Letters to the editor, September 2022

Comments from readers.

 

HOPE AFTER TRAGEDY

Thank you for the “Our Fiery Future” issue (August 2022), especially Madeline Ostrander’s article, “After the Flames.” As my community struggles with the flooding and aftermath of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire, FEMA and the national spotlight have moved on to the tragic and devastating floods of Kentucky. There are many lessons to be learned from Carlene Anders and the town of Pateros, including the importance of preparedness for the next disaster. Sarah Gilman’s illustrations are beautiful and representative of the scenery that surrounds me. Within the burn scars, the wildflowers, native grasses and oak brush are thriving. That gives me hope for the forest, but I’m still grasping at “practical optimism” amid the despair. 

Virginia Mattingly 
Mora, New Mexico 

 

ENLIGHTENING

Thank you to HCN and Austyn Gaffney for the piece on coal seam fires (“The Fires Below,” August 2022). Very enlightening — even to someone who worked in wildland firefighting in Montana. Well done. 

Traute Parrie
Red Lodge, Montana

 

PRESCRIBED BURN PROBLEMS

Thank you for Jonathan Thompson’s reporting on the “Forever Fire Season” (August 2022). Having worked on many prescribed burns and studied the Las Dispensas prescribed fire escape, I question a few points in his piece. The Forest Service staff was under pressure from supervisors to get burning done. Conditions were not favorable for a prescribed burn, but were far too dry, as evidenced by the test burn, which exhibited extreme fire behavior. The agency had grossly understaffed the burn, and reinforcements were hours away. The burn was out of control within three hours of ignition. Federal standards that are meant to ensure the safety of prescribed burning were violated at a time when it is increasingly necessary and perilous in the drying climate Thompson describes.

Tom Ribe
Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

OBJECTIONS

Yes! Thank you, Jennifer Sahn, for the simple editor’s note in your August 2022 edition. I couldn’t agree more that a better world “is both possible and worth fighting for.” And High Country News is a big part of that vision.

Gavin Dahl
Salt Lake City, Utah

 

ENTHRALLED AGAIN
I don’t often read the Letters section in HCN, but “resubscribed” caught my attention, because I was going to let my subscription lapse also. Not because High Country News doesn’t have great stories that I can’t read anyplace else, but because they slice right to the heart (my heart included) of so many important issues facing our world.  I was on the verge of stopping the subscription due to increasing anxiety over our country when your latest issue arrived.

I’m once again enthralled with the articles. I’m particularly pleased to see artwork illustrating one story, “After the Flames,” and the story on Utah Museum of Art (“Deep breath”). Art can be uplifting and informative. Even on your back cover, “I am the West,”  you could feature an artist who through their art brings attention to not only the beauty of the West, but the psyche as well.

Ellen Gust
Palo Alto, California

 

ATTUNED TO THE WEST

Thanks for keeping me in touch with the West. I don’t travel much anymore, but when my late wife was with us, we’d head out to Colorado once or twice each year, to visit family and then explore the back roads and blue highways between New Mexico and Montana, mostly up along the Continental Divide or out into the Utah desert. We’ve been through Paonia twice, on our way to or from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

But the scenery is one thing — the life of the place is quite another. And you keep me attuned to the lives people are living, in a place very different than North Carolina. Thanks for writing about the life you’re living there.

Michael Elvin Fuquay-Varina,
North Carolina

 

NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

The June 2022 article by Terry Tempest Williams accompanying Emmet Gowin’s photos of the Nevada nuclear weapons test site is a sober testimony to America’s test explosions, numbering 100 in the atmosphere and over 900 under the Nevada desert (“Man Looking Down Earth Looking Upward”).

The article also accurately enumerates the current U.S. nuclear arsenal at 3,750 deployed warheads. Her citing Russia’s nuclear saber rattling in the Ukraine war reminds us that threatening to use nuclear weapons is, in fact, using nuclear weapons!

However, the article makes no mention of an existing path to rid the world of nuclear weapons: the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). For the 61 nations that have ratified this treaty, it is now illegal to develop, test, produce, manufacture, transfer or receive nuclear weapons. While no one is advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament, the nine nuclear-armed nations could move toward multilateral action, which is spelled out in this treaty. Such disarmament would be irreversible, be verifiable under intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, be transparent, be time-bound and be enforced by U.N. forces. 

David A. Spence
Flagstaff, Arizona

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