OR show in CO?; runaway drone; an unexpected backcountry plunge

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

  • Lest you get confused.

    Krista Langlois
 

ARIZONA
The earth’s skin is so parched
in parts of Arizona that the land is literally splitting in two, with no ChapStick large enough to help. The newest fissure, 10 miles southwest of Picacho Peak State Park on Arizona state trust land, formed over the past few years and varies dramatically in size, state geologist Lee Allison reports in his blog, arizonageologist.blogspot.com. At 1.8 miles in length, it meanders from a narrow, inch-wide crack to a split as wide as 10 feet and 25 to 30 feet deep. Blame extensive groundwater withdrawal in the Sonoran Desert, which has already caused subsidence in Cochise, La Paz, Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.

UTAH
If it’s true, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said,
“the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function,” then the state of Utah is juggling reality in an increasingly rickety manner. Almost every elected official — from Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to the state Legislature and the congressional delegation — has asked President Donald Trump to rescind former President Barack Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. State leaders say this would free up the monument’s public land for extractive industries such as mining and drilling. Yet at the same time, Utah tourism officials enthusiastically promote Bears Ears on the state’s website, devoting several pages to the new monument’s scenic and recreational attractions, reports the Associated Press. The state’s bipolar, but mostly hostile, approach to public lands infuriated many in the outdoor recreation industry, with Patagonia and other companies “vowing to boycott” the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show, which brings about $45 million in annual spending to the state. A conference call between the governor and gear industry executives in February attempted to heal the breach, but neither side budged, and now, after two decades in Utah, the show is leaving Salt Lake City. A Colorado nonprofit, Conservation Colorado, would love to be the retailers’ new venue: In half-page ads in two of Utah’s largest newspapers, the group brags that Colorado has “stronger beer. We have taller peaks. … But most of all, we love our public lands.”

THE WEST
The über-urban and noir novelist Paul Auster
told The New York Times Book Review recently that his favorite book was a 628-page tome that nobody else had ever heard of: Weeds of the West, written by a team of 40 plant gurus and published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Though the color photos were splendid, he allowed, what really delighted him were the plants’ names: “Spreading dogbane. Skeleton-leaf bursage. Nodding beggarticks. Bristly hawksbeard. Tansy ragwort. Blessed milkthistle. Poverty sumpweed. Prostrate spurge. Everlasting peavine. Panicle willowweed. Ripgut brome.” Reading about weeds never fails to lift his spirits, he said, calling their names “the poetry of the American earth.” 

THE WEST
A runaway drone launched
in southern Arizona was finally found hundreds of miles away in Colorado, and now “the military is trying to figure out how it got there.” One theory: The $1.5 million Shadow drone, which weighs 450 pounds and has a wingspan of 20 feet, is capable of flying for eight or nine hours, and it just kept on trucking. The rogue drone was found stuck in a tree in the mountains west of Evergreen, Colorado, nine days after it was launched from Fort Huachuca, AP reports.

UTAH
Should you find yourself skiing off a 150-foot cliff
somewhere in the Wasatch Range of Utah, better hope you’re wearing your backpack. Devin Stratton told the Washington Post that his unexpected backcountry plunge felt like a “near-death experience,” until he realized that his landing had been cushioned by his backpack and two and a half feet of soft snow. When he first hit the ground, Stratton said it took him a few seconds to realize he was still alive; even more amazingly, he didn’t suffer “a scratch or a bruise.” And thanks to his decision to wear a GoPro camera that day, an edited video of his descent has gone viral.

THE WEST
Master gardener Peter Heffelfinger,
writing in the Whatcom Watch of Washington, assures his fellow gardening fanatics that spring is coming soon, and not just because those gaudy seed catalogs are sprouting up in mailboxes. But he had advice for folks itching to get their hands into the ground right now: “Be mindful of change. The weather will always be unexpected. It is best to remain flexible: re-sow when seeds rot out or plants go to seed early; plant a variety of vegetables, since what worked last year may fizzle this year. Try a few new things on the off chance they might work out well. Have lots of options. And be thankful for those tempting seed packets in February, as well as the cornucopia of vegetables starts in the nurseries when spring finally arrives. Seeds and starts are the gifts that last.”

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • 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....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.