Heard Around the West

  • Firefighter Dave Strohmaier snapped this photo near Magdalena, New Mexico

    Dave Strohmaier
 

NEVADA
Las Vegas’ drought has gotten so serious that some golf courses are replacing grass with crushed rock. But course managers aren’t ripping out their turf without casting verbal stones at homeowners, who use 65 percent of the area’s water, spraying three-quarters of it outdoors, according to The Associated Press. Golf courses are just the "visible offenders," protests Stan Spraul, a director of the Nevada Golf Course Owners Association. "It’s a very easy target to say, ‘Hey, look at that big ol’ green thing there.’ " Meanwhile, Lake Mead, the source of southern Nevada’s drinking water, has dropped 60 feet to its lowest level since 1972. But officials say water shortages won’t halt development of booming Las Vegas.

COLORADO
Forget grass and gravel for greens; why not hit those little white balls on artificial turf? Golfers can try out the fake fairways later this summer at what’s said to be the world’s first artificial-grass course at Echo Basin Guest Ranch in Mancos, in southern Colorado. The Mancos Times reports that the 18-hole course needs no fertilizers, herbicide or other polluting chemicals that can run off into streams. It’s also fire-retardant, won’t appeal to hungry deer or pooping Canada geese, and best of all, the faux fairways will never require watering or mowing.

WYOMING
Not much is happening in Wyoming, and that may be a good thing, according to a travel consultant from Texas. In Casper, Peter Tarlow told Wyoming’s annual Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Rendezvous that in these insecure times, rural Wyoming could make itself a Western "Shangri-La." His advice seems to make sense: Sell what makes you different. Rachel, Nev., for instance, has become a destination for tourists by marketing itself as "the Capitol of Nothing." Tarlow said Wyoming could invite urban people who never see the stars to come and look at the Milky Way. "What is normal to you could be fantastically interesting to someone else," he said.

CALIFORNIA
A niche industry is becoming obsolete on icy mountain roads in the Sierra Nevada. "Chain monkeys" — about 400 of them, mostly construction workers and loggers — would spend hours "shivering along the sides of the state’s snowiest roads," poised to help travelers wrap their tires with chains to help gain traction, reports the Los Angeles Times. The job came with hazards like frostbite and the tendency for drivers to run over chainers. These days, SUVs and 4-wheel drive cars don’t require chains, and the state has begun to plow more mountain roads. "We’re a dying breed," mourns Chris Lotito. "I’m really the last of the mountain men."

UTAH
Panhandlers will need a license to operate on street corners in Salt Lake City, if officials there have their way. But this begs the question: If panhandling is a profession, what standards should apply to its practitioners? Laurie J. Wilson, a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, points out that teachers have to get a certificate before they can teach. That might make sense for panhandlers, too: "Certainly, they are in the same income bracket as Utah’s teachers."

WASHINGTON
Enraged after hearing a speech by President Bush, Jody Mason chained himself to a government building in Olympia, Wash. Unfortunately, he attached himself to the wrong door. Instead of the federal Department of Energy, Mason padlocked himself to the door of the Washington State Grange, a nonprofit advocacy group for rural residents, reports the AP.

MONTANA
Rugged individualism lives on in The Big Sky state. Defying Gov. Judy Martz, the state Legislature defeated a bill that would have banned drinking while driving. Bill Muhs, a leader of the state’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, told the Los Angeles Times it was a cultural thing. "There’s still people here who measure distances in six-packs," he says. Bozeman to Billings, for instance, is a six-pack trip, while "crossing the state would be a whole case." One result: According to the LA Times, the state is second only to Mississippi for alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, CO. Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...