Heard around the West

  • A kiss from Montana

    Ann Twomey
 

MONTANA

Every year, as many as 700 deer collide with cars in Montana’s Ravalli County — so many that the roadsides reek to high heaven. It’s a big problem, made worse by the fact that growing populations of both deer and people have reduced the number of places where deer carcasses can be "discreetly dumped," according to the Ravalli Republic. It costs the county $135 every time it hauls dead deer to a landfill in Missoula. But there’s a surprisingly inexpensive solution available, and everybody involved is raving about it — composting. Doug Moeller, a maintenance chief for the state’s Department of Transportation, learned how to do the job at a workshop in Maine, and came back a true believer. Although Scott Reeseman, the local supervisor who has to maintain the compost pile, told himself at the beginning, "Oh, man, this is gonna be ugly," he says now, "It hasn’t been that bad." This is how the pilot project works: High-carbon materials — wood chips, for example — are heaped a foot high on an asphalt bed. The deer carcasses are piled on this, and then more chips, sawdust or chipped tree trimmings — all delivered free — are layered on top. This heats the pile up to 150 degrees; when the temperature drops, the carcasses must be turned over. The process takes three months, but when it’s over, there’s no more decomposing deer, just compost. So far, the county has composted 511 animals, and in a fitting gesture, plans to use the resulting black dirt along Montana roadsides.

WYOMING AND AFGHANISTAN

Sometimes, low-tech warfare is the way to go. In high-altitude Afghanistan, helicopters are being replaced in some areas by donkeys. That is where rural Wyoming comes in: Thirty-one soldiers in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division recently spent a week in a barn near Powell, learning the ways of donkeys. The soldiers got hands-on instruction — including some "buck-offs" — in packing and unpacking the animals, tying and untying knots, and other skills. Donkeys and mules are expected to be valuable in Afghanistan because they’re unobtrusive and can ferry people and equipment over 16,000-foot passes — 2,000 feet higher than an Army helicopter can fly, reports The Associated Press.

THE WEST

"Obsolete, offensive and obscure" bumper stickers are for sale by Earth First! Journal, at the bargain rate of 50 cents each or four for $1, while supplies last. Here’s a sampling: "Pregnancy: Another Deadly Sexually Transmitted Disease," "Hunters: Did a cow get your elk?" and, "I’ll Take My Beef Poached, Thanks." The magazine can be reached at P.O. Box 3023, Tucson, AZ 85702.

CALIFORNIA

Arthur Winston, a Los Angeles bus maintenance worker who made news by finally retiring on his 100th birthday, died just a few weeks later. He missed only one day of work, reports The New York Times, and that was in 1988, when his wife of 65 years died. Winston said he’d thought about retiring three decades ago, but kept working to support family members who wanted to go to college or otherwise needed money. Winston had hoped to use his free bus pass to explore the city and perhaps volunteer: "I’ll be on the move," he promised. "I’m not going to sit and mope in the house."

MONTANA

Butte, Mont., boasts a restored brothel, an Evel Knievel Days for motorcycle buffs, and now, a moneymaking tourist attraction: the 900-foot-deep Berkeley Pit. This is the pit that began filling with acid-mine drainage from copper mines in 1982, and now holds some 36 billion gallons of water "laden with arsenic, copper, cadmium, cobalt, iron and zinc," reports AP. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Chamber of Commerce has discovered a gold mine in this toxic stew. The chamber began charging tourists $1 last year to see the pit, and made almost $20,000 in only four months. This year, it raised the admission price to $2, and plans to make the Superfund site even more attractive to visitors. The azure-blue waters of the pit and its mining history might fascinate the paying customers, but the place can be deadly for the unwary. In 1995, 342 migrating snow geese made the mistake of touching down on the pit’s tainted waters. All died before they could fly away.

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

High Country News Classifieds
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING IN TAOS, NEW MEXICO www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.
  • ACREAGE WITH HOME, SHOP, BARN FOR SALE!
    Must see for sng/extd fam or corp retreat in pines! $1,030,000
  • WESTERN REGIONAL MANAGER
    The American Forest Foundation seeks a smart and highly motivated candidate to join our Western conservation team. The Regional Manager supports the Regional Director to...
  • TRANSPORTATION PLANNER
    Exciting opportunity to lead the charge on meeting the future transportation demands of our community! This position will develop, coordinate, and implement the Integrated Transportation...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING INSTITUTE (EWI)
    with Robert Michael Pyle September 26-30, 2018, in Missoula MT.
  • REPORTING FELLOW - BOISE, ID
    Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Reporting Fellow as part of a new nationwide collaborative, Guns & America. Based in the state capitol, Boise...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Rifle, CO.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RIVERSEDGE WEST (FORMERLY TAMARISK COALITION)
    RiversEdge West is seeking an entrepreneurial leader with solid nonprofit management skills to lead our high functioning team and help us make an impact on...
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR WITH WRA
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a talented, organized person with great people skills, who is passionate about protection of the natural environment to work...
  • DIRECTOR OF REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
    The Wilderness Society is recruiting for an experienced Communicator for our Northwest Region. This position is located in Seattle, WA. For more information please visit...
  • SALMON RIVER IDAHO WILDERNESS RETREAT HOME
    Here is an opportunity to have a piece of self-sufficient paradise on Idaho's Main Salmon River adjacent to the largest Forest Service wilderness area in...
  • RAMMED EARTH SOLAR COTTAGE
    in 5-home conservation community & botanical sanctuary on 20 acres.
  • MEMBERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation is looking for an enthusiastic and innovative Membership and Engagement Coordinator to help grow and maintain our grassroots voice for wildife,...
  • SR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is excited to announce a Sr Environmental Planner position within the Natural Areas Department. This position will be housed within...
  • HISTORICAL VACATION CABIN
    on beautiful Snow Angel Ranch located within San Juan National Forest near Pagosa Springs, CO. Lakes, fly-fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, horse trails, horse accommodations...
  • FIVE-ACRE VIEW LOT WITH WELL
    5 acres, well. Abuts Carson NF; hike fish ski; deer turkey elk.