked a tricky line between activism and journalism. We pride ourselves on our fairness and ability to listen to - and ask tough questions of - all sides of controversial issues. But we also stand hip-deep in the environmental movement: HCN founder Tom Bell is still a staunch defender of wild lands, and much of the current staff grew up in, and has worked for, the Western environmental movement that Bell helped create.

So when an issue as far-reaching and destructive as this one pops up in our backyard, you'd better believe we'll cover it. We hope, as always, that we've done so with compassion and skepticism, and that local stories like this will inform the Westwide debate over how best to care for this crazy, ever-evolving region.


Speaking of our backyard, subscriber Mike Reynolds of Death Valley, Calif., dropped by the office during a vacation from his job with the U.S. Forest Service. He had just climbed 14,229-foot Mount Shavano west of Salida, Colo., and told us that it's just as dry in the Sierra Nevada as it is in the Rockies.

Mycologist and cafe owner Larry Evans of Missoula, Mont., said hello on his way to the mushroom festival in Crested Butte with a truckload of fungi.

Barbara Cameron and Bill Cox from Crowley Lake, Calif., stopped by on their way home from Crested Butte, where they attended their son's wedding and squeezed in some mountain biking.

Subscribers Don and Evelyn Bartram, who live on Albuquerque's west side, shared tales of their 30 years in Los Alamos. They were vacationing in Colorado and stopped in to verify that Paonia actually exists.

We get the most interesting mail

Reader Bob McFarland, a doctor in Boulder, Colo., recently sent us a copy of an article about Boulder's growth-control pioneers. It's a subject you might come across in Audubon magazine, but McFarland published the paper in the summer 2002 issue of The Journal of Psychohistory, which, he writes, "assumes that childhood experiences influence adult behavior."

It's an unusual mixture. On one page, he writes about the 1959 citizens' initiative that created the "Blue Line," a line across the Rocky Mountain foothills above Boulder beyond which the city is not allowed to grow. On the next page, you learn that Zero Population Growth pioneer Roger Hudiberg broke his arm when he was 6 years old and "still dreams about the anesthesia he received for his treatment," and that his wife Peggy, also a ZPG activist, "wasn't spanked, but her mother yelled at her a lot."

McFarland was surprised to find that many of Boulder's early slow-growthers were influenced by Native Americans, and concludes that "the generally good family experiences as children seem to have provided slow-growth leaders the empathy toward others needed to become effective activists."

Roger Williams, also from Boulder, wrote to tell us that the photo of a huge log on page 6 of our May 13 issue "is of interest to rail fans as well as environmentalists. The diesel in the background appears to be an Alco RS3 switcher (American Locomotive Co., Schenectady). Built in the '50s or so, these attractive locomotives are a rare and endangered species by now."

Williams also wondered whether the "double-headed mountain" on page two of the same issue was the Spanish Peaks in southern Colorado. Actually, the photo shows Mount Lamborn and Landsend Peak, which stand over our offices in Paonia, Colo., on the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Welcome to the hotel, where?

Elko, Nev., native Mike Nugent wrote to tell us that a meeting between the Western Shoshone Dann sisters and attorney John O'Connell couldn't have occurred at the Centennial Hotel in Elko, as we'd claimed in the cover story of our Aug. 5 issue. "There was no such hotel," he said, "and the meeting was probably at the Commercial Hotel or the Stockmen's Motor Hotel."

HCN goes to Seattle

Tired of all this hot, dry weather, the High Country News staff and board are headed to Seattle, Wash., later this month for our fall board meeting. Readers and friends are invited to join us for a potluck feast on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Camp Long Environmental Education Center Lodge, 5200 35th Ave. SW, in West Seattle. Bring a dish to share, and RSVP by calling Gretchen A-P at 970/527-4898.

- Greg Hanscom for the staff