Dear Friends

  • Karl Hess at a Paonia apple-packing shed

    Ed Marston

A long walk

Larry Tuttle called to say he was one day's walk from Denver, Colo., and the end of his 1,872-mile trek in support of mining law reform. It's been five months and two days on the road, he says, "but it feels like I just left." Tuttle reports that he's returning to Portland, Ore., with a renewed appreciation for the West and a larger network of people pushing for reform of the 1872 Mining Law.

His favorite state was Wyoming, especially where the plains and timber country meet around Laramie. And one surprising discovery: "Entirely too much underwear along the road."

Interesting range-fellows

Karl Hess Jr. of Las Cruces, N.M., came through to talk grazing and writing. Karl, who preaches the power of free markets, has been making common cause with some environmentalists to stake out new territory on a battlefield dominated by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt on the one hand and Sen. Pete Domenici, New Mexico Republican, on the other.

Hess argues that both Domenici and Babbitt would further enthrone government and dethrone the individual and nature. He has collected a coalition of environmentalists and fiscal conservatives to suggest a third way, summarized in an essay he wrote in HCN's Oct. 2 issue with Johanna Wald of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Hess also said that he and some fellow writers are working to create a consortium of Western writers, Writers on the Range, to distribute several op-ed pieces a week throughout the West. At present, the West is mainly represented on op-ed pages by Alston Chase, who does not always present the full spectrum of Western thought. Hess said his nascent group of about a dozen so far is looking for diversity.


In full cyling garb, Steve Peterson of Greeley, Colo., came by, having started seven days and 250 miles earlier from Cameron Pass on the Front Range. His bike, looking like a pink and purple backpack on wheels, carried 60 pounds of gear. Steve is a conservation technician with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, once known as the Soil Conservation Service.

Gail Denton of the very small town of Niwot, Colo., wrote to say that one of the original board members of a great group called Great Old Broads for Wilderness has died. She is Lyn Booker of Hanksville, Utah, who spent a lot of her time fighting to preserve Utah's dry, wild and beautiful canyon country.

Summer encampments

We also heard from Patrick Kleeman, a Park Service and National Biological Survey staffer in Eureka, Calif. He'd read in the "Heard around the West" column Aug. 21 about the Utah couple who had camped out illegally for 20 years near the Green River in Utah. That got him reflecting on his work.

Patrick, who does amphibian surveys in an attempt to find out why the populations of those animals are crashing, notes that one cause might be "summer encampments." The visitors all share the same characteristics, he says, speaking for himself and not his agency: They don't camp at an established campground; they're very close to a source of water, usually a creek; their presence compacts the soil and destroys vegetation at the campsite; and they leave trash behind.

"Many of the encampments that I saw had bars of soap and washing stations for clothes set up at the creek's edge ... When soap residue is introduced into a creek, it is going to throw off the natural biochemistry of the water that the natural organisms have evolved with.

"So if you are a foothill yellow-legged frog already struggling with the increased levels of ultraviolet radiation, ravenous introduced bullfrogs, tadpole-eating sunfish - also introduced - and the effects of pesticide residues from the agricultural industry in the central valley, it's going to look like high time to cash in your chips and move up that karmic ladder."

He fears that 20 years from now "I will look back upon the '90s as the decade that I could walk up a stream looking for frogs without running into a sullen father, with four children and a barking dog, telling me, "You won't see any frogs up here!" But it's already too late for that since that episode has happened. Today's dispossessed need a place to live, and I don't blame them for seeking the beauties of nature. I just ask that they see it for what it is and give thought to their actions."


High Country News sees itself as a free-market creature - almost all of its revenue comes directly from the paper's readers. Advertising is only 1 percent of our budget. As a result, we have been somewhat cavalier about rejecting ads that staff doesn't think fit the paper (we guess that's our non-free-market side).

But in the next three issues you will see an ad for "the world's best toothbrush holder." What you won't see is the letter from president-inventor, and very recent subscriber, Fred Dexter, that convinced us to run the ad. Here's an excerpt:

"Lastly, I am dedicated to a healthy planet and contribute a portion of my profits to several environmental groups who share my concerns. I hope that my ad will be deemed acceptable by HCN - I believe that people who wear T-shirts, read singles advertisements, and install composting toilets probably all can appreciate a neater bathroom."

Who are we to say that a composting toilet or a T-shirt is an ecologically more evolved item than the best toothbrush holder in the world? We should say that compared with determining which ads fit HCN and which don't, such issues as global warming and grazing are a snap.

All in the name department

While a makeshift crew mans the office in the Marstons' absence, it seems like many Mannings are mingling in this issue. Staff reporter Elizabeth Manning should not be confused with the wise-use leader Dick Manning on page 3, who should not be confused with environmentalist Dick Manning, whose book is reviewed on page 7. Meanwhile, Ed and Betsy Marston are touring Cornwall, England, which should not be confused with Cornwall, Warren, one of HCN's interns.

- Betsy and Ed Marston (and the staff) for the staff

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