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Know the West

Heard around the West


The national forests are lands of many uses, but not all uses are created equal. Every once in a while, one use trumps another. On the Helena National Forest recently, 22 Herefords drank too deeply from an arsenic-laced tailings pond at an abandoned mine near Helena, Mont. Fearful lest the dead cows poison bears and coyotes, the Forest Service used a backhoe to bury 15 of them. But the other seven were out of reach of machinery, so the agency called on Don Senn, a Forest Service explosives expert who usually prefers explosives to paperwork.

Not this time. He gagged each time he had to wrap his explosive fireline cord around a putrefying animal. And the sight of rapidly dispersing cow flesh did nothing for him. "It was horrible, disgusting." Only his "last shot was pretty satisfying," he told the Billings Gazette. "I had a clear view of it. And I knew I was finished."


Poaching is poaching, whether you use a gun or simply stoop to pick up 118 pounds of elk antlers. As a result of his heavy lifting within Yellowstone National Park, Michael D. Belderrain, 23, of Whitehall, Mont., will spend 14 days in jail, five years on probation, and will make restitution of $3,500.


Some day the Greater Yellowstone Interagency Brucellosis Committee will define and then solve the brucellosis problem in and around Yellowstone National Park. But first it needs a letterhead on which to transmit its findings. And choosing a design was no easy matter. One member of the group of state and federal bureaucrats said the letterhead issue has occupied a "heckuva" lot of time.

According to the Casper Star-Tribune, after a contentious meeting in late August, a majority voted for a letterhead showing an elk and calf on the left and two bison on the right. In between are the group's initials: GYIBC. Missing, opponents said, is the real point of the GYIBC: a cow. According to Skip Ladd of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "I don't think we would be here were it not for the livestock connection."

But the letterhead victory went to those who say brucellosis carried by bison and elk is a threat to human beings, who can get undulant fever, and has nothing to do with cattle grazing in Montana and Wyoming. Despite the human connection, the group also rejected a suggestion to add a human to the letterhead.


Until now, the rare black-footed ferret faced what passes for a "natural" problem in the West: the destruction or paving over of the colonies of prairie dogs, which are the ferrets' prey. But in August a new enemy struck: inadequate air-conditioning in the back of a Chevrolet Suburban. As a result, Associated Press reported, seven ferrets expired from heat exhaustion during a six-hour trip from Wheatland, Wyo., to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "pre-release conditioning center" in Pueblo, Colo. The ferrets were to be tutored there to hunt and kill prairie dogs.


The health food craze has been slow to invade rural Idaho. For over 25 years, the Teton Valley Cowbelles have raised money by selling beef fudge at the county fair. It's more popular even than s'mores locally. JoAnn Sessions told the Teton Valley News: "Most people buy $5 to $10 worth and take it home on a plate."

The recipe: 2 cups sugar, 16 large marshmallows, 2/3 cup Sego brand milk, and 1/2 cup butter. Cook over slow heat, stirring constantly until mixture bubbles. Continue stirring and cook 5 minutes at a boil. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup ground roast beef (cooked, then cooled), and 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Pour into greased cake pan and cool.


Students in Norwood, Colo., who complain that school is like prison could soon have a basis for comparison. San Miguel County plans to build a 32-prisoner jail across the street from the public school. At a recent meeting, outraged residents, many of whom commute 30 miles to work in the resort town of Telluride, wondered if their upscale neighbors would be willing to take on the county project.

Steve Hilliard told the Telluride Daily Planet: "I've got to believe, even if you gave it to them (for free), that the people in Telluride would be absolutely screaming, and that would be the end of it."


Four Montana women, dressed in dark, conservative suits, handed out more than 100 pink slips, sweetened with free doughnuts, to employees at the Forest Service's Northern Region headquarters in Missoula, Mont. The mock firings were inspired by President Clinton's signing of the salvage logging rider. The slips said:

"We are terribly sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused, but as the Agency is no longer obligated to disclose its actions to the public, or to conduct effects analyses of its projects, there is no longer any need for technicians, scientists, NEPA specialists, or writers." According to Jennifer Ferenstein, one of the suits, only the engineering and timber departments survived the faux layoffs.


Most college presidencies are filled by this time of the year. But you might still get hired on at the Idaho Falls Institute of Arts and Technology. When the college's board discovered that its new president, Ted Carpenter, had a drive-through Ph.D. from a Michigan correspondence school called University of Berkley, and not, as board members had thought, from the University of California at Berkeley, it demoted Carpenter to head of admissions and set out to find a replacement. According to the Idaho Falls Post Register, Carpenter was kept on because board members thought the confusion between Berkley and Berkeley might have been an honest mistake. Plus, the new college needed an admissions director.


Under its deposed CEO Harry Merlo, Louisiana-Pacific Corp. was known for playing fast and loose with the environment. No more. Merlo's successor, Donald Kayser, wrote to shareholders this summer using vivid green ink:

"In the long term, we see ourselves creating market opportunities out of environmental issues. We are already offering a complete line of totally chlorine-free pulp ... Our forest management practices, with the help of computer models, will allow us to scientifically maximize the sustainability and species protection of our forests."


Bill Villers' mother apparently forgot to tell him not to hang out with the wrong kind of kids. As a result, the 47-year-old Idahoan was caught scraping eight acres of the Salmon National Forest in search of gold. First he tried to brazen out what one state official called "recreational bulldozing." Villers said he didn't need federal permission because federal land is really owned by the states. Then, on the second day of the trial, he pled guilty: "I got stupid because I was listening to the wrong people." U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced Villers to six months of home detention, five years of probation and a fine of $20,000, according to the Idaho Falls Post Register.

Heard Around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]