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Know the West

Old friends and new adventures


Wildflowers abound in the Colorado Rockies right now, and as warmer weather settles in, yellow glacier lilies and purple two-lobed larkspur have begun to grace our hikes. What a great time to welcome back an old friend — Michelle McClellen, who interned at HCN in 1996. Michelle was visiting Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park, and decided to stop by her old stomping grounds. We tracked down a photo of her and her co-intern, Bill Taylor, Birkenstocks and all, to jog old memories. Michelle now lives in Oregon and works as senior communications manager at the Oregon Health Authority. HCN was transformative for her career, she says, thanks to then-Editor Betsy Marston’s sharp editing skills.

We also welcomed Rob and Amber Trout, with their young daughter, Theia. Amber, a former subscriber, hopes to renew, now that some of her work and mom obligations are easing up. The three are looking for a new home and considering Paonia. Hope to see you all back here soon!

Executive Director Paul Larmer recently returned from a three-week 4,500-mile “drive-about” vacation through a big chunk of the West. Out bird-watching in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains, he failed to spot the elusive trogon but did encounter a bridled titmouse, a painted redstart — and, one night, a thirsty bobcat. (No word on what the bobcat was drinking; they probably shared a frosty IPA.)

In Tucson, Project Lighthawk flew Paul over the Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers, which rise in Mexico but flow into the United States. Three longtime HCN readers soared with him over cottonwood galleries, copper mines and subdivisions: pilot Greg Bedinger; Seth Cothrun, communications director at the Sonoran Institute; and Ed Curley, a razor-witted retiree from the Pima County Wastewater Reclamation District.

Later, in Yuma, Arizona, Paul rendezvoused with HCN board member Osvel Hinojosa, director of water and wetlands for ProNatura Noroeste, based in San Luis Rio, Mexico. They trekked south to the lowest reaches of the Colorado River, which are poorly sustained by an incredibly complex plumbing system that exploits agricultural wastewater. “They say that by the time it gets here, the water has already been used seven times,” Osvel says.

His group works with a bi-national coalition to secure more water and regular pulse flows to revive the Delta, which somehow endures; Paul says they identified 105 species of birds in two days! But political changes in the U.S. and Mexico have put negotiations on hold. One of the strangest sights: thousands of acres of dead invasive saltcedar, or tamarisk, inundated by seawater after a 2010 earthquake tilted land and changed the tides from the Gulf of California. That’s one way to control an exotic species.

And finally, a correction. In our cover story “Prison Town” (HCN, 5/15/17), we misidentified a roadway: It’s U.S. Route 395, not Interstate 395. We apologize for the error.