Heard around the West

  • MONTANA: Snow-jogging in Helena



Some call it pork, the 11,000 or so local projects stuffed into the $388 billion spending bill just passed by Congress. Others, such as the Democrats’ new minority leader, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, call it money well spent and brag about it. Thanks to Reid’s clout, Nevada was awarded nearly $200 million for projects such as a $500,000 hospice unit and $100,000 for a domestic-violence safe house, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But it was a little grant — for a mere $25,000 — that got Clark County schools onto the "pork barrel" list compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense. The $25,000 grant will fund mariachi band instruction as an alternative to chorus and regular band.


Environmental opponents of the scanty-panty company, Victoria’s Secret, have dogged the firm’s nationwide promotional tour billed as Angels Across America. In Los Angeles, critics from the nonprofit ForestEthics donned angel wings and unfurled a banner reading, "Victoria’s Secret: Their catalogs destroy endangered forests." The activists said the company was responsible for logging old-growth trees, particularly in Canada: Every year, it mails 395 million catalogs, with the average customer receiving 24 of them annually.


A pizzeria owner and town councilman from the two-block, western Colorado town of Paonia, population 1,500, is going head-to-head against Starbucks. After the king of caffeine (8,200 coffeehouses) announced it would move into bars, restaurants and liquor stores to sell its brand-new sweet and alcoholic Starbucks Coffee Liqueur, Zach Mann, the father of a teenage girl, created his own Web site called Stardrunks.com. Mann told the Rocky Mountain News that he and his supporters also spent $5,000 to rent a vacant lot in Denver near a Starbucks. The lot was crowded with over 2,000 crosses to represent young people from 15 to 20 who’d been killed in car accidents that involved underage drinking. "I have no problem with alcohol," said Mann, who sells wine and beer at his pizzeria, Pizza My Heart. "I have trouble with irresponsible use of alcohol and … irresponsible marketing of alcohol."


Two preachers who should have known better got nailed in Wyoming for a "poaching spree" that resulted in three deer being killed secretly and then hidden on a rancher’s property. The pastors — from Buhl, Idaho, and West Jordan, Utah — recently pleaded guilty to violations that included hunting without a license and trespassing, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. "They should have hunted by the book," said Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesperson Lucy Wold. "Honesty is the best policy."


Officers also nabbed poachers in Colorado’s remote La Garita Wilderness, ending bow-and-arrow elk-poaching careers that began almost two decades ago. Division of Wildlife staffers did their sleuthing the hard way — camping without fires and setting up hidden video cameras and digital voice recorders during the three-year investigation. "We’re not just driving around in our trucks drinking coffee and whistling cowboy songs," said Brian Bechaver, the district wildlife manager who led the investigation. "This case was solved through a combination of old-time warden woodsmen skills … and modern technology." In a plea bargain, the three poachers from Kansas agreed to pay fines totaling $45,000. They also lost their hunting privileges.


The "Blotter" of the Jackson Hole News&Guide likes to report solved crimes as well as the latest infractions. So we note that the disappearance of a homeowner’s outdoor chaise lounge was more of an unintentional borrowing than a theft: Neighbors spotted a bull moose wearing the wooden lounge on its impressive rack. The paper also reported that a wallet thought stolen in the Rancher Bar was found in the mouth of a rottweiler named Suzy, who was chewing on it in a corner of the bar. Meanwhile, town police say it’s time for Suzy and the estimated 5,200 other local dogs to be leashed while out in public. The U.S. Forest Service says it’s distressed by what’s been happening at two popular areas near town: Dogs are depositing an estimated 80 pounds of unscooped poop on trails every day.

Betsy Marston writes Heard around the West and is also editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado.

High Country News Classifieds