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
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.