Dear Friends


Woe is Montana

Poor Montana. And we aren't even counting the Freemen extortionists who won't come out of their rooms. No, the latest slam against the "last best place" comes from a grumpy editor of the (need we say powerful?) New York Times Magazine. James Atlas' family vacation near Yellowstone and Glacier national parks was such a dud, he tells us in his newspaper's The Sophisticated Traveler Magazine May 12, that he couldn't wait to return to grubby New York:

"The next morning we got up at 6 o'clock and drove to the Bozeman airport. There was a brief delay: the plane was overbooked. People were being offered $700 to give up their seats and take a later flight. Uh-uh. As we lumbered down the runway, I sank back in my seat with relief and cracked open my copy of Middlemarch. Phew!"

Why was Montana such a flop? Atlas tells us he was a victim of "salvational" brochures that promised an exotic getaway. What he found was a time-warp "50s mentality at Glacier National Park, where college students wearing name and state tags serve "Bucky Beaver Hamburgers," and an all-too familiar Dairy Queen along a highway. Then the vacation went from tacky to scary when a park ranger talked happily about "the recent growth in the predator population," and ominous trail signs warned hikers about grizzly habitat ahead. Atlas felt safe from grizzlies only on crowded trails and on a raft trip. But the river was cold and miserable, and when a young boy was flipped out of the raft, Atlas began to yearn for grizzlies. The final misadventure was a terrifying horseback ride with a wrangler who kept asking: "Yuh havin' fun?" If we had to guess, we'd say this is one family that's not making for the West anytime soon. Phew!

Notes from all over

What electronic mail can never replace is the sight of someone's handwriting. We get to see a lot of this personal expression this time of year as we pore over reader surveys, gleaning them for tips, rejoinders and a few slams. Our reigning favorite came neatly printed: "My name is Kelsie, and I live in Moab. I'm 8 years old. I'm sending two dollars of my allowance to help your research fund, because I think my home is beautiful. Thanks, Kelsie Defrancia." And thanks to you, Kelsie.

Congratulations to former HCN intern Anders Halverson, who just won a fistful of awards from the Idaho Press Club for his environmental, political, agricultural, "serious feature" and investigative reporting for the Idaho Mountain Express. What we had trouble grasping was why Anders only placed second for Rookie of the Year.

We need to correct the name of the institution that has created the Timothy E. Wirth Chair in Environmental and Community Development Policy. It is the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado at Denver, not the University of Denver.

Hot spring weather has brought a trickle of visitors, including Mark Peterson, the new Rocky Mountain regional director for the National Parks and Conservation Association. He replaces Terri Martin in Salt Lake City, who's taking a break after 14 years. Mark, along with environmental consultant Randy Rasmussen of Fort Collins, Colo., was talking to people in Western Colorado about Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's plans to turn the Black Canyon National Monument into a full-fledged park. Because the proposal lacks sufficient environmental protection, Mark says, the expansion is really "park barrel."

We also visited with Jeffrey Berman, executive director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance, about the Telluride ski resort's plans to expand.

* Betsy Marston, for the staff

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