Dear Friends

  • Ramon with Cindy Strand and Bones

    Cindy Wehling

Ramon in Paonia

We're a little upset with Ramon - an activist against logging clearcuts whose 20 acres of private land is the staging ground for the continuing fight against fragmenting the Cove/Mallard area in central Idaho (HCN, 3/6/95). If we had known the exact day of Ramon's visit, we would have organized a public meeting to hear him speak and to tour the school bus he and Cindy Strand have outfitted as a camper. As it was, the only public event we came up with was letting him park his bus - with its rooftop hut and overhanging balcony - in front of our house overnight.

Ramon is Robert Amon, a 58-year-old retired insurance industry executive who, as he tells it, bit by bit lost his grip on a comfortable suburban life and fell into the woods. Aside from occasionally waking in a cold sweat over his predicaments - he's on the edge of bankruptcy and he's on parole - Ramon says he glories in his new life.

We didn't know Ramon in his salad days, when he was selling millions of dollars in insurance and overseeing hundreds of other salesmen for Equitable Life. And he didn't tell us exactly how he came unstuck from that life.

But it's easy to see that Ramon is a protester who would drive the cops, lawyers and judges crazy. For example, the loggers can't understand how someone who was once a successful executive could be at the heart of the effort to stop them. So they have come up with the theory that he is working undercover for a logging company, using protests to drive down timber sale prices so his firm can make a killing. It certainly makes more sense than the truth, which is that Ramon at some point in his middle age fell in love with nature and forests and is determined to save what he can.

Graybeards, Ramon says, confuse and perplex the cops and Forest Service, even if they don't bury themselves up to their necks in the road or chain themselves to bulldozers like the younger protesters.

Ramon's masterstroke has been his purchase of the 20-acre basecamp property "out from under the locals' noses," he says gleefully. Before the Cove/Mallard Coalition had private property, Ramon says, the Forest Service police harassed the protesters in their camps, delighting especially in videotaping protesters in the act of showering or urinating. Ramon says the Cove/Mallard Coalition has a video for sale, but "what I'd really like to see is the Forest Service videos."

With the help of Cindy Strand, the quartermaster general who keeps the protesters in food all summer, Ramon, Mike Roselle and Kristin Nelson organize the protests and educational hikes through the woods. In 1993, 500 protesters came through basecamp, with 160 on hand for the Memorial Day rendezvous. Ramon says 1994 was slow, since an injunction shut down logging, but he expects 1995 to hum, starting with Memorial Day.

Before telling us about his plans, Ramon warned that we were breaking an Idaho law by even discussing the matter. The so-called Earth First! law, passed in 1994 and signed by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus, makes it a felony to conspire to solicit people to block, impede or obstruct legal timber sales. Ramon says the law is being revised to include ranching and mining, and to make it a bit less unconstitutional.

You can contact Ramon or Kristin Nelson at 406/543-2929 for (felonious) information about this summer's events. Contributions to the care and feeding of those at the basecamp can be sent to the Cove/Mallard Coalition, P.O. Box 8968, Moscow, ID 83843. The "Beyond Borders' video, which describes the fight, is available for $15 from: The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Box 8731, Missoula, MT 59807. Two other videos, Cove/Mallard: Defending the Big Wild, and Forest Health: A Timber Salvage Story, are available for the same price from Cold Mountain/Cold Rivers, Box 7941, Missoula, MT 59807. The "Forest Health" video features Art Partridge of the University of Idaho's forestry department.

Welcome and more

Freelance writer Bruce Selcraig has two reasons to celebrate this month. Most important is his lead story in this issue on former House Speaker Tom Foley. To fill his plate, there is also the birth of May Hudson Selcraig on May 12 to Bruce and his spouse, Beth Hudson, a reporter for the Washington Post. May weighed in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces at the civilized hour of 5:47 p.m. She joins brother Cole in the family home in Austin, Texas.

Subscriber Tom G. Cordell of Moses Lake, Wash., in response to our spring survey, tells us he does not have access to the Internet and he certainly doesn't have a "web browser." He wrote, "It sounds like a hunting dog."

Former HCN intern Auden Schendler, now a math teacher at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, printed this advice in the school paper for those of his students who, somehow, are not caught by the wonders of numbers:

"Your struggles against mathematics are honorable but worthless. Your search for redeeming meaning in this class, as well as life, ultimately leads nowhere." But then Auden, perhaps thinking he'd thrown a bit too much nihilism at his young charges, adds:

"As mountaineer Ramsey Ullman said, one can find faith in the idea that there are those among us "willing to strive for wholly ideal ends." The battle to understand is punishing, bloody and senseless. But how noble!'

Potluck in Paonia

If you are going to be in or near Paonia, Colo., on Saturday, June 10, plan on attending our potluck dinner in the town park. It will start at 6:30 p.m. at 4th Ave. and North Fork. Please bring a potluck dish; we'll provide the beverages. (RSVP to Kristy at 303/527-4898).

HCN holds a potluck for readers three times a year, in step with the High Country Foundation's three board meetings. Most of this board meeting will be taken up by long-range planning. A new five-year plan is needed because, just as in the former Soviet Union, HCN's last five-year plan, created in 1988, achieved or exceeded all of its goals.

* Ed and Betsy Marston for the staff

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