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Know the West

Dear friends


A wintry gathering

As a gentle snow fell from a gray winter sky, 130 High Country News readers and friends jammed into the Cache La Poudre Grange in Bellvue, Colo., just outside Fort Collins. They brought splendid food and drink (thanks, New Belgium Brewery!), and a bevy of story ideas for the HCN staff. Issues on readers’ minds included the lightning-fast sprawl of subdivisions between Denver and Fort Collins; the ongoing drought, which is already closing parks and golf courses; and the recreation and wildlife programs on national forests, which have taken a hit as the Forest Service has shifted funds to fighting fires.

The Feb. 8 potluck, and a High Country Foundation board meeting earlier in the day, were organized by Rick and Heather Knight, who are both active in private-land protection on the Front Range. Heather works for The Nature Conservancy. Rick teaches wildlife biology and land stewardship courses at Colorado State University, and treated the staff and board to a sobering lunchtime talk about the growing population pressures in the American West.

When they weren’t eating or listening, the eight attending members of the High Country Foundation board of directors approved a break-even, $1.6 million 2003 budget, and engaged in a spirited discussion of all activities at HCN.

These included: The health of the newspaper’s circulation — the paper now goes out to 22,400 people, and seems to be holding steady; preliminary ideas for redesigning the newspaper; the Writers on the Range column syndicate — in January, The Salt Lake Tribune became the 78th Western newspaper to subscribe; Radio High Country News — the show is heard weekly on 31 public radio stations, the newest of which is KHSU in Humboldt County, Calif., and southern Oregon; and the early returns on the relaunched Web site, hcn.org — folks have been steadily signing up for on-line subscriptions since we started offering them in January.

The board also voted in a slate of five new board members: Mark Harvey of Aspen, Colo., David Nimkin of Salt Lake City, Utah, Loris Taylor of Kykotsmovi, Ariz., Daniel Luecke of Boulder, Colo., and Marcus Sani of Dana Point, Calif.

An outpouring of support

This issue marks the official end of HCN's Spreading the News Campaign, our yearlong effort to provide a financial base for the new media projects and the intern program. The campaign has been a wonderful success. Readers contributed more last year than in any year in HCN’s 33-year history. For that we can’t thank you enough, though we try on the back page of this issue.

The end of the campaign doesn’t mean that HCN no longer needs your support. Your gifts to our annual Research Fund drive still provide the basic resources to pay our writers and photographers — be on the lookout for a mailing this month. Also, we’re continuing our effort to create an intern endowment that will keep budding journalists and activists coming to HCN for decades to come. Contact Development Director Gretchen Aston-Puckett ([email protected] or 970/527-4898) if you are interested in contributing.

We can’t get away with anything

Several readers wrote to remind us that Teddy Roosevelt created the nation’s first national wildlife refuge — at Florida’s Pelican Island in 1903 — not the first national park, as we stated in the Feb. 3 edition. And salmon are not barged upstream, past dams on the Columbia River, as we wrote in the Feb. 17 issue. "Salmon have to be barged downstream as juveniles to get past slack water created by all the dams. Fish ladders are sufficient to get adults past the dams (on the way upstream)," wrote Adrian Pfisterer.

And this note came from Ron Hilliard of Vail, Ariz., about Jeffrey Lockwood’s cover story, "The Death of the Super Hopper" (HCN, 2/3/03: The Death of the Super Hopper). "I was distracted by Lockwood’s statement about there being 10 billion grasshoppers in the great flight that encompassed as estimated 200,000 square miles and eclipsed the sun. A little back-of-the-envelope math reveals that would be roughly one grasshopper per 1,000 square feet of sky, so they must have been the size of a Boeing 707 in those days to block the sun!"

"No problem!" responds Lockwood, explaining how he calculated the size and density of the swarm of Rocky Mountain locusts. The short version is this: "My final estimate was intended to be extremely conservative, as it was originally developed for a more scientific audience where liberality in such matters is not warmly embraced."

And in case anyone missed it, the cover photo illustrating that story was a cartoon. If the gargantuan grasshopper didn’t give it away, the train it was attacking should have. Reader W.H. Wolverton of Escalante, Utah, points out that the Santa Fe locomotive was built in the early 1900s, after the Rocky Mountain locust was extinct.