Skoolies; preservation vs. profit; forest therapy

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

 

CALIFORNIA: Maybe they should ask Oregon State University (see below).
Roy E. Glauthier

COLORADO
Would you like to call a school bus home? Charlie Kern, founder of Denver-based Chrome Yellow Corp., can make that happen. He builds “skoolies,” used school buses that he guts and converts into homes for up to eight people, the Denver Post reports in its special section, The Know. They’re ideal for travelers who want to camp a couple of weeks on public land or at RV parks, though some prefer to park the retrofitted buses permanently. Since he started his business in 2014, Kern has put 60 skoolies on the road. “Honestly,” he says, “I think part of it is that good-looking people on social media are doing it.” Tony LoVerde, who lives in the Boulder area, said that he’s been converting a $7,500 school bus into a home since 2015. He hopes to be done this fall, $40,000 later, having created a recreational vehicle with solar power, refrigerator, an AC unit and a washing machine. “I learned if you’re living in it while you’re doing it, every comfort you install feels like (expletive) magic,” LoVerde said. Yet Kern warns that skoolies have downsides, including engine repair costs that can mount to $20,000, and diesel fuel that only gets you 9 or 10 miles to the gallon. There’s also the little problem of living in a cramped tiny house. LoVerde, however, is looking forward to driving his rig to Ehrenberg, Arizona, this winter for “Skooliepalooza 2020,” where more than 300 skoolie owners show up in order to show off their rigs.

OREGON
A tree that started growing in 1599 — about the time Shakespeare was thinking about Hamlet — died suddenly this May. Not because of thieves, wildfire or disease: The 420-year-old Douglas fir was logged by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University in Corvallis, reports the Oregonian. The sale of the 16 acres of old-growth trees, many of them more than 250 years old, brought in $425,000, but destroying “this alley of big, majestic trees” was a terrible thing to do, said Doug Pollack, a former sustainability engineer who discovered the logging while out on a run. Norm Johnson, a retired Oregon State professor who fought unsuccessfully to include the trees in the college’s protected areas, was equally appalled: “They knew it was special, they knew it was different,” he said. “You got these really old trees here, which are themselves magnificent, but there’s a stand of them. It’s just remarkable.” There is no denying that Oregon State University has divided loyalties when it comes to preservation versus profit. The forestry college “has strong financial links to the timber industry (and) numerous faculty positions are endowed by timber companies — including the deanship,” according to the Oregonian’s Rob Davis. The forestry school’s interim dean, Anthony Davis, has acknowledged that he should not have approved the logging and has since temporarily halted the cutting of trees more than 160 years old on the university’s 15,000 acres of research forests.

WASHINGTON
Let’s hear it for the bees that defied some not-very-bright poachers who were out to steal a prized bigleaf maple in Washington’s Olympic National Forest. The trees are much sought after for their patterned wood, which is used to make guitars and violins. When the thieves, in what the Washington Post described as their “bumbling efforts,” set a fire in the maple to kill the bee colony, it ultimately ravaged trees on 2,300 acres of protected federal and state land, at a firefighting cost of $4.5 million. When Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward Williams first located the maple with its enormous, fanlike leaves, they “doused the nest in wasp killer.” The bees refused to budge. The poachers’ next bad idea was that “Wilke would kill the bees by burning the nest.” Not surprisingly, the blaze spread and became unstoppable; only a lucky rainfall calmed it four days later. The two men face charges with possible sentences of up to five or 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000.

MONTANA
A sleepy black bear opened a door to the mudroom of a home in Missoula, reports KPAX, then accidentally used a deadbolt to lock himself in. Once trapped, the bear began ripping the room apart. Tearing apart rooms is hard work, though, so he “then decided he was tired and climbed up into the closet for a nap.” The Missoula County sheriff unlocked and opened the door, hoping the bear would leave, but the only response was more “big bear yawns.” State wildlife finally tranquilized the bear and moved it out of town.

THE WEST
“Forest bathing,” defined as a ramble among trees with all senses opened to the outdoors, began in Japan in the 1980s, and is now spreading across America, reports the Denver Post. Kayla Weber, who leads forest-therapy outings in Vail, says, “We don’t go far and we don’t travel fast. We take the opportunity to slow down and connect back to our surroundings.” Researchers say a forest visit can reduce concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol and also lower blood pressure and pulse rate. In Colorado, though, it can be difficult to find a path through a forest that doesn’t turn into a high-elevation slog. “The goal is to find those rolling, relaxing trails,” says Weber.

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
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....