June 2009

Finding the radical middle ground

By Art Goodtimes

COLO. FOREST RESTORATION INST. … For 15 years the Public Land Partnership has been creating a regional table of trust for a diverse bunch of stakeholders involved with (or living adjacent to) the Uncompahgre National Forest. It’s won national awards and been featured by the Ford Foundation as one of the national models for a working community partnership on forest issues. Begun in Montrose and Delta counties in 1994, it was four or five years into its process before Ouray Commissioner Alan Staehle talked San Miguel County into joining. Out of that important networking and informational process have come more result-oriented spin-offs, including science conferences, the landscape-planning Uncompahgre Plateau project in Montrose County www.upproject.org and our own Burn Canyon Salvage Timber Sale Monitoring project in the Norwood area ww.plp4co.org & then scroll down to “Burn Canyon” & right click … Now, over the years a number of excellent collaborative partnerships and watershed groups have formed all over the state. But coordination has been weak among them. Into that gap has stepped Colorado State University’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute (CFRI). It has Dr. Tony Cheng as director these days – a long-time friend of PLP, Burn Canyon and Western Slope forests. Clearly his goal and the goal of his CSU team is to provide networking, resources and a unified voice for community partnerships and forest collaboratives … And the value of that direction became apparent as the conference at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs recently wound down. The timber industry’s Nancy Fishering, a longtime PLP participant, explained how the current economic downturn had delivered a one-two punch to a forest-products industry already down on its heels. If some relief didn’t come soon, the timber industry in Colorado might lose its last viable mill and all the infrastructure and expertise that will be needed to achieve forest health over the next few decades. She proposed a letter come out of the CFRI conference asking the governor to consider low-cost loans or some kind of fiscal assistance and the Forest Service ease up on their cash-inlieu- of-bonds requirements … I said I would take such a letter to my Colorado Counties Public Lands Steering Committee meeting in Denver the following day (I did and it unanimously passed) … And Ryan Demmy Bidwell of Colorado Wild volunteered to take it out to various environmental groups to sign on to and send … What a different moment this was from just a few years ago! Here was an extractive (albeit renewable and possibly sustainable) industry collaborating with the environmental community and political types of all stripes (Greens, Dems and Republicans). This is it, I realized. That is what it means to work the radical middle.

THE TALKING GOURD

De Gustibus

of course free love
sounded good back in the Sixties
which really stretched into the
Seventies

& didn’t, quite frankly, include
the post
Fifties early Sixties in which my
gen
grew up tight in

war embryos born into peace
the Bikini U-235 ICBM era
just a JFK heartbeat away

from mutually assured incineration
(sometimes called marriage)
cause forty years later

free turns sour fizz when
a new mr. right comes waltzing
in
buying up the vaporware

& leaves with your squeeze
smelling of trees dosed on
paraquat
& alimony like agent orange

ON THE ROAD AGAIN … Somehow that archetypal Sixties’ hit from Canned Heat rang in my ears as I rounded Redvale Corners two months ago on my way to visit my ailing younger brother … Douglas Bontempi, living out in the Silicon Valley of our Fifties’ youth. Named, my Mom told me, for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (one of her heartthrobs) … My bro chose to keep our patronymic while I Americanized mine. Seems my Dad had bequeathed his own moniker for Doug’s middle name, Vincent — the Americanized version that Dad used on his checks for the Italian Vincenzo, which I once found on a tattered copy of the elder Bontempi’s 1920 Bronx birth certificate. … To the Hell’s Angels he’s known as Dirty Doug. A member of the Oakland chapter for some 25 years before making a radical life change, becoming a devotee of djembes … So on the road it was to see Uncle Doug, as my kids call him … I’ve always been nostalgic for those worn roadmaps of adventures-by-auto that landmarked our childhoods in post- World War II America. Embedded as we are in car culture. Wearing amber teardrops of Ford. Edsel. General Motors … This trip I had Gorio riding shotgun with me in the Red Civic for two weeks of his spring break. Tooling back and forth across Utah and Nevada’s “Loneliest Highway”. Stopping at hot springs … One spring featured free access on private land in Mormon country – a generosity not all that uncommon in the Old West. The 30-foot pool winds down into rock, the hot water issuing up from a subterranean lava tube cavern. We ended up catching a couple guys on their way out, one with a scuba pack. Told us a story … The deep tube at the bottom of the spring only descends 35 feet now, since they blew out the lower half of the cavern. Seems a local youth had scubadived into a section of an underwater labyrinth of lava tubes that led him to an underground chamber. He climbed up onto the ledge and took off his face mask, thinking the chamber had air – which it did, but only to a limited degree. The youth gradually became disoriented, fainted, and died in that chamber, asphyxiated. Locals, the fellow told us, dynamited the spring after the tragedy and blocked further access … After the two guys left, Gorio and I dived into the warm clear waters, deeper than we could dare go, while a brisk wind ruffled the sagebrush bushes, until they rattled like snakes … In San Jose Doug was pretty sick. So Gorio and I rode our bikes around (lots of bike trails in California as well as cars – one of those ironies). We went to a Technology Museum, full of challenging machines that 10- year-olds of all ages could operate and manipulate. Visited seminary friends, and a couple cousins. We ate lots of sushi, sourdough loaves, and fresh crab, and indulged in a round of Mt. Tam organic triple crème ambrosia from Pt. Reyes Station’s fantastic Cowgirl Creamery. We caught a bigscreen Imax show on the Grand Canyon, narrated by our Mountainfilm and Mushfest friend Wade Davis. … A great trip. A sad trip … Doug called from a restaurant a couple days after we returned. He was feeling a little better … But his cancer was a bad one – pancreatic. And as I write this, he has passed on. At last out of his pain. Rest in peace, good brother.

MONSTERS OF MONTROSE … The Stupid Band is the 22-year-old brainchild of Uncompahgre Valley attorney Brad Switzer. Brad sings (beautifully) and plays drums while the mostly geezer band cooks with originals and dance favorites (made up of Michael Erie, Tony Kovasic, Chris Tarman, Byron Hill and Tim Gillilland, as well as Switzer). But they only play twice a year, at Halloween and Earth Day. It used to be at the Riverside Grange outside of Montrose, where it had more the aura of rural rave, advertised among friends. But the last few years they’ve moved a tad upscale to the Turn of the Century Saloon at 121 N. 4th St. … This Earth Day show was my second time, and it was a hoot and half. … If you’ve missed this New West Uncompahgre Valley tradition, then you don’t know the real (underground) Montrose.

TELLURIQUE … Steve Treacy has been telling me that Telluriders ought to consider the French adjective as emblematic of Telluride ecological perspective, for in French, tellurique speaks of energy from the earth. What more fitting metaphor for this hard-rock town gone all palm and jazzy?… The high art of the Chamber Music spawned the wild hunter/gatherer Mushroom Festival. And the town has secured Bear Creek as a nature preserve and now the Valley Floor. All very tellurique …

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.