Dear Friends

  • ONCE A MONUMENT: Shoshone Cavern National Monument near Cody, Wyoming

    F.J. Hiscock, National Park Service

Two weeks to launch time

It’s true: This is the last issue of HCN in its current format. Your next issue will look a little different.

We won’t give away the details of the new design, but thanks go out to all those who wrote in with ideas and critiques of the covers we printed last month in Dear Friends. As you might guess, we received everything from boos to cheers. “We like HCN JUST THE WAY IT IS!” wrote a couple of Colorado readers. “The emphasis should be on reaching more subscribers, not monkeying with your look, philosophy or format,” wrote another.

Others were enthused. “Door number two!” wrote a reader from Bozeman, Montana. “I like (the middle cover design) a lot — great design, very modern, good graphics.” A Missoula designer wrote to say that she’s “anxiously awaiting” the makeover.

The idea of replacing the old High Country News flag with the initials HCN drew particularly extreme reactions. “Aren’t there enough goofy acronyms floating around these days?” asked a subscriber from San Francisco. He told the story of Northwest Airlines, which just repainted its planes with its initials, not realizing that NWA is also the name of a rap group — short for Niggaz With Attitude. Oops.

A reader and former chemist may have saved us from a similar fate when he wrote to remind us that HCN is the chemical symbol for hydrogen cyanide, the gas used in gas chambers. “You may want to be known as ‘opinionated’ or even ‘caustic,’ ” he wrote, “but I doubt that ‘poisonous’ or ‘lethal’ is appropriate.”

And finally, many readers wrote to say whatever we do with the design, we should remain faithful to what we do best: in-depth, independent, and evenhanded reporting on the West. Hear, hear!

You can’t fool all of the people…

… but every once in a while, you do fool a few. The Dubois (Wyo.) Frontier received a letter to the editor recently berating the town council for changing the town’s name to “Doo Wah Diddy.” The letter writer apparently read about the name change on page three of our March 31 issue. For anyone who missed it, that page was dated April 1. “Part of me wants to laugh and part of me wants to say, ‘Hey, that wasn’t funny,’ ” responded Frontier editor Sheri Howe. “Not that I mind a good joke, but I think they could have chosen a less sensitive topic.”

It brought to mind the phone call we received in 1991 from a fact-checker at Harper’s magazine, looking for the source of a quote we printed from then-Interior Secretary Manual (sic) Lujan. In the story, also dated April 1, Lujan accused environmentalists of “refusing to look on the bright side of extinction.” He explained, “If we didn’t have extinction to help us out now and then, we’d be up to our elbows in trilobites. Who wants that?”

We didn’t fool Las Cruces, N.M., reader, Norm Osborne, but it sounds like we almost killed him. “Thank you so VERY much for the speckled euphonious humpback grout and the Happy Bunny Protective League,” he wrote. “I nearly choked on my Jell-O!”


Michael Milstein, an environmental reporter for the Portland, Ore., Oregonian and longtime HCN contributor, wrote to correct a statement from Michelle Nijhuis’s cover story, “Change comes slowly to the Escalante country” (HCN, 4/14/03: Change comes slowly to Escalante country). The story stated, “No national monument has ever been overturned.” Not so, said Milstein. At least 10 national monuments have lost their status:

“I used to live near one of them, the former Shoshone Cavern National Monument. Theodore Roosevelt created it in 1909 to help his friend, Buffalo Bill, attract tourists to Cody, Wyo., near Yellowstone Park. Alas, it was seriously vandalized and didn’t really live up to national monument standards, so in 1954 the feds turned it over to the City of Cody, which gave it to the BLM.

“Another example is Fossil Cycad National Monument in South Dakota, which lost its status after caretakers realized most of the fossil cycads had been stolen by souvenir seekers.”

After a little follow-up research, Nijhuis says the story should have stated, “No national monument has ever been overturned for POLITICAL reasons.” Al Nash, public affairs specialist for the Park Service, says Congress transferred 10 monuments to states or other federal agencies. Most of these transfers occurred when the monuments were being vandalized, or otherwise “didn’t meet current (monument) standards.” In every case, says Nash, “We (the Park Service) wanted it, Congress wanted it, and there was virtually no opposition.”

Lastly, we gave Rob Edward the wrong title in our story, “Debate rages over delisting wolves” (HCN, 4/14/03: Debate rages over delisting wolves). Edward is the director of Sinapu’s carnivore-restoration program, not of the organization as a whole.

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