By Allen Best
No self-defense in bear killing
JACKSON, Wyo. – The 41-year-old hunter shot the bear in what he thought was self-defense. Standing up next to the moose carcass, the bear had looked at him hard.
“My instincts were telling me that bear was going to kill me and I had to act,” said the hunter, who lives in Jackson Hole.
Jurors concluded otherwise. In what experts tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide will be an important message to hunters and others, the man was found guilty of the misdemeanor crime of killing the bear, a grizzly.
“Under the circumstances, we feel the defendant acted out of fear instead of self-defense,” the verdict said. The punishment, however, was nominal.
Prosecuting attorney Steve Weichman told the newspaper that it was the one of the first cases in the United Sates where a person was convicted of taking wildlife when claiming self-defense.
“You are not going to be prosecuted if you killed a bear in self-defense, but you need to be prepared to establish reasonable grounds for your claim of self-defense,” Weichman added.
The verdict has particular importance given that the grizzly bear population in northwestern Wyoming has been expanded, even as a new U.S. policy allows firearms in national parks, including Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Authorities credited him with reporting the killing, and he also expressed remorse. “I hear the sound that bear made every day I wake up,” the hunter said at his trial.
Economy exhibits quicker pulse
JACKSON, Wyo. – Economic indicators suggest a quickening pulse in Jackson Hole this summer. Airline bookings have increased 10 percent compared to last summer, likely producing an additional 18,000 visitors. Auto traffic more broadly in the Rocky Mountains has been projected to increase also.
Real estate will be a mixed bag. Sales volume will likely increase anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, one long-experienced industry insider told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Development, however, will continue to lag. There’s not much in the pipeline, and one local architect points an accusatory finger at local planning bodies that review building plans.
Taxing plastic grocery bags
TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride and the adjoining town of Mountain Village appear ready to assess a tax on use of plastic shopping bags. The Telluride Watch reports unanimous support in a recent working session of the town council.
Helping steel the determination was the showing of a movie called “Bag It” at the recent Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. The documentary presents a compelling argument for the need to rein in the rampant use of plastic.
The easiest target about such concerns has been the plastic bags liberally used in grocery and other stores. The nation of Ireland famously imposed a 15-cent tax on plastic bags in 2002, cutting use by 90 percent. Various U.S. cities – Seattle, San Francisco and Washington D.C. – have also taken action, with varying success.
Because of its tourist trade, Telluride believes that an outright ban on plastic bags would prove unworkable. Instead, activists and town leaders think a tax on single-use plastic bags handed out at grocery stores will be most effective.
Towns debate grannies
DURANGO, Colo. – With precise blandness, planners call them “accessory dwelling units,” often reduced to the acronym ADUs. When on the property of old and large houses, they’re called carriage houses. Sometimes they’re called granny flats.
By whatever name, the unattached housing units have been proliferating in communities, including those in resort valleys of the West. Now, with the recession trimming economic sails, there seems to be a new push to maximize land values.
Newspapers in both the Sun Valley and Durango areas in recent weeks have carried stories about ADU concerns. In Durango, the Herald reports that such units are somewhat common in that town’s downtown area, but some people fear their proliferation in other areas. One resident said she believes ADUs cater to transient people, resulting in loss of community character.
But if that is so, why is the town’s mayor living in an ADU? Michael Rendon and his wife live in a 500-square-foot building located on the alley of his property, while they presumably rent out their three-bedroom house at the front of the lot. “It’s much easier to clean,” he said.
Rendon, who decries urban sprawl, says that ADUs can provide more affordable housing while also keeping development compact, making better use of streets and other community infrastructure.
For architects, designing small represents a distinct challenge. The newspaper says Rick Feeney welcomes that challenge.
“For decades, houses got bigger and bigger and bigger. McMansions ruled for years. Now, the pendulum is swinging back the other way,” he said.
While Feeney has designed his fair share of big, he likes the challenge of small. “With ADUs, you have to get into a very minimalistic mindset.”
Light-trespass ban extended
KETCHUM, Idaho – Some years after the towns of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey adopted a law restricting light pollution and trespass, the Blaine County commissioners have done the same for their more rural precincts. The new law prohibits new outdoor lighting fixtures from sending light directly onto adjacent property or public right-of-ways.”
For long-time activist Steve Pauley, a resident of Sun Valley, that’s still not enough. He wants the law applied retroactively to existing lighting fixtures on houses and businesses. He cites it as both a quality-of-life and a health issue. He cited new evidence that has linked night-time lighting to harmful effects on human health.
Even if Pauley considers the regulation too tame, others in the Sun Valley area resent it.
“We are getting pretty tired of others telling us what to do,” groused one blogger on the Idaho Mountain Express website.
But another blogger said that the accretion of many small lights has already sullied the quality of life.
“I am neither an astronomy geek nor a liberal, but I do like to be able to look up and see the stars,” he wrote. “When I moved here, one could see all seven stars in Pleiades glittering in their glory. Now one can see a grouping of an indeterminate amount of stars. We are losing something of value.”