By Allen Best
Miners talk, Crested Butte listens
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Since the 1970s, efforts to develop a molybdenum deposit on Mount Emmons in Crested Butte’s lovely backyard have resurfaced about every 10 years.
Crested Butte has fought this with exceptional vigor. The local reverence for the mountain is reflected in its nickname, The Red Lady. But there’s a very practical reason for their concern: from the mountain comes the water that flows through the town. Despite Crested Butte’s legacy as a mining town, as seen from a local perspective, the new mining would produce nothing but disaster.
Now, local groups say that they are in discussions with the Wyoming company that owns the mineral rights the framework. That would permanently remove the threat of mining.
“We are very pleased with the initial progress in these discussions after 35 years of working to protect Mt. Emmons from mining,” said Dan Morse, executive director of High Country Citizens Alliance, a local environmental group. “There are a lot of details and negotiations still to come, but I can honestly say that we’ve never been as close to a permanent solution.”
Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said that the effort, if successful, will “result in one of the most significant events in our community’s history.” He stressed that a successful effort would return control of the watershed to the community.
A final agreement with the Wyoming company, U.S. Energy Corp., will likely involve a combination of federal, local and private interests coming together to create a mutually agreeable exchange of value for the mining rights, according to a press released issued by the alliance. Morse said the parties hope to achieve significant progress before the end of the year.
More water measures called for
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS, Colo. – Representatives of Denver Water, along with government officials from the Winter Park area and Summit County, were scheduled on May 15 to sign an agreement governing future water withdrawals by Denver from their counties.
Denver tapped the Winter Park area for water beginning in 1936, and it began diverting water from Summit County in 1963. It has plans to return for more, but this time agreed to a far-reaching agreement with the Western Slope interests.
The water agency, which provides domestic water for about one-fifth of all Coloradans, gets more water without the expense and uncertainty of lawsuits. But there is a cost. The city has agreed to lessen the blow to local creeks and the Fraser River, which is tributary to the Colorado River, by taking water at times that are less destructive to the riparian ecosystems.
But Trout Unlimited issued a statement warning that additional measures are needed. “The Colorado River is still very much a river at risk,” said Mel Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, in a press release.
Ski areas plan for bike trails
WHITEFISH, Mont. – With new authority from the federal government, U.S. ski areas that operate on Forest Service land are announcing a variety of recreational improvements designed for summer use.
Mountain biking is the most common addition. At Whitefish Mountain Resort, the ski area operator plans five miles of new trails.
At Snow King, the in-town ski hill at Jackson, Wyo., managing partner Manuel Lopez plans an array of amusements, including a ropes course, zip lines, yurts and a bike park. Also planned is an alpine coaster.
In December 2010, Lopez announced that the ski area was costing him and his partners $500,000 a year. He threatened to close it unless a buyer could be found or a community foundation set up to operate it. But after studying options, he says he now believes that the new summer attractions will, if approved by the Forest Service and town officials, keep the ski area in the black.
Before, ski areas operating on federal land had clear authority from Congress to offer snow-based recreational opportunities. Summer offers fell into something of a gray area. This new law passed by Congress last year removes that uncertainty, but does still limit recreation to activities that are germane to the mountain settings.
Economist skeptical of claim
ASPEN, Colo. – Economist Philip Verleger has been getting a lot of attention in the last six months, both in Canada and the United States. Citing complexities in the global marketplace, he has opined that TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline might not deliver lower gasoline prices to consumers in the United States.
Verleger argues that the Keystone XL could well increase gasoline prices.
Now, Verleger takes issue with the Aspen Board of Realtors. The group recently announced its recommendation that real-estate agents desist from posting for-sale signs in front of homes in Aspen. The board argues that the technique degrades neighborhood and hence the product.
“Do not believe a word of the claim,” Verleger writes in a letter published in the Aspen Daily News. “Removal of for-sale signs is a blatant attempt by the largest realtors in Aspen to monopolize the market so that they can boost their commission.”
Verleger owns a home in the down-valley community of Carbondale.
In making his case of conspiracy, Verleger quotes 17th century economist Adam Smith: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
Jackson Hole congregates growth
JACKSON, Wyo.—After five years and $500,000, officials in Jackson and Teton County have adopted a comprehensive plan that calls for at least 60 percent of new development to be built in existing neighborhoods, mainly in Jackson.
The plan also sets a goal to house at least 65 percent of county workers locally, reported the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
Government officials, however, refused to adopt specific numbers on what constitutes build-out development.
Grizzly lives good at compost pile
BANFF, Alberta – One of the 60 grizzly bears in Banff National Park has been living the good life, chewing on steak bones and scarfing down corn on the cob at a composting facility near Banff.
Town officials said the composting operation had worked imperfectly. They erected a 9,500-volt electric fence to keep the bear out.
The bear had been outfitted with a GPS collar as part of a $1 million research project aimed at reducing grizzly bear mortality, particularly on the train tracks through Banff and Yoho national parks. Trains kill one to two grizzlies on average each year in the parks.
The GPS showed that this large, male grizzly had also visited the train tracks to eat grain and canola, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.