Dear friends

  • Summer interns Greg Hanscom and Jared Farmer

    Cindy Wehling

We brake for summer

We skip the next issue of High Country News because, we like to joke, everyone needs a chance to catch up on their HCN reading. Some of us here will hike, bike or cheer for kids at summer baseball games, others will head for "meditation camp" in New Mexico, and all of us will probably grab that tool of torture, the hoe, as we rediscover our weed-encroached gardens. Summer is always too brief. The next issue of the paper will be dated July 22.

Odds and ends

A ripple of laughter ran through the office after a librarian queried HCN circulation guru Gretchen Nicholoff about how he could reach a group he thought was called the "grand ol' bags." It turned out he wanted those intrepid hikers and fighters for Utah wilderness, Great Old Broads.

While HCN board member and hydrologist Dan Luecke knows full well the old saw that dam projects never die, he says he was elated when a federal judge recently backed up the EPA in its veto of the Two Forks Dam in Colorado. Judge Richard Matsch, who will soon take on the Oklahoma bombing case, ruled that metro-area challengers to the EPA's turndown lacked standing and had no case. Luecke, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the judge's decision means that "this dam, while not dead, is packed in dry ice." For Luecke, it's been a long siege: Sixteen years ago, he began investigating the Denver Water Board's plan to build a huge reservoir on the South Platte River to store water from the Western Slope of the Rockies. In its veto some six years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency said the $1 billion, 615-foot dam would cause excessive and unacceptable environmental damage, and that other alternatives, including water conservation, were available.

We welcome former HCN intern Rob Bleiberg to the 50-mile neighborhood of western Colorado. Rob recently became an administrator with the Mesa County Land Conservancy in Palisade after finishing up a master's degree in environmental sciences from the University of Michigan.

We send condolences to Heidi George in Salt Lake City, whose husband, Scott, 36, recently died while jogging. Scott George worked as an environmental assessor of wilderness trades and other projects proposed for federal land in the West; he was also involved as a volunteer with Citizens for the Protection of Logan Canyon. Besides his wife, he leaves a year-old son, Tanner, and a baby yet to be born. His friend, Don R. Hickman, tells us those who want to remember him might want to contribute to a scholarship fund for the children, care of Heidi George, 1744 South 1900 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 or to the HCN Research Fund.

Welcome, summer interns

Jared Farmer drove to Paonia in a mustard-colored '75 Plymouth Duster; for both car and driver it marked the first real departure from home. The Duster is a multigenerational car, having passed from Jared's grandpa to his dad to his brother to a sister to himself to another sister, and back again.

Jared, for his part, is a lifelong Utahn and a brand-new alumnus of Utah State University. At USU, he earned a B.A. in history with an unofficial minor in back massage. His hobbies include baking desserts, playing piano and mailing postcards. He spends most free time, however, locked up in libraries. Jared likes to think he is writing a book about Glen Canyon of the Colorado River.

Whether he ends up in history or journalism or something even nuttier, Jared will be writing about the West, he tells us.

Walking down Paonia's main street for the first time, new intern Greg Hanscom noted the white P on a hill high above town, and the sign in the deli window that read "Enjoy Colorado Beef EVERY DAY."

It felt a lot like home, he says. Home is Park City, Utah, which Greg, 23, left to study art and environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. But summers he came back to the West to work for the Summit Land Trust in Park City, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in Salt Lake City, and the Glacier Institute in West Glacier, Mont. Most recently, he spent a year in northern Vermont working as an administrator for the Center for Northern Studies, where college students study the people and environment of the Arctic. Greg says his time in Vermont gave him an appreciation for ecological recovery, dry wit and a warm sense of community.

This fall he heads to Missoula, Mont., to work toward a master's degree in environmental writing at the University of Montana.

On the ground in Utah

Associate editor Paul Larmer recently trekked across the Colorado border to La Sal, Utah, home of reader and third-generation rancher Hardy Redd. Redd had invited an eclectic group of ranchers, environmentalists, politicians and land managers to examine parts of his 6,000-acre ranch with tour leader Dan Dagget, the environmental activist-turned-author who believes ranchers can both improve their land and stay in business. Here is Paul Larmer's report:

Dagget's contrarian philosophy, espoused in his book, Beyond the Rangeland Conflict, hinges on the premise that the land is not always what it seems, a point he drove home on our field trip. A riparian area trampled every year by hundreds of cattle looked in fairly good shape, while some uplands on the Redd ranch lacked grass and forbs despite being off limits to cattle for years.

At what some guests jokingly referred to as "Hardy's nuclear test site," Hardy is allowing some ornery bulls to fertilize and beat down a sagebrush pasture for several months. Hardy said he hoped the pasture would rebound into a lush grassland next year after some seeding and rain.

The West is full of these anomalies, said Dagget, because the land is more complicated - and more resilient - than it appears. "When we can get out on the ground together and start looking at what's really happening, the situation can be changed to "us versus the problem," instead of "us versus them," and we won't have to waste millions of dollars on lawyers."

For Redd, who grazes 100,000 acres of BLM land in the winter and 40,000 acres of the Manti La Sal National Forest in the summer, the afternoon was a foray into relationships he hopes will continue.

* Betsy Marston, for the staff

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